Hardening shorelines, polar lessons, and legal barriers in ESA Frontiers

Highlights from the August 2015 issue of ESA’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment and the 100th Annual Meeting of the society on August 9-14

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, 4 August 2015
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, LLester@esa.org

 

Armored in concrete, hardened shorelines lose the soft protections of coastal wetlands

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As we expand our coastal cities and armor the coast against the ravages of the sea, we lose the resiliency of the coastlines’ natural defenses. Rachel Gittman and colleagues at the University of North Carolina, NOAA, and the US Coast Guard report in the August issue of ESA Frontiers that sea walls, bulkheads, breakwaters, and the like put in place to protect coastal communities harden 14 percent (22,842 km) of the tidal shoreline of the United States. But this conservative 14 percent hides a concentration of coastal development along soft marshy estuaries, lagoons, and tidal rivers; remote rocky coasts are less likely to be bolstered with artificial structures.

Gittman and coauthors Danielle Keller and Joel Fodrie will present research related to this report on shoreline habitat, hardening, and the ecosystem services trade-offs of different shoreline conditions at the upcoming 100th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Baltimore, Md. on August 9-14.

Natural and artificially hardened shorelines found in the US: (a) rocky shore; (b) beach; (c) tidal marsh; (d) mangrove; (e) seawall; (f) riprap revetment; (g) bulkhead; and (h) breakwater, from Figure 1 of Gittman et al. 2015 Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13: 301–307. For images of other shoreline types found in the US, refer to the NOAA ESI shoreline types image gallery (http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/esi-shoreline-types).

Natural and artificially hardened shorelines found in the US: (a) rocky shore; (b) beach; (c) tidal marsh; (d) mangrove; (e) seawall; (f) riprap revetment; (g) bulkhead; and (h) breakwater, from Figure 1 of Gittman et al. 2015. Credit, NOAA ESI shoreline types image gallery.

The ecological vibrancy of wetland habitats is valued by birders, hunters, recreational anglers, and commercial fisheries managers.  Coastal wetlands succor birds, fish, and crustaceans, filter outflowing pollution, and naturally buffer the coast against storm surge and erosion. But natural dunes and salt marshes also absorb the energy of storms. Examples of natural dunes and salt marshes emerging from severe storms with little to no damage, while nearby bulkheads took a battering, suggest that storm surge protection and habitat protection need not be at odds.

Nearly a third of the shoreline in the contiguous United States could be hardened by the end of the twenty-first century if the rate of shoreline hardening observed over the last century continues. On sheltered coasts, fortification of shorelines correlates more strongly with high housing density and GDP than with wave height or frequent storms. The authors project that growing populations will direct most new hardening to the US’ south Atlantic and Gulf coasts, which encompass greater that 50 percent of the remaining salt marshes and 100 percent of the mangrove forests in the US. The authors argue for the incorporation of green infrastructure into coastal protections as managers plan for the next century of growing cities and rising sea levels.

 

Also in the August issue of ESA Frontiers:

Cold lessons

Profoundly different in topography, ecology, and social history, the Arctic and Antarctic have very similar vulnerabilities to climate change. Climate change exacerbates problems of pollution, over-fishing, and invasive species at both poles. Joseph Bennett and colleagues describe this perfect storm of threats and lessons in cooperation from the polar regions.

 

Adaptive legalese

2015_08 Frontiers coverEnvironmental law has not kept up with the last 40 years of ecological discovery. The law struggles, in particular, to address dynamic ecosystems and adapt to the kind of global scale change ecologists expect in the coming century. The very different approaches to uncertainty and complexity in science and law bedevil the application of environmental research to environmental law. Lawyers and ecologists collaborate in this Concepts & Questions article by Olivia Odom Green and colleagues to recommend an adaptive governance approach to bridging the gap.

Browse the complete content of the August issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment online.


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, 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 six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, issued 10 times per year, consists of peer-reviewed, synthetic review articles on all aspects of ecology, the environment, and related disciplines, as well as short, high-impact research communications of broad interdisciplinary appeal. 

Backyards prove surprising havens for native birds

Tucked away from judging eyes, backyards are unexpected treasure troves of resources for urban birds.

Ecological science at the frontier: Centennial logoESA Centennial Annual Meeting, August 9-14, 2015 in Baltimore, Md.
Ecological Science at the Frontier

Many of us lavish attention on our front yards, spending precious weekend hours planting, mowing, and manicuring the plants around our homes to look nice for neighbors and strangers passing by. But from the point of view of our feathered friends, our shaggy backyards are far more attractive.

Is a robin eating backyard pokeweed berries a welcome visitor or weed-spreading nuisance? Credit, C. Whelan.

Is a robin eating backyard pokeweed berries a welcome visitor or weed-spreading nuisance? Credit, C. Whelan.

So found ecologist Amy Belaire when she surveyed human and avian residents in 25 Cook County neighborhoods in suburban Chicago. She will present her research during the 100th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America on August 9–14, during a session on Urban Ecosystems that also includes Caroline Dingle’s observations on how birds modulate their songs to be heard over the noise of daily life in Hong Kong, and Kara Belinsky’s exploration of how many trees it takes to make a forest (from a bird’s point of view) in suburban New York.

Belaire, a natural resources manager and education and research coordinator at St. Edward’s University’s Wild Basin Creative Research Center in Austin, Tex., and her colleagues Lynne Westphal (USDA Forest Service) and Emily Minor (University of Illinois Chicago) asked people about their perceptions and awareness of birds in their neighborhoods and how they felt about having birds around their homes. They also asked about the yard design and management choices that residents make in both front and back yards. The researchers also looked at socioeconomic factors and used statistical analysis to tease out the relative importance on yard management choices of neighbors, factors like income, and perceptions of local birds.

“The cool thing about this is how much it reveals about backyards,” said Belaire. “Our most interesting take-away is that backyards tend to be treasure troves of ecological resources. It’s where you find a lot of factors helpful to native birds—more vegetation complexity, more plants bearing fruits and berries—and more design with the intention of attracting birds.”

When planting and cultivating their front yards, people seemed most motivated by what their neighbors were doing. But in managing backyards, perceptions of birds became important to residents. This suggests that local birds may motivate stewardship. People enjoyment of and appreciation for birds appears to translate into on-the-ground effects, at least in backyards.

Examples of front yards in Belaire and colleagues' study area in the greater Chicago region. Credit: E. Minor.

Examples of front yards in Belaire and colleagues’ study area in the greater Chicago region.
Credit: E. Minor.

Belaire found a surprising 36 bird species living in or passing through the Chicago neighborhoods. In landscapes increasingly sublimated to human industry, parks and yards within cities are potentially essential habitat for local birds as well as oases for birds stopping by on long seasonal migrations. Belaire and colleagues want to know what motivates people in the design of their yards, and what yard elements matter the most to the birds.

Models of her data indicated that the resources in groups of neighboring yards were, as clusters, more important for predicting the diversity and distribution of bird species than measurements of whole neighborhood, or landscape scale, tree cover. In Cook County, backyards with more trees, especially a mix of evergreen and broadleaf trees, more fruit and berries, and fewer outdoor cats had more native bird species. Bird feeders did not have an effect on the number and diversity of birds.

Belaire said she and her colleagues were cheered by the excellent response rate to the survey and the overall enthusiasm of residents.

 “I think it was because of the subject matter. Birds are something that people care about and are excited about,” she said. “I was surprised by how much people enjoyed being part of a scientific study and felt honored to be asked.”

The importance of yard-scale land management choices in boosting the presence of native bird species in urban areas was also encouraging for its implications for outreach programs. The efforts of individuals can make a difference and many people care about outcomes for birds. In the future, people may even be influenced by neighbors to make changes that could help birds thrive.

Cook County, Ill. homeowners respond to survey questions about nature in their yards or neighborhoods. Courtesy, J. Amy Belaire.

Cook County, Ill. homeowners respond to survey questions about nature in their yards or neighborhoods. Courtesy, J. Amy Belaire.

“It’s empowering,” said Belaire. “Every little bit matters.”

 

 

Different social drivers, including perceptions of urban wildlife, explain the ecological resources in front vs. back yards (COS 151-4)
J. Amy Belaire, Wild Basin Creative Research Center, St. Edward’s University, Austin, TX
Friday, August 14, 2015: 9:00 AM, rm 347.

 

More meeting sessions on urban birds:

 


The 100th Annual Meeting of Ecological Society of America convenes this August 9–14 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Md. The centennial meeting is on track to be our biggest gathering, with 4,000 presentations scheduled on topics from microorganisms to global scale ecological change.

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free. To apply, please contact ESA Communications Officer Liza Lester directly at llester@esa.org. Walk-in registration will be available during the meeting.


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, 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 six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Ecology from treetop to bedrock: human influence in earth’s critical zone

An organized session on Critical Zone Ecology at the 100th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America August 9-14, 2015 in Baltimore, Md.

Ecological science at the frontier: Centennial logoFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, 16 July 2015
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, LLester@esa.org

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Modified from Chorover, J., R. Kretzschmar, F. Garcia-Pichel, and D. L. Sparks. (2007). Soil biogeochemical processes in the critical zone. Elements 3, 321-326. (artwork by R. Kindlimann).

Critical zone — artwork by R. Kindlimann. Modified from Chorover, J., R. Kretzschmar, F. Garcia-Pichel, and D. L. Sparks. (2007). Soil biogeochemical processes in the critical zone. Elements 3, 321-326.

On the high slopes of the Eel River watershed on California’s North Coast Range, large conifers sink their roots deep through the soil and into fractures in the mudstone bedrock, tapping water reserves that scientists are only recently learning to appreciate. These unexpected reservoirs may provide resiliency to the Eel River ecosystem in intensive droughts, such as the one California is now experiencing.

“The way water is stored, intercepted, and released is critical to drought and extreme floods. Researchers are getting surprises about how important the deep fractured bedrock can be,” said Mary Power, a stream ecologist at the University of California at Berkeley and an investigator at the Eel River Critical Zone Observatory, one of ten Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs) funded by the National Science Foundation that bring together geologists, hydrologists, microbiologists, climate scientists, ecologists, and more to work on research questions that tend to lie at the interface of their disciplines.

Power will report on effects on interactions of vegetation and the underlying geology on salmon and river ecosystems as part of an organized series of talks showcasing Critical Zone Ecology at the 100th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Baltimore, Md. this August 9–14.

“How flashy or spongy will the watershed be when it rains? Will the storm runoff be stored, and infiltrate, or flash off downslope? What are the water storage and slow release dynamics that will—please, please—keep us going through this drought?” These are pressing questions that the interdisciplinary team is working on at the Eel River CZO, Power said.

Large conifer trees span the critical zone between bedrock and atmosphere, in which the movements and actions of water, air, and a complex web of living organisms shape and transform the physical crust of the earth. Water can be stored in weathered bedrock, changed chemically during storage, and drawn up to the atmosphere by big trees. It flows down through rock fractures to supply downslope surface waters. In this relatively narrow space lie all the life-sustaining resources supporting terrestrial life on earth. Earth’s critical zone supports human societies and is deeply impacted by the actions and activities of those societies.

“To ecologists, the Critical Zone is an ecosystem, a watershed,” said Kathleen Lohse, who directs the new Reynolds Creek Critical Zone Observatory in southwest Idaho and co-organized the meeting session on critical zone ecology. “I’m trained as an ecosystem scientist. My specialty is soil. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the term ‘critical zone’ and the inclusive perspective it brings. It’s not owned by ecology, geology, soil science, or any other discipline. It’s shared.”

Originally conceived by earth scientists to describe the overlooked “vertical dimension” of the water cycle, critical zone science has grown as a truly interdisciplinary field. But, though living organisms affect the water cycle as profoundly as the characteristics of the underlying geology, ecologists have been late to the party – the term “critical zone” is unfamiliar to many.

“One reason why ecology hasn’t heard as much about the critical zone is that it’s based in the earth sciences. We need to bring more ecologists to play in the same sandbox,” said Lohse.

Lohse, an associate professor of soil and watershed biogeochemistry at Idaho State University, and Whendee Silver, a professor in ecosystem ecology at UC Berkeley and an investigator at the Luquillo Critical Zone Observatory in Puerto Rico, organized the session on “Ecology in the Critical Zone” at the 100th Annual Meeting to bring critical zone science to the attention of the ecological community.

“The goal of this whole session is to put the CZOs on the radar and get ecologists to see them as resources and to propose and conduct research,” said Lohse. They are typically much larger in scale than the traditional Long Term Ecological Research sites, and have the potential to allow ecologist to scale up small, intensive experiments and form a bridge to large scale modeling studies, she said.

Speakers include Power, Dawson, and representatives from the other CZOs. The observatories investigate a spectrum of biological, chemical, climatic, geological, and hydrologic conditions across the continental United States and Puerto Rico, but are also organized around specific research questions, from soil carbon storage in mountain forests (Reynolds Creek, ID) to erosion on intensively managed agricultural lands (Clear Creek, IA) to the legacy of cotton cultivation on resurgent pine stands in the Southern Piedmont (Calhoun, SC).

Dan Richter, director of the Calhoun CZO in South Carolina and a professor at Duke University, will also speak on the “One physical system” encompassed by the ecosystem and critical zone concepts at the Annual Meeting, during a session of talks on ecosystem function on the afternoon of Monday, August 7.

“We tried to get a relatively even distribution across the CZOs and to get the speakers to highlight some of achievements that have come out of their field of ecology, and the gaps where we really need ecologists to help us understand the critical zone,” said Lohse.

Gaps include the response of microbial communities to wildfire and climate change, contributions of roots and underground biological processes, and the activities and population dynamics of animals like gophers, beavers, and earthworms.

“If you walk across the Reynolds Creek CZO you see so much gopher and mole activity. There has been some work looking at their transfer of soil and carbon downslope, but you need to understand the population dynamics of those communities to really model it. They are critical players, particularly in Reynolds,” said Lohse.

Reynolds Creek is composed of about 70 percent public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management and 30 percent privately owned land, managed as a working landscape. The observatory is preparing to record the effects of a scheduled 12,000 acre prescribed burn in the experimental watershed in early fall, designed to clear encroaching Juniper from the sagebrush steppe.

“Stakeholders are really excited about this burn. They want to reduce fuel and increase forage,” said Lohse. “We’ve been establishing permanent vegetation plots on north and south facing plots in the watershed to monitor how the fire changes soil carbon quality and quantity.”

Water dynamics in the critical zone are profoundly affected by the sudden, massive changes to vegetation cover and soil brought by wildfire. The choices that we make to suppress or encourage fire, graze livestock or convert land to farm fields, clear-cut or plant mountain slopes, and divert water or leave it in natural flows, all play out in the dynamics of the critical zone.

The National Science Foundation funds 10 Critical Zone Observatories. http://criticalzone.org/national/

The National Science Foundation funds 10 Critical Zone Observatories. http://criticalzone.org/national/

In the dry heat of late summer in California, cold can be as valuable commodity as the water itself. Water that is too warm can be a big problem for fish and other animals. Sufficient cool groundwater flowing down through mountain bedrock and entering into streams can off-set low water levels and prevent the warm, stagnant conditions that stress salmon and encourage the growth of toxic algae. Decisions about how much cool water people divert from the system could tip the balance for the ecosystem, Power said.

Choices that people and communities make about the use of land for agriculture, living spaces, and industry have profound effects on the critical zone – but this also  suggests that communities may be empowered by good critical zone science to manage surface cover and land use to enhance the resilience and sustainability of watersheds and water reserves.


OOS 30 Ecology in the Critical Zone
Tuesday, August 11, 2015: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM, rm 328
organizers: Kathleen Lohse and Whendee Silver

  • 1:30 PM                OOS 30-1 Exploring relationships between microbial ecology and soil organic matter stability in deep tropical soil profiles
    Alain F. Plante,University of Pennsylvania
  • 1:50 PM                OOS 30-2 Urbanization effects on nitrogen dynamics in the critical zone
    Peter M. Groffman,Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
  • 2:10 PM                OOS 30-3 Microbial ecology in the high elevation, mixed-conifer critical zone
    Rachel E. Gallery, University of Arizona
  • 2:30 PM                OOS 30-4 Linking critical zone currencies to states of river ecosystems
    Mary E. Power, University of California Berkeley
  • 2:50 PM                OOS 30-5 Ecohydrology in the critical zone: Vegetation response to spatial and temporal variability in available water
    Paul D. Brooks, University of Utah
  • 3:40 PM                OOS 30-7 Aeolian transported and deposited microbial communities differ along an elevation gradient in the Southern Sierra CZO
    Emma Aronson,UC Riverside
  • 4:00 PM                OOS 30-8 Controls on potential iron reduction in soils from diverse ecosystems
    Wendy H. Yang, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • 4:20 PM                OOS 30-9 Examining ecosystem function in space and time within the critical zone through the lenses of ecology and biogeography
    Greg A. Barron-Gafford, University of Arizona
  • 4:40 PM                OOS 30-10 The role of elevation and time in structuring soil microbial communities in the Sierra Nevada, California
    Chelsea J. Carey, University of California
  • 5:00 PM                OOS 30-11 Patterns of plant available water storage capacity in montane Idaho and California
    Aaron Fellows, USDA Agricultural Research Service

 

COS 7-1 “One physical system”: Tansley’s ecosystem as Earth’s critical zone
Monday, August 10, 2015: 1:30 PM rm 321
Daniel deB. Richter, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, 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 six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

US Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland named 2015 ESA Regional Policy Award winner

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, July 16, 2015
Contact: Alison Mize, 703-625-3628; Alison@esa.org

 

Ben Cardin 2The Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present its eighth annual Regional Policy Award to U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) during the Society’s Centennial Meeting conference in Baltimore, Md. The ESA award recognizes an elected or appointed local policymaker with an outstanding record of informing policy decisions with ecological science.

“Through his decades of public service, Senator Ben Cardin has been a champion for environmental protection that benefits the people of the city of Baltimore, the state of Maryland and our nation,” said ESA President David Inouye. “Through his position on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, he is a leading voice in promoting ecosystem health and ensuring science has a place at the table in the federal policymaking process.”

Senator Cardin is a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the former chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee. He is an advocate for Chesapeake Bay restoration, water infrastructure improvements and addressing the multifaceted impacts of climate change. A highlight of his efforts include sponsorship of the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act, which encourages national, state and local officials, businesses and other stakeholders to engage in collaborative efforts that accelerate restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Additionally, he has authored legislation requiring the federal government to comply with local storm water fees that are used to treat and manage polluted storm water runoff that was signed into law by the president in early 2011 (Public Law 111-378).

First elected to the Senate in 2006 and reelected in 2012, Cardin also serves as Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is a member of the Senate Committees on Finance, and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. During each of these assignments, he furthered protections for the environment and public health. He began his congressional career in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1987, representing Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District, which composes portions of Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties. Previously, during 18 years in the Maryland House of Delegate, he served as speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1979 to 1986.

Cardin is a recipient of the Chesapeake Conservation Hero Award (2012), Friend of the National Parks Award (2011), Bird Conservation Leader of the Year Award (2011) and also has been recognized as the Audubon Society’s Conservation Champion (2011).

“Good science and the rule of law should always be at the forefront of policy making. We have one world to protect, so we have to get this right,” said Senator Cardin. “The notions that we must choose between economic growth and environmental protection or public health are fallacies. I thank The Ecological Society of America for a century of keeping scientists and students engaged in this important effort.”

ESA President Inouye will present the 2015 ESA Regional Policy Award at the start of the Opening Plenary on Sunday, August 9 at 5 PM in the Key Ballroom of the Baltimore Hilton.  ESAs Centennial conference is expected to draw over 4,000 scientists, policymakers and others attending from around the world.

 


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, 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 six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

To avoid dangerous shark encounters, information trumps culling

Risk of great white shark attack in California waters down 91 percent since 1950, researchers report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, July 9, 2015
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, LLester@esa.org

 

A great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) approaches a kayaker in Mossel Bay, South Africa. Credit: C & M Fallows/SeaPics.com; used by permission.

A great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) approaches a kayaker in Mossel Bay, South Africa. Credit, C & M Fallows/SeaPics.com; used by permission.

The great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) has a terrifying reputation. Shark attacks, though very rare, loom large in our imaginations, drawing intense media attention when they occur. Recent injuries in North Carolina are putting sharks in the limelight again. But going after sharks à la Jaws is not the best way to protect people in the water, said shark researchers.

California scientists found that the risk of white shark attack for individual ocean users in California has fallen strikingly, by over 91 percent, since 1950, in a study to be published online ahead of print in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment later this month.

Information that empowers ocean users to avoid the large predators is far more effective for public safety than culling sharks, the authors said.

“Just like we check the weather before going boating or the surf forecast before surfing, information about the risk of encountering large predators can become a normal precaution we take before going into the ocean,” said first author Francesco Ferretti of Stanford University.

Ferretti and his colleagues at Stanford and the Monterey Bay Aquarium looked at the number of reported white shark attacks that caused injuries on the California coast from 1950 to 2013, as recorded by the Global Shark Attack File—86 injurious attacks, of which 13 were fatal. They weighted the numbers with information on coastal population growth and seasonal and weekly beach going, surfing, scuba diving, abalone diving, and swimming.

Many more people are enjoying the ocean, and so, although the number of shark bites per year has increased over the last six decades, these numbers actually hide a much reduced risk to individuals. Three times as many people live in coastal California now as did in 1950. But the popularity of ocean sports has expanded far more dramatically. The 7,000 surfers hitting the waves in 1950 became 872,000 by 2013. Certified scuba divers grew from about 2,000 at the beginning of the 1960s to about 408,000 in 2013.

“Doing this kind of analyses can inform us on hot spots and cold spots for shark activity in time and space that we can use to make informed decisions and give people a way to stay safe while they are enjoying the ocean,” said Ferretti. For example, in the fall there is a higher chance to find big white sharks on the California coast than in spring, when they migrate to Hawaii. The risk of encountering a shark is higher in the evening. The authors found that in Mendocino County, it is 24 times safer to surf in March than in October and November – and if surfers choose the coast between Los Angeles and San Diego in March, they can be 1,566 times safer than they would be during the fall months in Mendocino.

Co-author Fiorenza Micheli, Ferretti’s postdoctoral advisor at Stanford, sees a win-win for healthier oceans and safer coasts.

“We don’t necessarily have to see conservation and public safety as at odds with each other. This is also true of coastal economies. People can coexist with predators,” said Micheli.

There is no evidence that culling sharks improves the safety of ocean users, said the authors. Culling efforts often end up killing shark species that are not dangerous to people. Culling sharks is not under discussion in California, but has been a contentious issue elsewhere.

Culling is also expensive. Western Australia spent A$22 million on a 2014 cull and did not catch a single white shark. The authors argue that resources could be better spent getting good information to the public and collecting more data on the numbers, patterns, and behaviors of both sharks and people. Even in California, where monitoring is relatively good, estimates of the white shark population vary by an order of magnitude, from 500 to 5,000. Additional data on ocean users is needed.

“The more we know about the behavior of users and predator population, the more the analysis can be refined. There is a lot that can be done to really improve the information that we have for conservation and public safety,” said Ferretti.

Sharks species are among the most endangered animals worldwide, due to habitat degradation, declining prey, fishing bycatch, and growing consumer demand for shark fins. In recent years, fisheries management and international agreements have included more protections for sharks. But every year, 100 million sharks are killed. Slow growing, with late maturity and few progeny, sharks are sensitive animals that do not have the biological characteristics to sustain this level of exploitation.

Removing top predators like white sharks from ecosystems causes a cascade of bad consequences for the health of the ecosystems and local economies. Prey populations can suddenly boom, putting heavy demand on species further down the food chain. The collapse of the bay scallops (Argopecten irradians) fishery in North Carolina is linked to the rise in numbers of scallop eating cownose rays (Rhinoptera bonasus), due to overfishing of the predatory sharks which once kept ray numbers in check. Crowding resulting from a boom in prey numbers can also lead to disease outbreaks.

“Loss of predators can result in species that have negative impacts on economic activities becoming unchecked,” said Micheli. “You don’t know what you have until you lose it.”

The trend in increased number of shark attacks may indicate an increasing population of white sharks off California’s coast, but it is difficult to know without baseline historical data, the authors said. Conditions have improved for the sharks. Commercial and recreational fishing of white sharks is not permitted in California waters. Restrictions on use of drift gill nets, which have a high rate of bycatch, have improved the survival of juvenile sharks. But perhaps the best boost for the white shark population is the remarkable recovery of a favored prey species, the northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris), from fewer than 100 at the end of the nineteenth century to over 100,000 today.

Ferretti and colleagues suspect that the return of the elephant seal may be the key to the greatly reduced risk of white sharks for humans, as sharks are drawn to seal rookeries and away from areas heavily used by people.

“Earlier, sharks were wandering around California waters, searching for food. Now they know where their preferred prey is,” said Ferretti. Knowing the sharks congregate near the seals is useful to ocean users who wish to avoid encountering the predators.

“This is an important result,” said Micheli. “In this case, the recovery of prey has not meant an increase in risk for people, as has been proposed for predators both on land an in the ocean.”

Shark encounters are extremely rare, on the order of 10 per year worldwide, Micheli stressed. Swimmers are 1,817 times more likely to die from unintentional drowning in California than shark attack, according to statistics available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California scuba divers are 6,897 times more likely to be hospitalized for decompression sickness.

“You have a higher chance to win the lottery, a much higher chance to drown in the ocean, than to be attacked by a shark. At the same time, people need to approach the ocean with precaution and respect. We are entering the realm of predators and they are fulfilling their ecological role,” said Ferretti

“Even a single attack is a tragedy,” said Micheli. “More information can help reduce the risk of tragedy.”

 

Francesco Ferretti, Salvador Jorgensen, Taylor K Chapple, Giulio De Leo, and Fiorenza Micheli. (In press). Reconciling predator conservation with public safety. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

This research was funded by the Lenfest Ocean Program.

 

Also of interest:

Neil Hammerschlag, Annette C. Broderick, John W. Coker, Michael S. Coyne, Mark Dodd, Michael G. Frick, Matthew H. Godfrey, Brendan John Godley, Du Bose B. Griffin, Kyra Hartog, Sally R. Murphy, Thomas M. Murphy, Emily Rose Nelson, Kristina L. Williams, Matthew J. Witt, and Lucy A. Hawkes. (2015) Evaluating the landscape of fear between apex predatory sharks and mobile sea turtles across a large dynamic seascape. Ecology (preprint; version-of-recorded scheduled for August 2015) http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/14-2113.1

 


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, 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 six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Charcoaling manure and greening neighborhoods: ecological approaches to cleaner water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed

ESA 100th Annual Meeting, August 9-14, 2015 in Baltimore, Md.
Ecological Science at the Frontier

Ecological science at the frontier: Centennial logoFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, LLester@esa.org

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When ecologists gather in Baltimore, Md., this August for the 100th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, special attention will fall on the local Chesapeake Bay watershed, with field trips and research presentations exploring its rich wildlife and social history. At symposia, poster exhibits, and site visits, ecologists will have opportunities to discuss the latest research and experiences working with stakeholders in the region to improve the health of the nation’s largest estuary.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed and major river basins. Credit, US Geological Survey.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed and major river basins. Credit, US Geological Survey.

Chesapeake Bay bears a heavy pollution burden from the growing metropolitan centers and vibrant agricultural activity in the watershed. In the last fifty years, too many nutrients have poured into the watershed, causing large fish kills and habitat damage in the bay.

Nitrogen and phosphorus draining from farm fields, livestock manure, sewage treatment plants, industry, and car exhaust are powerful fertilizers that feed blooms of algae in the bay. Sudden population explosions of algae pull oxygen from the water in the bay and change its acidity, which stresses aquatic animals and can even lead to “dead zones” empty of economically valuable fish and shellfish. Murky water can block enough sunlight to harm or kill native aquatic plants, destroying critical habitat for Chesapeake Bay fish and other aquatic animals. Some algae are toxic, presenting a direct threat to the health of people and wildlife.

Roughly 100,000 streams and 50 major creeks and rivers drain into the bay form the enormous 64,000-square-mile watershed, flowing through agricultural lands, industrial centers, and some of the oldest and densest municipalities in the United States, including Washington, Baltimore, and Richmond. Encompassing parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington D.C., the Chesapeake watershed is home to 27 million residents.

On December 29, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, acting under the authority of the Clean Water Act, instituted a comprehensive “pollution diet” to address the slow progress on water quality problems in the watershed. The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) sets pollution limits for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment loads entering water bodies and includes accountability measures.

Manure from the many poultry farms in the Chesapeake watershed is a major source of excess nitrogen entering the bay. Maryland alone has 574 large-scale operations, each concentrating 37,500 or more birds in one place. Many are on the Eastern Shore. Disposing of all that chicken waste is a big problem for the farms; nearly one in five large operations has been fined by the State of Maryland recently for violating reporting requirements.

Nutrient solutions for agriculture: engaging rural residents and farmers

Cooking chicken manure into charcoal, or biochar, can turn a pollution problem into a potential farming resource. Biochar is an organic fertilizer that retains nitrogen in soil longer than inorganic nitrogen fertilizers and also captures the carbon in the manure in a stable form, returning it to the soil.

Rebecca Ryals of Brown University has compared plant growth and nutrient retention agricultural fields fertilized with biochar, raw manure, composted manure, and inorganic nitrogen fertilizer (urea). Her presentation is part of an organized session of talks about “Putting agroecology to work: from science to practice and policy,” on Wednesday morning, August 12. Farmers are often willing to try new methods that improve ecological outcomes, but need economic and logistical support to make implementation practical. Ryals will also talk about the opportunities and barriers to implementing biochar use in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Mari-Vaughn Johnson, an agronomist at the US Department of Agriculture’s Blackland Research and Extension Center in Temple, Texas, will follow Ryals with a USDA National Resources Conservation Service case study report on conservation gains through voluntary actions by private land owners in the Chesapeake Bay region.

EPA regulations on TDMLs of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment in Chesapeake waterways are powerful tools for encouraging land use practices based on ecological science. But unequal pressures to adopt Best Management Practices have often left the agricultural community feeling unfairly blamed for nutrient pollution problems in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  On Monday afternoon, Kalla Kvalnes of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science will talk about outreach events engaging farmers and residents in rural Chesapeake Bay communities to better understand the stumbling blocks to adoption of Best Management Practices.

Ryal’s colleague, Amy Teller, will present further data on the biochar project at a poster session on sustainable agriculture and forestry on Wednesday afternoon. Maya Almaraz, also of Brown University, will report on seasonal effects on nitrogen and nitrous oxide gas emissions from the experimental farm fields Ryal treated with different fertilizers during a Monday afternoon session on new paradigms in nutrient cycling in a variety of ecosystems.

A true color composite image of Chesapeake Bay, created from Provisional Surface Reflectance data collected by the USGS satellite Landsat 8 in the fall of 2014. Sediment suspended in the water along the coast and in the rivers of the Chesapeake watershed appears light blue or green. Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C., and the I95 corridor are bright grey stars to the left of the Bay. Credit, US Geological Survey.

A true color composite image of Chesapeake Bay, created from Provisional Surface Reflectance data collected by the USGS satellite Landsat 8 in the fall of 2014. Sediment appears light blue or green, suspended in the water along the coast and in the rivers of the Chesapeake watershed. Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C., and the I95 corridor are bright grey stars to the left of the Bay. Credit, US Geological Survey.

 

Revitalizing urban neighborhoods

Simple urban improvements like replacing the concrete of an empty lot with greenery have the potential to improve the health and happiness of neighborhood residents as well as the quality of the water draining from these urban surfaces, and ultimately into the bay.

The Parks & People Foundation in Baltimore has a long history of fostering partnerships between academics, government agencies, and citizens to improve the city’s open spaces. On Sunday, August 9, Alan Berkowitz and Bess Caplan of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Christina Bradley from Parks & People, and Morgan Grove with the USDA Forest Service will co-lead a field trip on Sunday, August 9, to the site of an urban Long Term Ecological Research project investigating the connections between social and ecological revitalization in storm sewer watershed 263 (WS263), a “sewershed” in Baltimore encompassing 11 neighborhoods housing 28,214 people. The group will discuss approaches to environmental education while visiting bio-infiltration projects, lot renovations, and other green infrastructure features in WS263.

ESA’s Applied Ecology Section will also be visiting parts of WS263 on Sunday for its annual Urban Bioblitz, approaching from the Middle Branch Trail on the Patapsco River. The group will observe the diversity of plants, birds, insects, and aquatic invertebrates resident in the watershed while discussing the land planning, management, and maintenance.

Improving the health of the Bay can only come about with active participation from residents of the watershed. Amina Mohamed worked with 20 students from environmental clubs at two high schools in the Anacostia and Patuxent River watersheds (part of the larger Chesapeake watershed) to better understand community attitudes about the health of their environment. Through the participatory program Photovoice, originally developed for public engagement in public health, students photographed local environmental issues, choosing 10 photos to further describe in brief narratives. 

Mohamed analyzed the photo sets and texts for themes reflecting the perceptions and priorities of the student participants and their communities. Images of the Anacostia study area featured pollution and trash more prominently, while the Patuxent images indicated more community awareness of connections to the greater Bay region. She will present the results of her study in a poster session dedicated to ecological education on Friday morning.

 

Other meeting sessions related to water quality in the Chesapeake watershed:

Field Trips

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend the Annual Meeting for free. To apply, please contact ESA Communications Officer Liza Lester at llester@esa.org. Please visit our conference website for details on press credentials and pressroom operation. Walk-in registration will be available during the meeting.

The complete conference program, including abstracts for oral and poster presentations, is available on the conference website.

Meeting abstracts are not embargoed.

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The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, 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 six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Ecological Society of America Responds to Pope Francis’ Encyclical, LAUDATO SI: ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, June 29, 2015
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, LLester@esa.org

The following statement is attributable to the Ecological Society of America (ESA), President-elect Monica G. Turner, PhD, President David W. Inouye, PhD and Immediate Past-president Jill S. Baron, PhD. ESA represents nearly 10,000 professional ecologists in the US.

ESA President-elect Monica Turner headshot

ESA President-elect Monica Turner

Colorado State University

ESA Past-president Jill Baron

ESA President David Inouye

ESA President David Inouye

WASHINGTON, DC — “The Ecological Society of America commends Pope Francis for his insightful encyclical on the environment. Addressed to everyone on this planet, the letter issued on 18 June 2015 is an eloquent plea for responsible Earth stewardship. The pope is clearly informed by the science underpinning today’s environmental challenges. The encyclical deals directly with climate change, its potential effects on humanity and disproportionate consequences for the poor, and the need for intergenerational equity. The document is remarkable for its breadth, as it also addresses pollution, overuse of natural resources, landscape change, sense of place, and the loss of biodiversity. The pope recognizes that slow rates of change can mask the seriousness of environmental problems and the urgency to act. Pope Francis also acknowledges the importance of all taxa and all levels of biodiversity in sustaining our global commons.

“In addition to drawing attention to global change, we are very pleased to see a world leader of his stature advocate strongly for ecological research and education. Pope Francis writes, ‘Greater investment needs to be made in research aimed at understanding more fully the functioning of ecosystems and adequately analyzing the different variables associated with any significant modification of the environment.’ At a time when science is woefully politicized, the pope stresses the importance of unfettered research, stating that ‘… it is essential to give researchers their due role, to facilitate their interactions, and to ensure broad academic freedom.’ Noting that education is fundamental to change, the pope – an experienced teacher himself – advocates passionately for ecological education at all levels. We firmly agree with these sentiments, which align well with the mission of the Ecological Society of America.

“Today’s environmental dilemmas require bold responses, and the pope suggests actions to sustain ecosystems at local to global scales. He sees the need for comprehensive solutions solidly grounded in understanding of nature and society. Because there is no single path to sustainability, he sees generating viable future scenarios as necessary to stimulate dialogue toward finding solutions. We concur.

“Science and religion offer different but complementary ways of engaging the world around us. Ecologists produce fundamental understanding that helps to meet the challenges outlined so well by Pope Francis, such as planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, promoting better management of marine and forest resources, and providing universal access to drinking water. Support for these goals by religion will facilitate their achievement. We thank Pope Francis for entering into this discussion. We hope his leadership will lead to serious dialogue among – and action by –the world’s religious, political and scientific leaders on the environmental challenges facing this and future generations of humanity.”


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, 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 six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Ecological Society of America awarded National Science Foundation funding to retain diversity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, 1 June 2015
Contact: Teresa Mourad, 202-833-8773 ext. 234, Teresa@esa.org

 

SEEDS alumna Betsabé Castro, a PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley starting in fall, 2015, studies artificial selection of medicinal and edible traits in plants native to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and other Caribbean islands with support from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Read an interview to learn more about Betsabé's experience with SEEDS.

SEEDS alumna Betsabé Castro, a PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley starting in fall, 2015, studies artificial selection of medicinal and edible traits in plants native to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and other Caribbean islands with support from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Read an interview to learn more about Betsabé’s experience with SEEDS.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded  a $597,643 grant to the Ecological Society of America’s Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) program, supporting a three-pronged approach to increase diversity within the ecological field. The grant spans four years, beginning today.

The new NSF award will support activities that guide students to identify ecology as a viable career option, develop a sense of personal connection with science, and surmount cultural stereotypes that hinder participation. It will also fund development of a mechanism for connecting the “marketplace” of opportunities along a variety of career pathways in ecology.

“While most diversity programs seek to recruit and engage underrepresented students, this SEEDS project expands our work with the aim of retaining underrepresented students in the ecological field,” said Teresa Mourad, ESA Director of Education and Diversity Programs.

A 2011 National Academy of Science study indicates that underrepresented minority populations in the science and engineering workforce needs to triple to keep pace with the nation’s changing demographics. 

The NSF grant supports three new activities building on the existing SEEDS program: regional ecological field experiences, partnerships with field stations and researchers for undergraduate summer research, and a SEEDS Certificate program. Although the program is open to all students, it makes a special effort to attract minorities, first-generation college students, economically-disadvantaged and veteran students.

Working with over 90 SEEDS campus chapters across the US, regional field experiences funded by the NSF grant are designed specifically for freshmen and sophomore college students to gain real-world exposure by working hand-in-hand with ecologists. For many underrepresented students, this is usually their first opportunity to work at a field station or engage in a field investigation.

New ecological field station partnerships will offer more summer research opportunities for undergraduate students.  They will present their summer research at SEEDS Leadership Meetings and the ESA Annual Meeting. Held annually, the Leadership Meeting is an opportunity for SEEDS student leaders to engage in a dialogue about the connections between science and society. The meeting provides a venue for SEEDS participants to develop 21st century skills and understanding in communications, policy, community outreach and education, rounding out their experience as young scientists.

SEEDS students on the first regional field trip to Puerto Rico, in 2013.

SEEDS students record measurements in Puerto Rico on the program’s first regional field trip, in 2013.

Set for a Fall, 2015 launch, the SEEDS Certificate will function as the hub to provide students with a range of experiences to prepare them for an ecological career.  An ESA member will mentor each participating student during and after their participation in SEEDS to advise them in their career development. This is the first time that ESA will implement long-term mentoring in SEEDS.

“Just-in-time advising is critical for many students to succeed in ecology,” said Mourad.  “All too often, underrepresented students are simply unaware of the skills and experiences needed to succeed. For instance, students do not commonly know that research experience is required for acceptance into a graduate ecology program.”

Minority students face an additional hurdle—some of their institutions do not have ecology programs or cannot provide ecology research experiences.  This means they must seek out opportunities. SEEDS is designed to facilitate opportunities for them. Students also need to know the range of ecology careers that are available in both research and applied practice.

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SEEDing a diverse peer network:  read an interview with SEEDs alumna Betsabé Castro, currently completing her MA at the University of Missouri, Columbia. She will begin a PhD program at the University of California, Berkeley in the fall of 2015 with support from the NSF’s prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship.


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, 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 six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Centennial lecture series celebrates the past and future of ecology

The 100th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America

August 9-14, 2015 in Baltimore, Md.
Ecological Science at the Frontier

Ecological science at the frontier: Centennial logoFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, 8 May 2015
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, LLester@esa.org

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This August, the Ecological Society of America convenes its 100th Annual Meeting at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Md. The centennial meeting is on track to be our largest annual gathering, with over 4,000 presentations of the latest research findings and applications, and the history, policy, and ethics of ecology and conservation science.

The anniversary has inspired sessions celebrating the past and looking forward to future investigations into the relationships of organisms to each other and their environment. The last century has seen the development of the foundations of ecological theory. The discipline continues to expand its boundaries with new ideas, new experimental tools, and the recruitment of young scientists from previously excluded social groups. The Centennial Ecology Lecture Series will supplement our established plenary lectures, inviting further reflection on these themes of history and change.

 

Centennial Ecology Lecture Series

Climate change: mapping the problem space and the solution space

new phytologist lecture Chris Field small squareChris Field  
New Phytologist Trust Lecture
Monday, Aug. 10, 12:00-1:15 PM room 308

Turquoise-NP-logo_for-ESA-150x49

ESA is excited to welcome the New Phytologist Trust, a not-for-profit dedicated to the promotion of plant science, as a sponsor of this lecture. Chris Field is the founding director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology, Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies at Stanford University, and faculty director of Stanford’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. His research emphasizes impacts of climate change, from the molecular to the global scale, integrating field, laboratory, and modeling approaches.

 

Together or not at all: the collective power of ecology and natural history in the Anthropocene

centennial lecture JoshTewksbury small squareJoshua Tewksbury
Tuesday, Aug. 11, 12:00-1:15 PM room 310

Ever since he found out there was a formal discipline that sought to explain the diversity of the world, Josh Tewksbury has been working as an ecologist, naturalist, and conservation scientist, continually caught between the desire to save and savor the natural world. He is the founding director of the Luc Hoffmann Institute, a boundary science organization at WWF that brings together biophysical science, social science, and policy and practice experts, and the Doug and Maggie Walker Professor of Natural History at the University of Washington.

 

Untangling the population dynamic interactions between climate and infectious diseases

centennial lecture Mercedes Pascual small squareMercedes Pascual
Robert H. MacArthur Award Lecture
Wednesday, Aug. 12, 12:00-1:15 PM room 310

Mercedes Pascual takes a contemporary epidemiological perspective on a long running historical debate in ecology: the role of extrinsic (environmental) vs. intrinsic (density-dependent) factors in population dynamics. She will present a synthesis of her research group’s findings on climate variability and climate change and their interaction with the population dynamics of infectious diseases, specifically cholera in Bangladesh and malaria in Africa and India. Pascual is a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, a visiting professor at the University of Michigan, and on the external faculty of the Santa Fe Institute.

The Robert H. MacArthur Award is given biannually to an established ecologist in midcareer for meritorious contributions to ecology in the expectation of continued outstanding ecological research.

 

A preliminary version of the full conference program, including abstracts, will be available in June 2015.

Meeting abstracts are not embargoed. Reporters who would like help locating presenters and outside sources for in person or phone interviews should contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org or (202) 833-8773 x211.

ESA welcomes attendance from members of the press and waives registration fees for reporters and institutional public information officers. Information about our policy on press credentials and press room support is available on the Centennial Meeting website. To apply, please contact ESA Communications Officer Liza Lester directly at llester@esa.org.

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The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, 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 six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Ecological Society of America announces 2015 award recipients

logoFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, 7 May 2015
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, LLester@esa.org

 

 

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present nine awards recognizing outstanding contributions to ecology in new discoveries, teaching, sustainability, diversity, and lifelong commitment to the profession during the Society’s 100th Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. The awards ceremony will take place on Monday, August 10, at 8 AM in the Key Ballroom, Hilton Baltimore. More information about ESA awards is available here.  

 

Eminent Ecologist Award: Eric Pianka
The Eminent Ecologist Award is given to a senior ecologist in recognition of an outstanding body of ecological work or sustained ecological contributions of extraordinary merit.  During his 50-year academic career, Pianka, a professor at the University of Texas since 1968, published nearly 200 scientific papers, several of which became “Citation Classics.” His textbook “Evolutionary Ecology,” first published in 1974, went through six editions and has been translated into multiple languages.  Pianka’s key and durable contributions to empirical ecology encompass wide‐ranging studies of lizard community ecology across many continents and the  discovery of many new lizard species. In 2004, Pianka was chosen as the Herpetologists League’s “Distinguished Herpetologist” and in 2006 the Texas Academy of Science named him “Distinguished Scientist.” All of his conceptual contributions are grounded in a thorough understanding of natural history with a deep love of the natural world. His work has influenced many individuals, both inside the ecological profession and beyond.

Eugene P. Odum Education Award:  Nathaniel Wheelwright
The Eugene P. Odum Award recipients have demonstrated their ability to relate basic ecological principles to human affairs through teaching, outreach, and mentoring activities. ESA honors Wheelwright of Bowdoin College, whose 29 years of exemplary teaching has influenced over 49 students to pursue a Ph.D. in ecology or related fields. He has co-authored peer-reviewed papers with more than 25 undergraduate students. Beyond his responsibilities at Bowdoin, Wheelwright has served as a visiting faculty resource person for over 20 Organization of Tropical Studies courses, mentoring hundreds of graduate students from dozens of universities. While on a Fulbright grant at the University of Botswana, Wheelwright taught more than 400 students and established the University’s first natural history club. 

Commitment to Human Diversity in Ecology Award: Mary McKenna
This ESA award recognizes long-standing contributions of an individual towards increasing the diversity of future ecologists through mentoring, teaching, or outreach. ESA honors McKenna, a professor at Howard University, for her leadership in developing diversity-enhancing programs within the Society and working to improve minority access to all Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. In her 29 years at Howard University, McKenna’s greatest contribution to promoting the diversity of future ecologists has been her ability to develop structured, engaging and meaningful undergraduate research mentoring programs for aspiring minority students.

ESA Distinguished Service Citation: Alan Covich
The Distinguished Service Citation is given to recognize long and distinguished volunteer service to ESA, the larger scientific community, and the larger purpose of ecology in the public welfare. Covich, a professor at the University of Georgia, has contributed over 40-years of service to ESA in many roles and was elected as ESA President in 2008. His work to advance the science of ecology and foster international cooperation and communication through other service activities includes his leadership roles as Past-president of North American Benthological Society, American Institute of Biological Science, and INTECOL.

Whittaker Distinguished Ecologist Award: Inderjit
This ESA award recognizes an ecologist outside of the United States who has earned a doctorate and an outstanding record of contributions in ecology. Inderjit is Director of the Centre for the Study of Degraded Ecosystems at the University of Delhi, where he is also a professor. Noteworthy is his outstanding and meticulous experimental work into the mechanisms responsible for plant invasions. These insights have been presented in over 20 invited-plenary lectures worldwide. He has penned eight books on plant ecology and numerous peer-reviewed journal articles.

Honorary Membership Award: Stuart Bunn
This ESA award is given to a distinguished ecologist who has made exceptional contributions to ecology and whose principal residence and site of ecological research are outside of North America. Bunn is Director of the Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, and is one of Australia’s leading freshwater scientists, earning national and international recognition for his outstanding contributions in water science and management. His research has resulted in over 250 technical publications, of which more than half are peer-reviewed journal papers receiving 900 citations per year. Bunn also serves in formal advisory roles with international and Australian government agencies on water resource management and policy. In 2007, Professor Bunn was awarded the Australian Society for Limnology Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to research and management of Australia’s inland waters.

W.S. Cooper Award: Carissa D. Brown and Mark Vellend
The Cooper Award honors an outstanding contribution to the field of geobotany, physiographic ecology, plant succession or the distribution of plants along environmental gradients. ESA recognizes Brown of theMemorial University of Newfoundland and Vellend of the University of Sherbrooke for their paper “Non-climatic constraints on upper elevational plant range expansion under climate change,” published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The study focuses on interactions between soil, climate, and biotc factors on plant performance and distributions.

George Mercer Award: Marcelo Ardón, Jennifer L. Morse, Ben P. Colman, and Emily S. Bernhardt
The Mercer Award recognizes an outstanding and recently-published ecological research paper by young scientists. Ardón (East Carolina University), Morse (Portland State University), Colman (Duke University), and Bernhardt (Duke University) co-authored “Drought-induced saltwater incursion leads to increased wetland nitrogen export,” published in Global Change Biology. In the tradition of landscape-scale ecosystem ecology, their study finds that saltwater intrusion has the potential to liberate vast stores of legacy nitrogen from past agricultural fertilizer use, leading to ecosystem degradation and coastal eutrophication on a massive scale.

Murray F. Buell Award: Nina Lany
This ESA award is given for excellence in ecology to a student for the outstanding oral paper presented at the ESA Annual Meeting. Lany, now a postdoctoral research associate at Michigan State University, presented “Top-down vs. bottom-up is a function of temperature for forest Lepidoptera,” at the Society’s Annual Meeting in Sacramento, CA in 2014, while completing her doctorate at Dartmouth College. The study measured the daily survival rate of caterpillars finding that negative indirect effects on caterpillars propagated through predators and food quality can outweigh the benefits of faster development time at higher temperatures.


To learn more about the August 9–14, 2015 ESA Annual Meeting see:  http://esa.org/baltimore/

ESA welcomes attendance from members of the press and waives registration fees for reporters and institutional public information officers. Information about our policy on press credentials and press room support is available on the Centennial Meeting website. To apply, please contact ESA Communications Officer Liza Lester directly at llester@esa.org.

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The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, 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 six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.