Elk bones tell stories of life, death, and habitat use at Yellowstone National Park

verts_riverJosh Miller likes to call himself a conservation paleobiologist. The label makes sense when he explains how he uses bones as up-to-last-season information on contemporary animal populations.

Bones, he says, provide baseline ecological data on animals complementary to aerial counts, adding a historical component to live observation. In his November cover article for the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecology, he assesses elk habitat use in Yellowstone National Park by their bones and antlers, testing his method against several decades of the Park Service’s meticulous observations.

Now an assistant research professor in the new Quaternary and Anthropocene Research Group in the Department of Geology at the University of Cincinnati, Miller located and recorded the elk bone data while a doctoral student in paleontology at the University of Chicago, and finished analyzing the data during a brief stint at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, in Gainesville. His work with modern animals grew out of curiosity about the fidelity of the fossil record in archiving animals and ecosystems of the distant past.

“It turns out that bones are really informative,” he said. At Yellowstone, bone and antler concentrations mirror patterns of animal landscape use known from years of aerial surveys. “This opened up a completely unexpected opportunity for studying modern ecosystems, particularly for areas where our knowledge of animal populations is more limited.”

Reconstructing animal community structure and habitat use through the bones of past generations is a new idea. Until recently, common knowledge held that, on the landscape, bones just don’t last that long. But Miller has found that they can last for hundreds of years. Bones weather in a stereotypical pattern, from fresh to falling apart. He calibrated weathering in the Yellowstone bones through radiocarbon dating, gaining a familiarity that would allow him to pick up a bone and know it had seen a year, 20 years, or 80 to 100 years or more on the open ground.

Bull elk shed their antlers in late winter, when forage is sparse. Too poor in nutrients to interest most scavengers, heavy, and awkwardly shaped for displacement by the elements, antlers tend to stay where they fall. Miller found that, for the most part, the bones of calves don’t travel far either, even in the mouths of predators. The bones of calves mark the range where their mothers sought plentiful food to fuel months of nursing, and shelter to hide their vulnerable newborns.

Old bones from past decades outline a range consistent with the living herd. Miller saw only moderate shifts in a few areas, even given the many recent changes at Yellowstone: the prodigious wildfires of 1988, repatriation of grey wolves starting in 1995, and regrowth of willows, aspen, and cottonwoods over the last couple of decades following a long decline during the 20th century.

Because bones can last decades to centuries in the Yellowstone environment, Miller says they can put relatively recent data from direct observation into broader context for managers looking at long-range planning, helping to sort out important changes from the noise of cyclical booms, busts and shifts in landscape use. Bones are a minimally invasive tool for tracking the history of range animals. They are data just lying on the ground, waiting to be collected.

Spatial fidelity of skeletal remains: elk wintering and calving grounds revealed by bones on the Yellowstone landscape (2012) Joshua H. Miller. Ecology 93:11, 2474-2482.

Contact: Joshua Miller Department of Geology & the Quaternary and Anthropocene Research Group, University of Cincinnati.http://homepages.uc.edu/~mille5ju/ josh.miller@uc.edu (513) 556-6704

Photo: The bared vertebrae of an elk lie on a riverbank in Yellowstone National Park. Credit, Joshua Miller.

Journalists and public information officers can gain access to full texts of all ESA publications by contacting the public affairs office. Email Liza Lester, llester@esa.org.

Global economic pressures trickle down to local landscape change, altering disease risk

The pressures of global trade may heighten disease incidence by dictating changes in land use. A boom in disease-carrying ticks and chiggers has followed the abandonment of rice cultivation in Taiwanese paddies, say ecologist Chi-Chien Kuo and colleagues, demonstrating the potential for global commodities pricing to drive the spread of infections. Their work appears in the September issue of ESA’s journal Ecological Applications.

After Taiwan joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, active cultivation of rice paddies fell from 80 percent to 55 percent in just three years. The government of Taiwan subsidized twice-yearly plowing of abandoned fields to reduce the spread of agricultural pests into adjacent fields still in cultivation. Compliance has been spotty. Kuo found that, while plowing did not suppress rodent populations, it did inadvertently reduce the presence of the ticks and chiggers that use rodents as their primary hosts.

“The government considers only agricultural pests such as insects and rodents. They don’t think about the disease factors,” said Kuo. But land use policy can have complex and unexpected reverberations in the ecology of the landscape.

Chiggers, the larval stage of trombiculid mites, spread scrub typhus (Orientia tsutsugamushi), a bacterium thatgets its name from the scrubby, dense vegetation that often harbors its flesh-loving host. Scrub typhus is a common culprit underlying visits to Southeast Asian hospitals for flu-like symptoms. Without antibiotics, the infection is often fatal. Ticks (Ixodidae) transmit bacteria spotted fever group rickettsiae, causing fever, aches and rash similar to Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Neither pest prefers to live underwater.

Hualien, Kuo’s study area, is one of the least populous of Taiwan’s counties, yet had nearly the highest incidence of scrub typhus from 1998-2007. The county is a smattering of small villages surrounded by a patchwork of flooded, plowed, and abandoned rice paddies.

Flooded paddies are poor habitat for ticks and chiggers, and so cultivation of rice, which locally means carefully managed flooding of fields to drown agricultural pests, likely suppresses ticks and chiggers as well. Even the seemingly unkillable ticks die after a few weeks of submersion, and chiggers are similarly terrestrial. Though studies are few, limited data indicate that most chiggers die after a month under water.

This study did not assess flooded paddies due to the difficulty of finding and collecting rodents, ticks, and chiggers underwater. Instead, Kuo trapped rodents in fallow and plowed fields and examined their tick and chigger passengers, testing the arachnids for presence of disease-causing rickettsial bacteria. He found 6 times as many ticks on the rodents living in fallow fields – and the proportion of infectious ticks in fallow fields was three times higher, compounding the risk. Chiggers rode rodents at a rate 3 times higher in fallow fields than plowed fields.

“This study is a great example of the kinds of indirect effects that trickle down from human policies,” said Bob Parmenter, an ecologist unaffiliated with the study. “It tells a nice story about how changes in international trade barriers can have unforeseen consequences.” Parmenter is director of the USDA’s Scientific Services Division at Valles Caldera National Preserve near Los Alamos, New Mexico, and an expert on the influence of ecology on deadly Hantavirus outbreaks, like the current episode in Yosemite National Park (California, USA) that has infected nine visitors and killed three. 
The consequences of economic pressures on land use are also present in the eastern United States, where the small farms of the eighteen and nineteenth centuries have reverted, to a large degree, to forest. With the return of deer and wildlands has come a rise in ticks, and concurrent rise in Lyme disease. Conversely, opening new land to farming or housing can bring its own disease risks.

Many studies have investigated influence of global forces on disease, said Kuo. “Most are focused on how climate change, global travel, or habitat destruction will affect the emergence of vector-borne and zoonotic disease. We show that economic organizations can actually affect human health, by influencing the landscape.”

Title:
Cascading effect of economic globalization on human risks to scrub typhus and tick-borne rickettsial diseases.” Ecological Applications volume 22 issue 6

Authors:
Chi-Chien Kuo, Geography and Environment, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
Douglass A Kelt, Department of Wildlife, Fish, & Conservation Biology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
Jing-Lun Huang, Pei-Yun Shu, Pei-Lung Lee, and His-Chieh Wang, Research and Diagnostic Center, Centers for Disease Control, Department of Health, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC

Contacts:
Chi-Chien Kuo: +44 (0)2380584319, ccckuo@ucdavis.edu
Douglass Kelt: 530-754-9481, dakelt@ucdavis.edu
His-Chieh Wang: +886-2-3393-5054, sjwang@cdc.gov.tw
Robert Parmenter: 505-428-7727, bparmenter@vallescaldera.gov

 

Journalists and public information officers can gain access to full texts of all ESA publications by contacting the public affairs office. Email Liza Lester, llester@esa.org.

Sevilleta LTER’s Scott Collins Named President of the Ecological Society of America

CollinsScott Collins, Regent’s Professor of Biology and Loren Potter Chair of Plant Ecology at the University of New Mexico became President of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) on August 10, 2012. Elected by the members of ESA for a one-year term, Collins will chair the ESA Governing Board, the elected governing body of the Society, which provides vision and guidance on ESA initiatives and future direction.

“It is a great honor to be elected President of the Ecological Society of America. I have been a member of ESA since 1976, my first year in graduate school,” said Collins. “The rapid development of electronic communication, data and information management, and social networking creates some challenges and many exciting opportunities for ESA and its journals. I look forward to working with ESA staff, the Governing Board, and the membership to meet these challenges so that ESA can continue to serve the research community and advance ecological knowledge.”

Collins is an internationally recognized community ecologist. As Director of the Sevilleta Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) program his research focuses on long-term studies of plant community ecology. His work is primarily in grassland ecosystems where he investigates how factors such as climate and disturbance by fire or grazing impact grasslands. The Sevilleta LTER Project is located roughly 80 kilometers south of Albuquerque, NM, in and around the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. Its unique location serves as a model setting to examine how human activities will interact with climatic variation to catalyze change in arid communities and ecosystems.

Collins also serves as Chair of the LTER Network Science Council and Executive Board, and he is a past president of the Association of Ecosystem Research Centers. He was also the original NSF Program Director for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), organizing six NEON planning workshops between 2000-2002. During the 1990s, he worked at NSF, serving as Program Director in various capacities, including the agency’s Ecological Studies and LTER programs.

ESA is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth.  The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org

Ken Bierly of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board to receive ESA Regional Policy Award

KennethBierlyThe Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present its fifth annual Regional Policy Award to Ken Bierly of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board during the Society’s upcoming conference in Portland, Oregon. The ESA award recognizes an elected or appointed local policymaker who has an outstanding record of informing political decision-making with ecological science.

“We are delighted to present this prestigious award to Ken Bierly for his long-term commitment to Oregon’s streams, rivers, wetlands and other natural areas,” said ESA President Steward Pickett. “His pioneering initiatives with the Oregon Department of State Lands in developing and implementing wetland regulations and Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board in developing tools for watershed management have enabled Oregonians across the state to use science to help improve and protect the rivers and streams of their communities.”

“I am greatly honored and stand on the shoulders of a great number of researchers, fellow agency staff and citizens of the state who deeply care about and wish to understand more deeply about our precious natural heritage,” said Bierly.

Bierly’s career ties in well with ESA’s 97th annual meeting theme: “Life on Earth: Preserving, Utilizing and Sustaining our Ecosystems.” For over twenty years, Bierly has distinguished himself as a state employee through his innovative approaches to restoring and protecting habitats. Accomplishments include: developing freshwater wetland legislation in 1989, formulating a science-based regulatory program for wetlands, guiding the expansion of the Governor’s Watershed Enhancement Board, and a key team member of Governor Kitzhaber’s administration in the development of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds.

As part of the implementation of the “Oregon Plan,” Bierly oversaw the development of a science-based approach to evaluating the condition of the state’s watersheds. Bierly then advocated the development of local watershed councils – who used the assessments with assistance from technical experts to develop action plans for improving fish habitat and water quality in their communities.

Currently, Bierly is Senior Partnerships Coordinator at the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), a state agency that provides grants to help landowners and others to restore or otherwise enhance natural resources in the state. The agency’s grants are funded from the Oregon lottery, federal dollars and salmon license plate revenue. His most recent responsibilities are to work with grantees and other funding partners in the implementation of three different long-term investments that are expected to produce defined aquatic ecosystem health outcomes in focused areas. These efforts include: a partnership with federal land management agencies to restore watersheds across public-private boundaries, a target initiative to address the necessary physical conditions to support the reintroduction of anadromous fish above dams on the Deschutes River, and a cooperative effort with the Meyer Memorial Trust, a regional private foundation, to make measurable improvements of floodplain and channel dynamics of the Willamette River.

About his work at OWEB, Executive Director Tom Byler states, “As OWEB has grown from its infancy as a grant-making agency, Ken has been an innovator, finding new and unique ways to invest in local watershed restoration. His ability to leverage OWEB funds with those from private and public partners has directly improved Oregon’s environment and benefited local communities.”

ESA President Pickett will present Bierly with the 2012 ESA Regional Policy Award at the start of the Opening Plenary Session on Sunday, August 5 at 5 PM in Oregon Ballroom 201-203 of the Oregon Convention Center. ESA’s conference is expected to draw a record number of participants, with well over 4,000 scientists, educators, policymakers and others attending from around the world.

Media Attendance
The Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting, Aug. 5-10, 2012 in Portland, Oregon, is free for reporters with a recognized press card and institutional press officers. Registration is also waived for current members of the National Association of Science Writers, the Canadian Science Writers Association, the International Science Writers Association and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Interested press should contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org or 202-833-8773 x211 to register.  In a break from previous policy, meeting presentations are not embargoed.

Inaugural cross-disciplinary Public Participation in Scientific Research conference gathers at the 97th annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America

Special “Citizen Science” issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment accompanies the event

ESA2012 Portland

 

Media Advisory

For immediate release: 20 July 2012

Contact: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; llester@esa.org

 

Though public participation in scientific research has deep roots in the history of science, in the last few years it has taken off spectacularly from launch pads across the disciplines of science and education, fueled by advances in communications technology and a sea change in a scientific culture now eager to welcome outsiders as collaborators.

Citizen science, crowd-sourced science, DIY research, volunteer monitoring, community participatory action research – the variety of banners flying over participatory science projects reflects the diversity of their origins, from astronomy to zoology. This August, the first cross-disciplinary conference on Public Participation in Scientific Research will bring the clans together as part of the Ecological Society of America’s 2012 annual meeting in Portland, Oregon.

Citizen science projects give non-specialists the power to apply their curiosity about the natural world, and their love of puzzles and games, to real scientific questions. Projects have recruited naturalists and novices to classify galaxies, refine protein models, align DNA sequences, identify and count birds, record weather, and track plant and animal life through the changing of the seasons.

“The participatory science field has been growing, but in isolated silos. Even within the environmental sciences, the water quality people self-organize separately from the biology people,” said Abe Miller- Rushing, one of the meeting organizers, and a science coordinator for the National Park Service. “We really wanted to have an open-invite meeting that emphasized innovation, and could kick-start conversations.”

Miller-Rushing will open the conference with a presentation on the history of public participation in scientific research. He has a paper on the same topic, with Richard Primack of Boston University and Rick Bonney of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in the upcoming August 2012 special issue of ESA’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, “Citizen Science – new pathways to public involvement in research,” timed to coincide with the conference.

Other invited speakers hail from public health, biochemistry, education, geography, and atmospheric sciences, at universities, government agencies, and indigenous organizations. Organizers expect over 150 poster presentations.

Many participatory science initiatives started with a researcher’s need for additional hands, eyes, and boots on the ground. With the help of dedicated hobbyists, enthusiastic school kids and teachers, and curious on-lookers, they could multiply data collection and analysis by orders of magnitude, essentially creating thousands of lab and field assistants.

Educators and scientific organizations soon saw the potential for learning-through-doing, drawing the practice of science back into public life – from which it has grown increasingly estranged.

Though projects are diverse in style and application, they overlap in their need for large data repositories, attractive user interfaces, sustainable funding and management, connectivity with their volunteers, recruitment, and quality control. The conference offers a chance to cross-pollinate, and share ideas.

“The conference comes at a time when citizen science is gaining significant momentum in advancing scientific knowledge and enhancing science education,” said Sandra Henderson, director of NEON’s Project BudBurst, guest editor for Frontiers’ ”Citizen Science” special issue, and an advisor for the Public Participation in Scientific Research conference. “This conference will bring diverse stakeholders together to form new communities that will help citizen science reach its full potential in addressing the needs of science and society.”


The Ecological Society of America’s 2012 annual meeting, Aug. 5-10 in Portland, Oregon, is free for reporters with a recognized press card and institutional press officers. Registration is also waived for current members of the National Association of Science Writers, the Canadian Science Writers Association, the International Science Writers Association and the Society of Environmental Journalists. In a break from previous policy, meeting presentations are not embargoed.

Press interested in attending the Public Participation in Scientific Research conference or other portions of ESA’s annual meeting should contact Liza Lester, llester@esa.org, 202-833-8773 x211.


National Workshop on Public Participation in Scientific Research
Saturday and Sunday, August 4-5, 2012, Oregon Convention Center, Portland
This conference is made possible by the generous support of the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. Additional support is provided byNature, the Ecological Society of America, DataONE, and the Association of Science Technology Centers.

Detailed information and schedule available at: http://www.citizenscience.org/community/conference2012/

Workshop contacts:

  • Meg Domroese (organizer) megdom1@gmail.com, 917-209-1087
  • Abe Rushing-Miller, National Park Service, Acadia National Park and Schoodic Education and Research Center, Bar Harbor, ME, abe_miller-rushing@nps.gov, 207-288-8733
  • Rick Bonney, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, reb5@cornell.edu
  • Jennifer Shirk, CitizenScience.org, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, jls223@cornell.edu

The August issue of ESA’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment will be devoted to “Citizen Science - new pathways to public involvement in research.” This special issue was underwritten by the National Science Foundation (NSF). This issue will be entirely open access but journalists may contact Liza Lester to access journal content prior to its publication on August 1.

NSF will hold a web-based press briefing for the special issue and conference on Tuesday, July 31, featuring special issue guest editor Sandra Henderson of NEON’s Project BudBurst. For details, contact Lily Whiteman, Lwhitma@nsf.org, 703-292-8310.

The Ecology of Natural Gas

Scientists examine process chain of natural gas, from rural extraction to urban distribution

ESA2012 Portland

 

For immediate release: 12 July 2012

Contact: Nadine Lymn (202) 833-8773 x 205; nadine@esa.org

 

“Fracking” stories about shale gas extraction hit the news daily, fueling a growing conflagration between environmental protectionism and economic interests. Otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, fracking has become a profitable venture thanks to advances in horizontal drilling technology, opening up large US reservoirs and vastly changing the natural gas market. Touted as a clean energy source and a bridge fuel to transition from fossil fuels, natural gas via fracking is also frought with public health and environmental concerns. A session at the upcoming annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America will look at the natural gas process chain, from extraction and processing to transport and distribution.

In the United States, most shale gas resources lie in the Northeast, South Central and Rocky Mountain regions of the country. Among the largest of these is the Marcellus shale, which underlies a broad swath of the Northeast. Robert Jackson and his colleagues at Duke University have been researching fracking impacts on drinking water, sampling the shallow groundwater systems of more than 200 homeowners, most of them in the Marcellus formation of Pennsylvania and New York. Jackson will be among the presenters discussing the ecological and environmental dimensions of shale gas extraction in the session “Natural Gas: Ecology, Environment and Economics.”

“In our first study of 68 homes published in 2011,” says Jackson, “we found no evidence of increased salt concentrations or fracturing fluids. But we did find that dissolved methane concentrations were on average 17 times higher for water wells located within 1 kilometer of gas wells.”

Jackson’s presentation will include additional sampling results taken since the group’s May 2011 study.

Shanna Cleveland, with the Conservation Law Foundation, will talk about policy strategies that could encourage cleaner natural gas distribution. Focusing on leaks in the antiquated natural gas pipelines of Massachusetts, Cleveland will draw on data supplied by the state’s departments of environmental protection and public utilities.

“In Massachusetts alone,” says Cleveland, “leaking pipelines release an estimated 8 – 12 billion cubic feet of methane. Unfortunately, current state and federal policies actually provide disincentives for pipeline owners to find and fix leaks.”

Methane, the main constituent of natural gas, can pose a public safety threat and contributes to climate change. Cleveland will talk about how a mechanism called Targeted Infrastructure Recovery Factor (TIRF) could foster repairs by allowing gas companies to recover their capital costs for replacing certain types of pipelines on a yearly basis.

Gas leaks also cause significant changes to the soil. Margaret Hendrick and colleagues at Boston University conducted a study in Boston that looked at the effects of pervasive natural gas leaks from aging pipelines on urban ecosystems. They found that gassed soils often had levels of methane exceeding 90 percent and oxygen levels below 10 percent.

“Soil at leak sites often looks black and viscous, with a crusty substance at its surface,” says Hendrick. “Dried out and oxygen-deprived, these soils become inhospitable to many organisms that live in the soil.”

The researchers also found that plants at leak sites suffered from higher mortality rates and that methane gas invades plant tissues growing both above and below-ground. Hendrick and her colleagues hope their findings will help city planners and advance understanding of methane’s role in global warming.

Robert Howarth, of Cornell University, will summarize the magnitude of methane emissions from all parts of societal use of natural gas as a fuel and compare its greenhouse gas footprint with that of other fossil fuels, such as oil and coal.

“Methane emissions dominate the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas,” says Howarth, who will also discuss the extent to which methane pollution from natural gas can be reduced.

 

Other speakers in the session are:

• Robert Ackley, Gas Safety Inc.
• Eric Crosson, Picarro, Inc.
• Adrian Down, Duke University
• Susan Stout, USDA Forest Service
• Lynda Farrell, Pipeline Safety Coalition
• Kenneth Klemow, Wilkes University

Organized Oral Session 3 - Natural Gas: Ecology, Environment and Economics will take place on Monday, August 6 from 1:30 PM – 5 PM in room A 105 of the Oregon Convention Center.

 

ESA media contacts: Nadine Lymn (202) 833-8773 x205; nadine@esa.org
Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x211; llester@esa.org 
Speaker contacts: Robert Jackson, Duke University, (919) 660-7408; jackson@duke.edu 
Shanna Cleveland, Conservation Law Foundation, (617) 850-1716; scleveland@clf.org 
Margaret Hendrick, Boston University, hendricm@bu.edu
Robert Howarth, Cornell University, (607) 255-6175; howarth@cornell.edu

 

Media Attendance
The Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting, Aug. 5-10, 2012 in Portland, Oregon, is free for reporters with a recognized press card and institutional press officers. Registration is also waived for current members of the National Association of Science Writers, the Canadian Science Writers Association, the International Science Writers Association and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Interested press should contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org or 202-833-8773 x211 to register.  In a break from previous policy, meeting presentations are not embargoed.

Ecological Society of America announces 2012 award recipients

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present eight societal awards recognizing outstanding contributions to ecology during ESA’s 97th annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. The meeting, which will be held from August 5 – 10, is expected to draw over 4,500 scientists from around the globe to share their research and ideas.

Eminent Ecologist Award: Robert Naiman, University of Washington, Seattle 
This award is given to a senior ecologist in recognition of an outstanding body of ecological work or sustained ecological contributions of extraordinary merit.
Among his many contributions, Robert Naiman played a key role in establishing a national ecological research program in freshwater science at the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation through his leadership of a project that resulted in publication of The Freshwater Imperative in 1995. In addition to Naiman’s influential work on freshwater ecology, he has also made fundamental contributions to the study of riparian systems and the concept of ecotones. Naiman has also served as an important mentor to many graduate students, postdocs and colleagues.

Distinguished Service Citation: Janet Lanza, University of Arkansas, Little Rock 
The Distinguished Service Citation recognizes long and distinguished service to ESA, to the larger scientific community or to the larger purpose of ecology in the public welfare.
ESA recognizes Janet Lanza for her two decades of distinguished service to ESA as its Book Review Editor. Through a good eye for books worth reviewing, a familiarity with the discipline and a keen and discriminating awareness of the pool of book reviewers, Lanza has produced a regular stream of high-quality reviews that span and transcend ecology.

MacArthur Award: Anthony Ives, University of Wisconsin, Madison 
The Robert H. MacArthur Award is presented to an established ecologist in mid-career for meritorious contributions to ecology in the expectation of continued outstanding ecological research.
Anthony Ives remarkable body of work has advanced our understanding of complex, noisy natural systems. Ives is the rare scientist who can both formulate original theories and conduct experiments in the field and lab, whose research contributes to basic ecology and to contemporary public policy issues and who has mastered the art of synthesis and review as well as sophisticated statistical approaches. Ives contributions extend to his mentoring of graduate students and postdocs, many of whom have gone on to achieve significant successes of their own.

Mercer Award: Carla Staver, Princeton University, and Sally Archibald, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
This award recognizes an outstanding and recently-published ecological research paper by a young scientist.
Carla Staver and Sally Archibald are being honored for the paper they published with Simon Levin (Princeton) in Ecology in 2011: “Tree cover in sub-Saharan Africa: Rainfall and fire constrain forest and savanna as alternative stable states.” Staver et al. used mathematical theory to show that the dynamics of fire and tree establishment can generate alternative stable states between forest and savanna.

 Cooper Award: Kevin Boyce, University of Chicago, and Jung-Eun Lee, Taylor Feild, Tim Brodribb, and Maciej Zwieniecki
This award honors an outstanding contribution to the field of geobotany, physiographic ecology, plant succession or the distribution of plants along environmental gradients.
Boyce and his colleagues combined climate model sensitivity experiments with the evolutionary history of leaf vein densities from the fossil plant record to develop an exciting hypothesis they presented in their paper: “Angiosperms helped put the rain in the rainforests: The impact of plant physiological evolution on tropical biodiversity,” published in 2010 in Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Boyce et al. argue that the rise of angiosperms roughly 100 million years ago, fundamentally transformed the global hydrological cycle, leading to the formation of tropical rainforests.

Odum Education Award: Charlene D’Avanzo, Hampshire College
Through teaching, outreach and mentoring activities, recipients of the Eugene P. Odum Award have demonstrated their ability to relate basic ecological principles to human affairs.
Charlene D’Avanzo’s work has focused on developing the field of ecology education. Among her achievements was starting theTeaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology journal and helping to develop the education plan for the National Ecological Observatory Network. D’Avanzo incorporates inquiry-based learning into her courses and has mentored faculty members on new techniques to enhance student learning of ecological concepts.

Honorary Member Award: Rick Shine, University of Sydney, Australia
Recipients of this award are distinguished ecologists who have made exceptional contributions to ecology and whose principal residence and site of ecological research are outside of North America.
Rick Shine is internationally recognized as a leading authority on the ecology and evolutionary biology of reptiles and amphibians. His over 700 research publications include landmark studies that provide new insights into how Australian ecosystems function.

Sustainability Award: Robin Reid, Colorado State University, and D. Nkedianye, M. Said, D. Kaelo, M. Neselle, O. Makui, L. Onetu, S. Kiruswa, N. Ole Kamuaro, P. Kristjanson, J. Ogutu, S. BurnSilver, M. Goldman, R. Boone, K. Galvin, N. Dickson, and W. Clark.
This award is given to the authors of a scholarly work that makes the greatest contribution to the emerging science of ecosystem and regional sustainability through the integration of ecological and social sciences.
Robin Reid (Colorado State University) and her colleagues’ paper is unique because of its focus on how the process of ecological research can better align itself with goals such as conservation and poverty alleviation. In addition, the paper was the result of collaboration among a broad range of international partners and integrates insights from fields that include rural sociology, veterinary science and economics. “Evolution of models to support community and policy action with science: Balancing pastoral livelihoods and wildlife conservation in savannas of East Africa,” was published in PNAS in 2009.

The ESA awards ceremony will take place on Monday, August 6 at 8 AM in the Oregon Convention Center, Ballroom 201-203. More information about ESA awards is at: http://www.esa.org/aboutesa/awards.php

To learn more about the 2012 ESA annual meeting see: www.esa.org/portland

Risks and rewards of quantifying nature’s “ecosystem services”

Symposium takes on the ecological science underpinning dollar assessments of ecosystem services at the 97th annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Portland, Oregon

ESA2012 Portland

 

Media Advisory

For immediate release: 21 June 2012

Contact: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; llester@esa.org

 

How much is a stream worth? Can we put a dollar value on a wetland? Some conservation proponents have moved to establish the economic value of “ecosystem services,” the benefits that nature provides to people. The approach translates the beauty and utility of a wetland into pounds of phosphorus removed from agricultural runoff, Joules of heat pulled out of urban wastewater, and inches of floodwater absorbed upstream of riverside communities.

The idea of trading ecosystem services has surged in popularity since the 2005 United Nations Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. But not all ecologists are enthusiastic about ecosystem services markets. In a half day symposium at the Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting this August, experts will discuss the science underlying ecosystem services and the benefits and pitfalls for conservation.

“If you don’t put a dollar on it, decision makers are not going to take it seriously,” says symposium speaker Bobby Cochran, Executive Director of the Willamette Partnership. He says framing a natural system as an economic good puts it into a context where decision makers recognize its value. Reframing conservation in terms of benefits to people helps break down old stalemates between conservation advocates and other economic interests.

“Natural ecosystems provide us with numerous services, not all of which are easily quantified,” says symposium organizer Emily Bernhardt of Duke University. “A challenge inherent in new ecosystem service markets is ensuring that commodifying one or more services doesn’t lead to unintended consequences for non-target ecosystem attributes.” Critics would prefer to invest comprehensively in the maintenance of ecosystems, with the understanding that people extract benefits from these resources that may not be easily captured by economic instruments.

Bernhardt has recruited a slate of speakers with opposing views on the effectiveness of compartmentalizing nature into economic services with monetary values. To stir debate, she will push speakers to address tendentious questions, including:

  • What variables have you measured as proxies for ecosystem services? How well do they match? Where are the uncertainties?
  • How do you choose which ecosystem services to include in your analyses, and which to leave out?
  • How does maximizing the profitability or effectiveness of one aspect of an ecosystem affect other essential ecosystem properties – particularly those that are more difficult to quantify?

Cochran has run into these hard choices on projects for the Willamette Partnership, where he has to balance the complexity of ecosystems against clarity of implementation. “Our biggest enemy in the conservation field is lack of trust and credibility,” he says. “The more complicated a program is to implement, the harder it is to breed trust and credibility.”

Trust and credibility also grows from good experiences with programs that produce what they promise. Successful development of markets in ecosystem services, says Cochran, requires a sound understanding of the ecological systems in play, and the research that can provide that understanding. “There’s just so much about ecosystems that we do not know. Ecosystems are changing dynamically, and the pace of change is increasing,” he says. “If we don’t have good science, none of this stuff works.”


SYMPOSIUM 23 – Commodifying Nature: The Scientific Basis for Ecosystem Services Valuation In Environmental Decision Making”>. Friday, August 10, 2012: 8:00 AM-11:30 AMPortland Blrm 252, Oregon Convention Center.
Organizer: Emily S. Bernhardt, Duke University
Moderator,/ Co-organizer: Jana E. Compton, US Environmental Protection Agency
Speakers:

  • Robert Costanza, Institute for Sustainable Solutions, Portland State University, Portland, OR
  • Sarah E. Gergel Centre for Applied Conservation Research, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • Jennifer L. Morse, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY
  • Bobby Cochran, Willamette Partnership, Hillsboro, OR
  • Anne Neale, US Environmental Protection Agency
  • Morgan Robertson, Geography, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
  • Guy Ziv, Stanford University, Natural Capital Project and Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, Natural Capital Project, Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Media Attendance
The Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting, Aug. 5-10, 2012 in Portland, Oregon, is free for reporters with a recognized press card and institutional press officers. Registration is also waived for current members of the National Association of Science Writers, the Canadian Science Writers Association, the International Science Writers Association and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Interested press should contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org or 202-833-8773 x211 to register. In a break from previous policy, meeting presentations are not embargoed.

Dry rivers, vibrant with culture and life

Ecologists review the human and biological communities of wadis, arroyos, gulches, washes, and other intermittent flows.

WASHINGTON-’When the River Runs Dry’ is a familiar song in Australia. Some rivers in the arid center of the continent flow only after a stiff monsoon season, and smaller tributaries all over the country commonly shrink to puddled potholes and dry river beds during the dry season. But rivers also run dry in more temperate climes. Much of the upper reaches and feeder streams of the great rivers of North America, and even the mighty Amazon, dry out seasonally.

Dry rivers are more than mere desiccated shells of their robustly flowing incarnations, says Australian ecologist Alisha Steward and colleagues. In the May issue of ESA’s journalFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment, they contend that dry river ecology is under-researched and under-appreciated.

“I was drawn to dry stream ecology from working on river health monitoring and assessment programs,” said Steward, a PhD student at Griffith University in Brisbane, Queensland. “Many potential river monitoring sites turned out to be dry and couldn’t be sampled. It was very annoying! It started to get me thinking that ‘dry’ wasn’t necessarily bad or unnatural - some rivers were naturally dry at particular times of the year.”

Dry river beds have qualities and inhabitants distinct from their adjacent riversides, as well as from their wet-phase communities, says Steward. They are places of isolation and re-connection: when rivers flow, aquatic animals, plants and microorganisms, organic material, and nutrients flow as well.

Temporary rivers are conduits for biota even when dry, sometimes guiding animals through human-dominated landscapes that lack other continuous habitat. They demand great resilience of their permanent inhabitants, which must be able to survive the swings from immersion to dry land to wet again. Plants, algae, insects, fungi, and even fish have adapted to ride out the dry spells, sometimes seeming to resurrect themselves miraculously from the dust. In the more ephemeral rivers of arid regions, the demands are extreme, the flows erratic, and often separated by years.

But in arid country, dry river beds are oases for animals and people alike. They are sources of water and greenery. Worldwide, human societies use the rich and episodically dry land for vegetable patches, orchards, and pastureland, walking and vehicle paths, hunting and hiking, and herding animals to market. We mine the beds for sand and gravel to build homes and businesses. We park our cars in the beds, and hold races and festivals on the flat river bottoms.

Land use changes, climate changes, and diversions to water projects are transforming historically perennial rivers into capricious or seasonal flows. Impoundment behind weirs and dams can completely dry a river course, or, conversely, turn an erratic flow continuous or cyclical through controlled releases. Steward thinks these are good reasons to learn more about the ecology of intermittent river systems.

“Aquatic scientists seem to ignore dry river beds because they don’t contain water, and terrestrial scientists seem to ignore them because they are considered to be part of a river!” said Steward. But they are not typically recognized as “rivers” by government programs, she said, complicating monitoring programs.

 

Title:

When the river runs dry: human and ecological values of dry riverbeds (2012) Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 202-209. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/110136.

Journalists and public information officers can obtain this article and related images, and gain access to all ESA publications, by contacting the public affairs office. Email Liza Lester, llester@esa.org.

 

Authors:

Alisha L Steward and Jonathan C Marshall
Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, Ecosciences Precinct, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia;

Alisha L Steward and Stuart E Bunn 
Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia;

Daniel von Schiller 
Catalan Institute for Water Research, Scientific and Technological Park of the University of Girona, Girona, Spain;

Klement Tockner 
Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, and Institute of Biology, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.

 

Photo:

Racers at the annual Henley-on-Todd Regatta in Alice Springs, Australia, run their “boats” along the dry river bottom. Only once in the regatta’s fifty year history have the races been cancelled due to water. The ephemeral Todd River (Lhere Mparntwe) flowed this March for the first time since 2010.

REPRESENTATIVES FATTAH, WOLF RECEIVE BESC AWARD

Congressmen lauded for their commitment to biological research

WASHINGTON-’When the River Runs Dry’ is a familiar song in Australia. Some rivers in the arid center of the continent flow only after a stiff monsoon season, and smaller tributaries all over the country commonly shrink to puddled potholes and dry river beds during the dry season. But rivers also run dry in more temperate climes. Much of the upper reaches and feeder streams of the great rivers of North America, and even the mighty Amazon, dry out seasonally.

Dry rivers are more than mere desiccated shells of their robustly flowing incarnations, says Australian ecologist Alisha Steward and colleagues. In the May issue of ESA’s journalFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment, they contend that dry river ecology is under-researched and under-appreciated.

“I was drawn to dry stream ecology from working on river health monitoring and assessment programs,” said Steward, a PhD student at Griffith University in Brisbane, Queensland. “Many potential river monitoring sites turned out to be dry and couldn’t be sampled. It was very annoying! It started to get me thinking that ‘dry’ wasn’t necessarily bad or unnatural - some rivers were naturally dry at particular times of the year.”

Dry river beds have qualities and inhabitants distinct from their adjacent riversides, as well as from their wet-phase communities, says Steward. They are places of isolation and re-connection: when rivers flow, aquatic animals, plants and microorganisms, organic material, and nutrients flow as well.

Temporary rivers are conduits for biota even when dry, sometimes guiding animals through human-dominated landscapes that lack other continuous habitat. They demand great resilience of their permanent inhabitants, which must be able to survive the swings from immersion to dry land to wet again. Plants, algae, insects, fungi, and even fish have adapted to ride out the dry spells, sometimes seeming to resurrect themselves miraculously from the dust. In the more ephemeral rivers of arid regions, the demands are extreme, the flows erratic, and often separated by years.

But in arid country, dry river beds are oases for animals and people alike. They are sources of water and greenery. Worldwide, human societies use the rich and episodically dry land for vegetable patches, orchards, and pastureland, walking and vehicle paths, hunting and hiking, and herding animals to market. We mine the beds for sand and gravel to build homes and businesses. We park our cars in the beds, and hold races and festivals on the flat river bottoms.

Land use changes, climate changes, and diversions to water projects are transforming historically perennial rivers into capricious or seasonal flows. Impoundment behind weirs and dams can completely dry a river course, or, conversely, turn an erratic flow continuous or cyclical through controlled releases. Steward thinks these are good reasons to learn more about the ecology of intermittent river systems.

“Aquatic scientists seem to ignore dry river beds because they don’t contain water, and terrestrial scientists seem to ignore them because they are considered to be part of a river!” said Steward. But they are not typically recognized as “rivers” by government programs, she said, complicating monitoring programs.

 

Title:

When the river runs dry: human and ecological values of dry riverbeds (2012) Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 202-209. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/110136.

Journalists and public information officers can obtain this article and related images, and gain access to all ESA publications, by contacting the public affairs office. Email Liza Lester, llester@esa.org.

 

Authors:

Alisha L Steward and Jonathan C Marshall
Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, Ecosciences Precinct, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia;

Alisha L Steward and Stuart E Bunn 
Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia;

Daniel von Schiller 
Catalan Institute for Water Research, Scientific and Technological Park of the University of Girona, Girona, Spain;

Klement Tockner 
Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, and Institute of Biology, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.

 

Photo:

Racers at the annual Henley-on-Todd Regatta in Alice Springs, Australia, run their “boats” along the dry river bottom. Only once in the regatta’s fifty year history have the races been cancelled due to water. The ephemeral Todd River (Lhere Mparntwe) flowed this March for the first time since 2010.