ESA sponsors or co-sponsors congressional briefings in which ESA members and other experts inform congressional staff on the science behind issues of importance to lawmakers, such as biofuels, wildfires, invasive species, and climate change. Recent briefings include:
On April 23, 2013, the Ecological Society of America sponsored a congressional briefing on the ecology of zoonotic diseases. The briefing highlighted the various environmental factors that can contribute to the spread of several prominent animal to human diseases.Presentations were given by Robert Parmenter, Director of the USDA Valles Caldera National Reserve Scientific Services Division and Gregory Glass, Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Director of the Alabama Southern Research Institute’s Global Biological Threat Reduction Program.
Diseases discussed in Parmenter’s presentation included malaria, Lyme disease and hantavirus, a rodent transmitted disease, which has gained prominence in the New Mexico region where he resides. Parmenter explained that some diseases require vectors (usually arthropods like ticks or fleas) while others can be directly transmitted from a host (like the rodent-human spread of hantavirus). He also elaborated on the various ecological conditions that influence zoonotic diseases, such as precipitation and temperature.
Glass talked about the sources of environmental and health data. Multiple federal agencies make detection, monitoring and research of zoonotic diseases possible. These include the National Aeronautics Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States Geological Survey, the Centers for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of Defense, Agriculture and Homeland Security and the US Agency for International Development. Glass also highlighted ways in which ecologists can help predict future zoonotic disease outbreaks and how climate change is likely to affect the distribution of Lyme disease.
The briefing was hosted by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
Click here for Robert Parmenter’s slide presentation.
Click here for Gregory Glass’ slide presentation.
On November 2, 2011, ESA sponsored a congressional briefing: “Using Science to Improve Flood Management.” Emily Stanley (University of Wisconsin, Madison) and Jeff Opperman (The Nature Conservancy, Ohio Field Office) addressed the function of floodplains and managing rivers as systems and for multiple benefits.
Emily Stanley’s presentation focused on the work of rivers and the function of floodplains. Industry, transportation, and recreation all constitute work done by rivers. Less well known and valued is the work done by floodplains, responsible for such desirable services such as flood attenuation, fish production, improved water quality and groundwater recharge. Stanley noted that aging US levee and other infrastructure provide an opportunity to move beyond structural flood control and take greater advantage of the functions of floodplains.
Jeff Opperman’s presentation focused on the logic of managing rivers as a system and for multiple benefits. These include risk reduction for people and infrastructure as well as benefits such as water storage during droughts and increased fisheries production. Opperman said that because the Mississippi River is managed as a comprehensive system, the recent flood was far less damaging than that of 1927 even though a greater volume of water passed through the system in 2011. Opperman also pointed to the success story of California’s Yolo Bypass, which has reduced flood risk while increasing goods and services.
To view the complete presentations, please click on the links below:
Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation
January 8, 2010
ESA co-sponsored a congressional briefing that provided a scientific perspective on options for adapting to climate change in the United States.
- Michael MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs, the Climate Institute
- Kristie L. Ebi, Executive Director, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group 2 Technical Support Unit - Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability
- Katherine L. Jacobs, Professor, University of Arizona Soil, Water and Environmental Science Department
- Susanne Moser, Director and Principal Researcher, Susanne Moser Research & Consulting
On July 13, 2009, ESA hosted House and Senate briefings, “Water Resources in the West: Assessing Tradeoffs in a Changing Climate,” featuring Society members: Jill Baron of the US Geological Survey and Colorado State University; Darrel Jenerette of the University of California, Riverside; and Diane Pataki of the University of California, Irvine.
The ecological scientists provided information on the current status and future outlook for freshwater resources in the American West, where the impacts of climate change and agricultural and urban demand are most pronounced. Sharing insights from their work in urban, agricultural, and natural ecosystems, they discussed the implications of water management and conservation strategies, with an emphasis on the tradeoffs inherent to water allocation decisions.
Dr. Baron explained the drivers behind western water shortages, described the possible negative impacts of these shortages on natural freshwater ecosystems, and discussed how such impacts might be lessened through adaptive ecosystem management.
Dr. Jenerette discussed how water allocation decisions impact the availability of ecosystem resources and how ecological research can assist in decision-making .
Dr. Pataki focused on urban ecology, explaining how existing landscaping decisions—including some “green” initiatives—can reduce water efficiency. Giving the example of tree planting projects, Pataki demonstrated the importance of considering ecological factors, such as the types of tree species planted, in making land-use decisions.
The two briefings drew more than 100 attendees in total, including congressional staff and researchers, federal agency representatives, and members of the scientific community.
Scarce Western Water is About to Get Scarcer: What are the Implications for Freshwater Ecosystems
Dr. Jill Baron, US Geological Survey, Colorado State University
Water, Ecosystem Services, and Society in the Changing Western United
Dr. Darrel Jenerette, Michigan State University
Water Allocation Tradeoffs in Urban Ecosystems
Dr. Diane Pataki, University of California, Irvine
Click here to view the summary handout from the briefing.
Climate Change: Intersections of Climate and Policy
January 9, 2009
ESA co-sponsored a congressional briefing to address the scientific and public policy-related aspects of climate change.
- Timothy Wirth, former US Representative and Senator and lead US negotiator at the Kyoto Climate Conference
- Susan Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who co-chaired Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment & Security
- Ted Parson, Professor of Law and of Natural Resources & Environment at the University of Michigan
ESA co-sponsored a webinar on ecosystem services featuring presentations from both ecologists and economists:
- Jim Gosz, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education at the University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resources
- Rich Pouyat, former Vice President of ESA Public Affairs and research forester with the US Forest Service
- Scott Swinton, Professor of Agricultural, Food & Resource Economics at Michigan State University
- Steven Kraft, Chair of the Department of Agribusiness Economics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale
After the Fire: Approaches to Revitalizing Ecosystem Resources
July 9, 2008
ESA co-sponsored a congressional briefing on land management following forest fires.
- Norm Christensen, former ESA President (2007-2008) and a forest ecologist at Duke University
- Dan Neary, a soil scientist with the U.S. Forest Service at the Rocky Mountain Research Station
- Stephen Swallow, a resource economist with the University of Rhode Island
The Sustainability of Cellulosic Biofuels June 11, 2008
ESA hosted a congressional briefing on the ecological and economic impacts of producing biofuels from cellulosic sources—the leaves, stems, and other fibrous parts of plants.
- Phil Robertson, who specializes in crop and soil science at the Kellogg Biological Station at Michigan State University
- Doug Landis, an entomologist from Michigan State University
- Madhu Khanna, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois