Female tiger sharks migrate from Northwestern to Main Hawaiian Islands during fall pupping season

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, 5 September, 2013
Contact: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; llester@esa.org

 

A tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) photographed by Wayne Levin in Hawaiian waters.

A tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) photographed off the Big Island of Hawaii by Wayne Levin.

A quarter of the mature female tiger sharks plying the waters around the remote coral atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands decamp for the populated Main Hawaiian Islands in the late summer and fall, swimming as far as 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) according to new research from University of Florida and the University of Hawaii. Their report is scheduled for publication in the November 2013 issue of Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecology. The authors’ manuscript is available as a preprint.

“When we think of animal migrations, we tend to think of all individuals in a populations getting up and leaving at the same time, but it’s not as simple as that,” said first author Yannis Papastamatiou of the University of Florida. “Some are resident and some are transient.”

Among all migrating animals, from birds to elk to 15-ft ocean predators, some portion of the population remains behind when the rest leave on their seasonal journeys. Animals have choice. On what factors does choice depend? The answers are important to conservation efforts and the management of our own interactions with the animals as they pass around, over, and through human communities.

Tiger sharks are present throughout the islands at all times of year.  The female sharks’ migration from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands dovetails with the tiger shark birth season in September to early November – and with the months of highest shark bite risk. Though rare, shark bites have historically been most frequent from October to December.  Traditional Hawaiian knowledge also warns of danger during the fall months.

“Both the timing of this migration and tiger shark pupping season coincide with Hawaiian oral traditions suggesting that late summer and fall, when the wiliwili tree blooms, are a period of increased risk of shark bites,” said co-author Carl Meyer of the University of Hawaii.

Papastamatiou and Meyer urge people not to leap to the conclusion that this movement of female sharks is directly related to recent shark bites around Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island. Many factors might influence shark behavior in ways that would lead to more frequent encounters with people, Papastamatiou said. Scientists have almost no data on the attributes or particular behaviors of tiger sharks that bite people because bloody conflicts with humanity, though dramatic, are rare.

Papastamatiou thinks there is a more likely connection to pupping, with female sharks swimming down to preferred nursery sites in the Main Hawaiian Islands. The Main Hawaiian Islands may offer different foods, protection from ocean waves, or some other, unknown factor.

Papastamatiou is careful to distinguish between what he knows and what he can only hypothesize based on the patterns of shark location data and shark natural history. He knows that one quarter of the mature females are moving to the main isles at the time when pupping is known to occur. He knows tiger shark females mostly likely pup every three years, so only one third are pregnant in the Fall.

Discussions of tiger shark behavior and natural history are often laced with caveats because the sharks are rare and swim through very large home ranges. They are not easy to observe systematically.

Papastamatiou and colleagues tracked more than 100 tiger sharks over the course of 7 years by tagging each animal with a transmitter that emitted high frequency sound in a unique code. When the sharks swam within range of one of 143 underwater “listening stations” arrayed throughout the islands and atolls of the Hawaiian Archipelago, the station made a record of time, date, and the identity of the shark. The tags last for a minimum of 3 years.

The researchers caught only glimpses of each animal. For months between those glimpses, the sharks’ movements and behavior remained mysterious. “They could leave Hawaii altogether, and we wouldn’t know,” said Papastamatiou. Like many good studies, their results offered more new questions than answers. But the research team could detect a few patterns.

“One that stands out: although sharks show preference for certain islands, they don’t stay resident in specific bays for long periods,” said Papastamatiou. “It debunks the old idea of territoriality.”

This research and other studies like it have solidly overturned mid-twentieth century ideas that tiger sharks stick to chosen territories in specific coves and bays. The territoriality hypothesis led to culls during the 1960s and ‘70s under the belief that killing sharks in locations where people had been hurt meant killing the shark that had attacked them, eliminating a “problem” shark.

But Papastamatiou said his data show that tiger sharks don’t hang around the same bit of coastline for more than a few weeks. With concerns acute in the wake of recent shark bites and the death of a German tourist, Hawaiians are anxious to do something to respond.

“The one thing I hope they don’t do is try to initiate a cull as was done in the 60s and 70s. I don’t think it works. There is no measurable reduction in attacks after a cull,” said Papastamatiou.

Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources commissioned a two-year, $186,000 study last year of tiger shark movements in the islands, headed by study co-author Carl Meyer. The study will begin this month.

 

Telemetry and random walk models reveal complex patterns of partial migration in a large marine predator. Yannis Peter Papastamatiou, Carl Gustav Meyer, Felipe Carvalho, Jonathon Dale, Melanie Hutchinson, and Kim Holland. Ecology (2013, in press)

 

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.

 

Author Contacts:

 Yannis Peter Papastamatiou (first author), University of Florida, Florida Museum of Natural History ypapastamatiou@gmail.com; 352-392-2360 extension 3-1955

Carl Meyer, University of Hawaii, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology [contact Talia Ogliore, Public Information Officer, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa; togliore@hawaii.edu; 808-956-4531]

 

 

The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is 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.

Using fire to manage fire-prone regions around the world

Inaugural online-only Special Issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

 Media Advisory

For immediate release 14 August 2013

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

Prescribed burn in Klamath National Forest CA. Credit: E. Knapp

Prescribed burn in Klamath National Forest CA. Credit: E. Knapp

 

The Ecological Society of America’s first online-only Special Issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment showcases prescribed burns around the globe, some of them drawing on historical practices to manage forests and grasslands in fire-prone regions.

The Online Special Issue looks at fire practices in the United States, Australia, southern Europe, South Africa and South America. One review article focuses on the cooperative efforts of US ranchers in the Great Plains using fire to beat back juniper encroachment on native grasslands.  Another features traditional Aboriginal approaches to minimize greenhouse-gas emissions from savanna fires in northern Australia.  In South America, traditional Mayan practices to produce “forest gardens” are applied to create spaces within the forest for different kinds of crops while contributing to soil fertility and sustaining wildlife.  And in southern Europe, a significant challenge is contending with stringent laws that create obstacles for using managed burns to decrease wildfire risk and manage habitats for grazing and wildlife.

The August online-only issue of Frontiers is open access, as are all Frontiers Special Issues. Access Prescribed burning in fire-prone landscapes here or click on the titles below to go directly to an article.

Prescribed burning in southern Europe: developing fire management in a dynamic landscape

Prescribed fire in North American forests and woodlands: history, current practice, and challenges

Prescribed burning in southwestern Australian forests

Fire management in species-rich Cape fynbos shrublands

The Maya milpa: fire and the legacy of living soil

Managing fire regimes in north Australian savannas: applying Aboriginal approaches to contemporary global problems

The rising Great Plains fire campaign: citizens’ response to woody plant encroachment

 

 

 

 

 

Ecology in Agricultural Landscapes: seeking solutions for food, water, wildlife

A compendium of agro-ecology sessions at the 2013 annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America

2013 ESA Logo

Media advisory

For Immediate Release:  Tuesday, 23 July 2013
Contact: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; llester@esa.org

 

Agriculture alters the landscape more than any other human activity, with trickle-down effects on water, soil, climate, plant and wildlife diversity, wildfire, and human health. Crop and rangeland occupies nearly 40 percent of earth’s ice-free land, and mountains and deserts make much of the remaining surface unwelcoming to agriculture. Our increasing population applies constant pressure for further conversion of wild lands to agricultural production. With yields plateauing in many parts of the world, managers, both private and public, are looking for new ideas to get the most out of agricultural lands, sustain production into the future, and protect natural resources.

Multiple sessions will address the ecological study of agricultural systems at the Ecological Society of America’s 98th Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 4 – 9.

Presenting scientists will examine routes to improved soil, water, and nutrient retention, pollinator support, and pest suppression by natural enemies. They will discuss opportunities to increase biodiversity in agricultural areas and mitigate runoff.

 

Land sharing

Soil erosion….or not. STRIPs project - LIsa Schulte Moore presents at the Aster Cafe on Wednesday August 7 at 5:30pm

Soil erosion….or not. Even small amounts of perennials can have a dramatic impact on the environmental benefits provided by row-cropped agricultural lands. This image depicts the ability of native prairie to keep soil in farm fields, where it can produce crops, as opposed to allowing it to move into streams, where it becomes a serious pollutant.
Lisa Schulte Moore won the inaugural ESA2013 Science Cafe Prize with her vision for change in modern agriculture based on ecological knowledge and experimentation. Schulte Moore, a professor of landscape ecology at Iowa State University, will speak at a public event at the Aster Cafe on the riverfront in Minneapolis, at 5:30pm on Wednesday August 7. Photo, Dave Williams.

OOS 23: Bridging The Public-Private Land Divide – Supporting Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services By Tapping The Ingenuity In Social-Ecological Systems.
Thursday, August 8, 2013: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM, room 101A

For much of the world, high-intensity industrial farming produces food with high efficiency, but puts the squeeze on other plant and animal life. Wildlife is mostly sequestered on preserves. But is this the best way to maximize food and biodiversity? Or are there other configurations that might improve mobility of wildlife and benefit other ecosystem services without cost (and possibly with benefit) to private land owners?

“We are probably not going to be able to achieve landscape conservation goals for soil, water, and wildlife, specifically grasslands and birds, working on publically-owned lands alone. We will need to incorporate private lands,” said session moderator Chris Woodson, a private lands biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Missouri.

Conservation biologists are looking for conservation-supportive practices that have potential to augment protected areas on public lands and aid existing programs. Private landowners and entrepreneurs are looking for contributions that they can make to conservation and still make a living.

This session brings together managers, scientists, private land owners, and entrepreneurs to discuss ideas, pilot projects, and existing public-private partnerships, and seek areas of mission overlap and opportunities for collective action.

“Lower case c conservation is what we want to see happen,” said session co-organizer Paul Charland, a wildland firefighter with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Capital C Conservation is official business; it’s the movement as an organizational process. Lower case conservation is all efforts to keep native species. We want to provide a mechanism for everyone to do that.”

 

Organizers:         Patrica Heglund (Patricia_Heglund@fws.gov); Paul Charland (paul_charland@fws.gov); Carol Williams; Chris Woodson   (chris_woodson@fws.gov)

 


 

Connecting the global to the local – agricultural landscapes from field to orbit

SYMP 20: Integrating Agro-Ecological Research Across Spatial and Temporal Scales
Thursday, August 8, 2013: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM

Kate Brauman integrating eco-agro research scales ESA2013

Collage assembled by Kate Brauman. Image Credits – Globe: Reto Stöckli, Robert Simmon, MODIS teams, NASA. Satellite images: shrimp aquaculture in Honduras, Landsat 7, 1999, Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory. Small photos: Kate Brauman.

Big changes in agriculture are visible on the global scale – changes in crop yields, dietary choices, water use, fertilizer application, soil retention, and nutrient pollution. In some parts of the world, yield lags, revealing opportunities to get more out of land already in production. In others, crop production has sagged or plateaued. Will yields keep increasing as they have in the past? It’s hard to see trajectories without local context, said session organizer Kate Brauman of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Site-specific field work fills in details.

“Agronomy has been working very successfully for a long time, and it’s been focused on practitioners,” said Brauman. “And global analysis can be hard for someone in the field to interpret. How can we take insights from the local to the global scale and make them useful?”

Ecology has great scientists studying the very local, applied art and science of getting more yield out of our crops and the local ecological effects of agriculture, and great scientists studying global trends, said Bauman. It does not have much of a history of cross-pollination between the groups. This session aims to bridge gulfs of scientific culture and of scale, connecting the satellite’s eye view of global change to the view from the field; computational modeling to on-the-ground experimentation; and snapshot observations to daily, seasonal, annual, and decadal change.

 

Organizer: Kate Brauman (kbrauman@umn.edu)

 


 

Resilient future

Two “Ignite” sessions offer a series of 5-minute introductions to ideas for the future interdependency of conservation and agriculture, from plant breeding and field design, to farm policy.

 


 

More…

  • PS-29: Agriculture            Tuesday, August 6, 2013: 4:30 PM-6:30 PM, Exhibit Hall B
    (Poster session)
  • COS 1: Agriculture I         Monday, August 5, 2013: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM, room L100I
    Grasslands, coffee, excess nitrogen fertilizer
  • COS 18: Agriculture II      Tuesday, August 6, 2013: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM, room 101C
    Biodiversity, weeds, spatial organization
  • COS 80: Soil Ecology        Wednesday, August 7, 2013: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM, room M100GD
    Includes soybean symbiosis, prairie grazing gradients, and bioenergy constraints.
  • COS 77: Land-Use And Land-Use History               Wednesday, August 7, 2013: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM, room L100H
    Consequences of armed conflict, restoration ecology, and shifting away from beef(?).
  • OOS 24: Managing Belowground Processes In Agroecosystems  Thursday, August 8, 2013: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM, room 101B
    The invisible world of roots, fungi, insects, arthropods, microbes, and decomposing plants matter matter very much to crop success and environmental health. This session will evaluate the state of the science and “alternative” agro-ecological systems, and discuss management opportunities.
  • COS 126: Pollination        Friday, August 9, 2013: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM, room L100G
    Cranberries, blueberries, and parasitoid wasps.

 


 

Press Registration for the Annual Meeting, August 4 – 9, 2013:

We waive registration fees for reporters with a recognized press card and 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. Email Liza Lester, llester@esa.org.

Meeting abstracts are not embargoed.


 

The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is 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.

 

To subscribe to ESA press releases, contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org.

Dynamic interplay of ecology, infectious disease, and human life

Spillover of infectious wildlife diseases to domestic animals and people and the link between environmental processes and human health

ESA2013 Minneapolis badge

For immediate release:  Thursday, 27 June 2013                        

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

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

 

 

 

Two symposia focusing on the ecological dynamics of infectious diseases such as avian influenza, Yellow Fever, and Lyme will take place during the Ecological Society of America’s 98th Annual Meeting, held this year in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One will look at human influences on viral and bacterial diseases through our alteration of landscapes and ecological processes, while the other will focus on the emerging field of eco-epidemiology that seeks to integrate biomedical and ecological research approaches to address human health threats.

The symposium on Monday, August 5, will take a deeper look at a range of human activities that affect infectious disease. Though we often think of diseases as simply being “out there” in the environment, our own actions—like feeding outdoor birds—can influence the abundance, diversity and distribution of wildlife species and thus, infectious diseases in wildlife, many of which have the potential to also infect us.

“New human settlements, the spread of agriculture, and the increasing proximity of people, their pets, and livestock to wild animals, increase the probability of disease outbreaks,” said session organizer Courtney Coon, with the University of Florida. “We’re particularly interested in learning more about how urban and other environments that we dramatically change affect the susceptibility and transmission potential of animals that are hosts or vectors of disease.”

What are the key determinants of spillover of wildlife diseases to domestic animals and humans?  Why is the prevalence of pathogens in wildlife living in urban areas often altered from counterparts in less developed environments?  Speakers will address these and more questions in the symposium, that will also include a session highlighting ways in which citizen scientists can contribute important information that helps track avian diseases.   

The symposium on Tuesday, August 6, will continue the theme of infectious disease but with an eye toward integrating biomedical and ecological approaches to aid investigation and control of emerging zoonotic diseases. 

“Environmental processes and human health are linked and we’d like to chart a future in which ecologists and epidemiologists more routinely work in tandem to address health problems,” said symposium organizer Jory Brinkerhoff. 

Those studying human diseases may overlook possible ecological factors. For example, most Lyme disease cases in the eastern United States occur in the North even though the black-legged tick, which transmits the bacterium, may be found throughout the eastern US. The answer is likely tied to ecological factors such as the variety of host species that occur across the Eastern range. Meanwhile, disease ecologists may neglect to integrate human ecology in their studies. For instance, human life histories and social dynamics are critically important in the success or failure of managing the mosquito-borne virus, dengue.

“Disease ecologists and epidemiologists address some of the same kinds of questions yet operate largely in isolation of one another,” said Brinkerhoff. “We’re bringing them together to share their approaches and study designs and strengthen our ability to address public health issues.”

SYMPOSIUM 2 – Disease Ecology in Human-Altered Landscapes. Monday, August 5, 2013: 1:30 PM – 5 PM, 205AB, Minneapolis Convention Center.

Organizer/Moderator: Courtney Coon, University of South Florida

Co-Organizer: James Adelman, Virginia Tech

Speakers:

· Parviez Hosseini, EcoHealth Alliance

· Matthew Ferrari, Penn State University

· A. Marm Kilpatrick, University of California, Santa Cruz

· Raina Plowright, Pennsylvania State University

· Sonia Altizer, University of Georgia

· Becki Lawson, Zoological Society of London

SYMPOSIUM 8 – Eco-Epidemiology: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Addressing Public Health Problems.  Tuesday, August 6, 2013: 1:30 PM – 5 PM, 205AB Minneapolis Convention Center.

Organizer/Moderator: Jory Brinkerhoff, University of Richmond

Co-Organizer: Maria Diuk-Wasser, Yale School of Public Health

Speakers:

· Maria Diuk-Wasser, Yale School of Public Health

· Daniel Salkeld, Colorado State University

· Mark Wilson, University of Michigan

· James Holland Jones, Stanford University

· Harish Padmanabha, National Center for Socio-Environmental Synthesis

· Jean Tsao, Michigan State University

Media Attendance

The Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting, Aug. 4-9, 2013 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 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.

The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and the trusted source of ecological knowledge.  ESA is 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 or find experts in ecological science at http://www.esa.org/pao/rrt/.

To subscribe to ESA press releases, contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org

Declining fortunes of Yellowstone’s migratory elk

Are human choices redefining the fitness of an ancient survival strategy?

 

Media advisory

For Immediate Release:  Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Contact: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; llester@esa.org

 

In the late spring, the 4000 elk of the Clarks Fork herd leave crowded winter grounds near Cody, Wyoming, following the greening grass into the highlands of the Absaroka Mountains, where they spend the summer growing fat on vegetation fed by snowmelt. It’s a short trip (40-60 kilometers) by migratory standards, and by modern standards, uncommonly free of roads, fences, metropolitan areas, and other human-built barriers. But it crosses an important human boundary: the border into Yellowstone National Park.

Twenty-five minute old elk calf in Mammoth Hot Springs. Jim Peaco; Yellowstone National Park. June 9, 2010

A Twenty-five minute old elk calf at Mammoth Hot Springs. Credit, Jim Peaco; Yellowstone National Park. June 9, 2010

The costs of migrating to the high green pastures have lately outstripped the benefits, according to a research report in the June issue of the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecology, published last week. Arthur Middleton and colleagues at the University of Wyoming, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and the U.S. Geological Survey reported that the migratory Clarks Fork herd has been returning to winter grounds with fewer and fewer calves over the last few decades. Herds that remain in the vicinity of Cody year-round have more surviving calves. Middleton et al. attribute the change in migratory fortunes to climate change and a resurgence within the park of predators that hunt newborn elk calves.

In a Forum edited by Marco Festa-Bianchet, of the Université de Sherbrooke, Québec, five working groups of ecologists commented on the data, praising Middleton and colleagues’ work, but, in some cases, challenging their interpretation. Middleton and colleagues addressed the commentary in a rebuttal.

Historically, migratory hoofed beasts like elk have outnumbered sedentary members of their species by as much as an order of magnitude. John Fryxell, a Forum contributor, wrote a classic paper on this effect in the American Naturalist in 1988. Migration allows animals to capitalize on seasonal foods and to shelter from predators and the elements. Elk and their hooved brethren have benefited from chasing the spring “green-up” into higher terrain as snow retreats, leaving behind, at least temporarily, their predators, which are pinned down by the needs of young pups and cubs.

Middleton’s observations therefore demonstrate a severe reversal of fortunes. Ecologists have reported troubled times for migrating animals all over the world, and attributed the problems to habitat changes wrought by human development and climate change. Middleton et al. point to the same influences, but draw a subtle distinction which they believe makes this a novel case study.

The Yellowstone elk enjoy some of the best open range of modern times, and a migratory path unimpeded by conspicuous physical barriers of modern infrastructure. Middleton et al argued that drought and the return of predators, specifically bears, to Yellowstone are causing the observed low pregnancy rate and low calf survival for migratory elk.

“Many of the forum commentaries discuss the implications of our work for management and conservation of large carnivores and their prey in Yellowstone, especially wolves,” said Middleton. “However, a persistent focus on the impact of re-introduced wolves among scientists, wildlife managers, and the public misses key roles of grizzly bears and severe drought in limiting elk populations.”

Global Positioning System (GPS) locations from a representative sample of migratory (black circles, n = 10) and resident (white circles, n = 13) elk (Cervus elaphus) used to delineate seasonal ranges. From Fig. 1 of Middleton et al.

Global Positioning System (GPS) locations from a representative sample of migratory (black circles, n = 10) and resident (white circles, n = 13) elk (Cervus elaphus) used to delineate seasonal ranges. From Fig. 1 of Middleton et al.

Over the last two decades, summers have been hotter and dryer in the summer range of the migratory Clarks Fork elk. Satellite imagery shows that the length of spring vegetation “green-up,”  a critical time for female elk to gain the fat the need to support reproduction, shortened by 27 days over 21 years. During the same time period, wolves were reintroduced to the park, and the numbers of wolves and bears are growing. Both pressures are ultimately the result of human choices through our manipulations of predators and increasingly fierce drought that many studies have linked to human-caused climate change, the authors said.

Wyoming Fish and Wildlife irrigates fields in the Sunlight Basin Wildlife Habitat Management Area, 40 miles northwest of Cody, to provide forage for elk. Forum contributors Chris Wilmers and Taal Levi show that the non-migratory elk use the irrigated fields more heavily during drought years. Migrating elk do not receive this subsidy.

“I think Middleton has an intriguing idea, and it might be what’s happening. We offer another hypothesis that also fits the data that they have. He says it’s climate change on the summer range and more predators on the summer range. I think it’s because there is irrigation that provides the sedentary elk with food. And I think it’s also that there is predator control outside the park,” said Wilmers.

While wolves and grizzlies have been thriving inside the park, predator control measures have intensified outside the park, Wilmers said. “My hypothesis is that in that crucial winter period, the migrants are coming down to range that the resident elk have already been feeding on all summer, and now they are competing for in the winter,” he said. To distinguish between these two stories would require hypothesis testing, he said – pitting them against each other and testing them with more data.

Jack Massey, Sarah Cubaynes, and Tim Coulsen of Oxford University joined the conversation with their contribution “Will central Wyoming elk stop migrating to Yellowstone, and should we care?” The trends in vegetation and predator differential across the park boundary are compelling, they commented, but have those factors caused the change in elk demographics? Middleton et al.’s data cannot answer those questions, the Oxford group wrote. “We don’t wish to sound critical of the huge effort they have put in. Nonetheless, despite their hard work, their data on elk condition and pregnancy rates come from a relatively small number of animals collected over only a relatively short time period. Given this, they are restricted to conducting a few piecemeal analyses and telling some compelling stories. But the problem with this approach is that it is easy to construct very many compelling stories.”

Massey et al wrapped up their commentary with the reflection that the Middleton paper, like many reports which mention both wolves and elk, will likely be appropriated for political ends, and used by proponents of large elk herds as evidence that wolves are destroying the elk population. The causes of elk decline, however, are not so clear or so simple. Should we maximize elk herds for hunting? Farm the animals? Leave the system to find its own equilibrium (to the extent that is possible in a human dominated world)?

“As ever with such debate, whether we should care all depends on one’s view on what our wilderness should look like,” the Oxford group concluded.The answer to their title question depends on personal and community values, and cannot be answered by science alone.

 

Forum—Ecological Change and Migratory Ungulates

 

The Forum is available as a single pdf. Please contact Liza Lester.

 

 

Author contacts:

Arthur Middleton

arthur.middleton@yale.edu

Yale School of Forestry &
Environmental Studies

307-766-6404

 

Chris Wilmers

cwilmers@ucsc.edu

University of California, Santa Cruz

(831) 459-3001

 

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.

The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is 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.

 

To subscribe to ESA press releases, contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org.

ESA announces 2013 Fellows

ESA LogoMedia Advisory

For immediate release: 11 June 2013

Contact: Nadine Lymn, Nadine@esa.org, 202.833.8773, ext. 205

 

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is pleased to announce its 2013 fellows. The Society’s fellows program recognizes the many ways in which our members contribute to ecological research and discovery, communication, education and pedagogy, and to management and policy.

ESA fellows and early career fellows are listed on the ESA Fellows page.

Fellows are members who have made outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by ESA, including, but not restricted to those that advance or apply ecological knowledge in academics, government, non-profit organizations and the broader society. They are elected for life.

Early career fellows are members typically within eight years of receiving their Ph.D. (or other terminal degree) who have begun making and show promise of continuing to make outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by ESA. They are elected for five years.

ESA established its fellows program in 2012. 

Awards Committee Chair Alan Hastings says that the program’s goals are to honor its members and to support their competitiveness and advancement to leadership positions in the Society, at their institutions and in broader society.   

Kudos to all this year’s ESA Fellows!

2013 Fellows:

  • Carlo D’Antonio, University of California
  • Bill Fagan, University of Maryland
  • Lisa Graumlich, University of Washington
  • Jessica Gurevitch, Stony Brook University
  • Susan P. Harrison, University of California, Davis
  • Robert D. Holt, University of Florida
  • Nancy Johnson, Northern Arizona University
  • Pablo Marquet, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
  • Kevin McCann, University of Guelph
  • Bruce Menge, Oregon State University
  • Camille Parmesan, University of Texas, Austin
  • Eric R. Pianka, University of Texas, Austin
  • Hugh Possingham, The University of Queensland
  • Julie Reynolds, Duke University
  • Osvaldo E. Sala, Arizona State University
  • Joshua Schimel, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Joy Zedler, University of Wisconsin, Madison

 

2013 Early Career Fellows:

  • Steven D. Allison, University of California, Irvine
  • Marissa L. Baskett, University of California, Davis
  • Meghan Duffy, University of Michigan
  • Pieter Johnson, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Duncan Menge, Columbia University
  • Julian D. Olden, University of Washington

 


The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and the trusted source of ecological knowledge.  ESA is 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

Zeal to ensure clean leafy greens takes bite out of riverside habitat in California

Perceived food safety risk from wildlife drives expensive and unnecessary habitat destruction around farm fields

 

Media Advisory

For release: Monday, May 6th, 2013, 12:01 am EDT
Contact: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; llester@esa.org

 

 

Field buffers: vegetation loss likely due to food safety measures. From Figure 3 of the paper.

Farm-field buffers: vegetation loss likely due to food safety measures. From Figure 3 of the paper.

Meticulous attention to food safety is a good thing. As consumers, we like to hear that produce growers and distributers go above and beyond food safety mandates to ensure that healthy fresh fruits and vegetables do not carry bacteria or viruses that can make us sick.

But in California’s Salinas Valley, some more vigorous interventions are cutting into the last corners of wildlife habitat and potentially threatening water quality, without evidence of food safety benefits. These policies create tensions between wildlife preservation and food safety where none need exist, say scientists for The Nature Conservancy, writing in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The study will be published online ahead of print on Monday, May 6th, 2013.

“Farming practices for food safety that target wildlife are damaging valuable ecological systems despite low risk from these animals,” said lead author Sasha Gennet.

Check the back of your bag of spinach or prepackaged salad greens, and you’ll probably find that they came from the Salinas Valley. Salad is big business in California.

In the aftermath of a deadly 2006 Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7 outbreak traced to California spinach, growers and distributers of leafy greens came together to create the California Leafy Green Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA) on best practices for the industry, enforced by third-party auditors and inspectors. The LGMA established standards for farm work hygiene, produce processing and transport, and proximity to livestock. About 99 percent of California leafy greens now come from participating farms.

But produce farmers in the Salinas Valley report pressure from some powerful buyers to take additional precautions not mandated by government or industry standards. These buyers insist that swathes of bare ground wider than a football field is long separate the leafy greens from rivers, wetlands and other wildlife habitat.  

Other precautions include treating irrigation water with chemicals toxic to fish and amphibians, and setting poisoned bait for rodents.

“The California Leafy Green Hander agreement is transparent, flexible and science-based,” said Gennet. “Going above and beyond it just creates costs for farmers and doesn’t improve safety.”

It also creates costs for wildlife. Although scant evidence exists of risk of food-borne disease spread by wildlife, the risk of rejection of produce by major buyers is too much for most growers to bear, say Gennet and her co-authors. They measured changes in wetlands and riverside habitat in the Salinas Valley between 2005 and 2009, finding 13.3 percent converted to bare ground, crops or otherwise diminished. Widespread introduction of fencing blocked wildlife corridors. Low barriers even kept out the frogs.

Unlike the LGMA standards, individual corporate requirements for farm produce are generally not transparent to the public. But in surveys, farmers report pressure from auditors to implement fences and bare ground buffers around spinach, lettuce, and other leafy greens.

Such pressures have set back years of collaboration between growers and environmental advocates to make farm edges slim sanctuaries for wildlife, as well as buffers between agricultural fields and waterways. Fallow strips along streams and rivers provide corridors for migrating animals and birds.

“This is an area that is already 95 percent altered – the habitat that remains is critical,” said Gennet. “Removing 13 percent of what is already heavily-impacted habitat and cutting off wildlife corridors is a significant loss.”

The Salinas River and its tributaries are an important rest stop on the Pacific Flyway, a major migration route for neotropical songbirds, and home to raptors and shorebirds. The waterways are also corridors for deer and other big animals moving between the high country of the Diablo Range and coastal Big Sur mountains that flank the valley.

Wetlands and buffers of trees, grasses, and shrubs help to keep runoff from fields out of the waterways, slowing erosion of soil and blooms of algae downstream. An overabundance of fertilizer has created problems for domestic drinking water as well as the ecosystems of the Salinas River watershed and its outlet, Monterey Bay.

“California has a big problem with concentrated nutrients in waterways, and there is a lot of pressure on growers to reduce those inputs – so to the extent that riverside wildlife habitat could be a benefit all around, a coordinated approach to agricultural management and policy makes the most sense,” said Gennet.

“The policies that these distributors are forming are very narrow,” said Lisa Schulte Moore, an agricultural ecologist at Iowa State University who is not affiliated with the Nature Conservancy study. Nervous distributers are looking at specific risks in isolation, she said, and not asking “does the food system create a healthy human environment?”

Schulte Moore works with Iowa farmers to incorporate native grassland habitat alongside corn and soy fields. Her experiments look for native grass mixtures that don’t tend to invade the crops and are highly attractive to beneficial native insects, including the natural enemies of agricultural pests. “If we design the systems right there could be substantial benefits to the agricultural system as a whole,” she said.

The key word, Gennet says, is “co-management.” As a community, we need to approach food health, wildlife health, and water health in the Salinas Valley as parts of an integrated system. She would like to see California growers, buyers, and consumers rely on standards like the LGMA. “We think it’s been a good process, using the newest science and trying to take a constructive approach.  If everybody stuck to those standards, that would be a good outcome,” said Gennet.

 

Farm practices for food safety: an emerging threat to floodplain and riparian ecosystems. (2013) Sasha Gennet, Jeanette Howard, Jeff Langholz, Kathryn Andrews, Mark D Reynolds, and Scott A Morrison. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (e-View 05/06/2013; print publication June 2013) doi:10.1890/120243

 

 

 

Outside source:

Lisa Schulte Moore

Associate Professor of Landscape Ecology, Iowa State University

515-294-7339

lschulte@iastate.edu

http://www.nrem.iastate.edu/landscape/

 

 


The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is 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.

ESA’s Diversity Program receives NSF Award

ESA SEEDs logo

Media Advisory

For immediate release: May 2, 2013

Contact: Nadine Lymn, Nadine@esa.org, 202.833.8773, ext. 205

 

The Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) long-standing program to diversify the field of ecology recently got another boost from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The federal research agency awarded ESA a grant of $183,158 to support the Society’s “Diverse People for a Diverse Science” project. Not only will the funding go to key existing program components, such as research fellowships, it will also fund an independent evaluation of SEEDS.

“As a longtime SEEDS supporter and current advisory board member, I’ve always been convinced we could make a real difference for ESA and the field of ecology by doing all we can to promote diversity within our profession,” said Mark Brunson, professor at Utah State University. “So as a researcher, I’m excited that now with this grant we’ll be able to get a scientifically rigorous, expert assessment of what we’re doing so we can increase our momentum toward our diversity goals.”

The professional evaluation will assess SEEDS program activities between 2002 and 2012, documenting outcomes, effectiveness of program components and identifying opportunities to strengthen the program. Among other questions, it will explore to what extent SEEDS has increased participants’ knowledge about ecology, pathways to enter the field and increased engagement within ESA and in community-based activities. Evaluators will also look at the ways in which SEEDS has influenced the many ESA members who have served as student mentors over the years.

The NSF grant will also allow ESA to initiate two new regional field trips to connect students with opportunities and researchers in their own communities.

The mission of SEEDS (Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability) is to diversify and advance the ecology profession through opportunities that stimulate and nurture the interest of underrepresented students to participate, and to lead in ecology. Focused mainly at the undergraduate level—with extension services for communities, high schools, graduate students, and international collaborations—the program envisions wide representation in the ecology field. Key activities include Undergraduate Research Fellowships, leadership development, travel awards to ESA’s Annual Meeting and a national field trip.

Jeramie Strickland, who also serves on the SEEDS Advisory Board, is an alum of the program. Now a wildlife biologist for the Fish & Wildlife Service, Strickland credits SEEDS for helping him on the path to his chosen career. “SEEDS has made significant progress in bringing diversity into ecology by providing professional development and mentoring opportunities for underserved students. Working with SEEDS helped me get my foot in the door for graduate school and with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Formative Evaluation Research Associates (FERA) is conducting the SEEDS program evaluation. FERA is a woman-owned firm with experience evaluating NSF-supported and other science education programs focused on engaging underrepresented groups.


The Ecological Society of America is the largest professional organization for ecologists and environmental scientists in the world. The Society’s 10,000 members work to advance our understanding of life on Earth, directly relevant to environmental issues such energy and food production, natural resource management, and emerging diseases. ESA works to broadly share ecological information through activities that include policy and media outreach, education and diversity initiatives and projects that link the ecological research and management communities and help integrate ecological science into decision-making.  The Society also organizes scientific conferences and publishes high-impact journals. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

This month in ecology: oysters, big rivers, biofuels

April highlights from Ecological Society of America journals

 

Media Advisory

For immediate release: 20 July 2012

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

 

Ecological dimensions of biofuels: state of the science

Mississippi Basin - Pracheil et al. fig. 3

Mississippi River Basin. Green tributaries have sufficient flow for large-river specialist fishes, and long stretches unobstructed by obstacles of civilization. Blue tributaries fall below a critical flow threshold. Yellow tributaries discharge enough water, but are blocked by dams. From Figure 3 of Pracheil et al. Contact ESA for reuse.

Are biofuels a renewable, environmentally friendly energy source? The Ecological Society of America reviews bioethanol and biodiesel in conventional production as well as feedstocks still in development. Biofuels in commercial scale production are made from the sugars and oils of food crops, and share the ecological impacts of high intensity agriculture. Corn, the primary biofuel source in the United States, demands a lot of fuel to produce fuel. It needs nitrogen fertilizer, fixed using energy-intensive industrial processes. Much of that nitrogen ends up in waterways, where it causes problems for fish and fisheries. In some of the drier western states, farmers are drawing down groundwater resources to irrigate corn for biofuel. Cornfields are usually tilled, which releases greenhouse gasses stored in soil, loses topsoil to erosion, and loses water to evaporation.

Much hope has been placed in the “cellulosic” biofuels for their superior environmental benefits. Made from grasses, woody crops like poplar, crop silage and other plant wastes, cellulosic ethanol does not compete with the food supply for feedstocks, which consume fewer resources, and are potentially more compatible with wildlife. Mixes of perennial native grasses, for example, offer better habitat than monocultures and don’t need intensive fertilizer, pesticide, and water inputs. But cellulosic ethanol contributes only 0.5% of current biofuel production, and still faces major implementation challenges to become commercially viable. Algal biofuels remain in development. The authors conclude the report with recommendations to get the most out of biofuels going forward, improving ecosystem services, reducing greenhouse gases, and providing new income for rural communities.

Conclusions:

  • Net greenhouse gas emissions: vary greatly by feedstock. Conversion of fallow, range, or wild lands to biofuel production releases greenhouse gases stored in soil. Tilling existing croplands also contributes greenhouse gasses. High intensity agriculture uses fuel for irrigating, fertilizing, sowing, harvesting, and transporting biofuel crops.
  • Water: biofuel processing plants do not use much water, but some of the biofuel crops do. Perennial crops such as switchgrass and mixed prairie grasses do not demand the irrigation, nitrogen fertilizer and yearly soil tilling typical of high intensity corn production.
  • Land use and wildlife diversity: biofuel crops compete with food crops. Demand for biofuels drives conversion of prime agricultural land, expansion into marginal agricultural lands and reopening of reserves. To meet current US energy demand through biofuels alone would require conversion of 41% of US land to corn, 56% to switchgrass, or 66% to rapeseed, but potentially only 3-13% to algae. Drought tolerance, fast growth and pest resistance, traits that make plants fine candidates for biofuel feedstocks, also make them fine candidates for becoming invasive. Some, such as the old world grass miscanthus, are already invasive in North America.

Ecological Dimensions of Biofuels. Cifford S. Duke, Richard Pouyat, Philip Robertson, and William J. Parton. Issues in Ecology No. 17, Spring 2013.


Looking to large tributaries for conservation gain

On big rivers like the Mississippi, the infrastructure of modern civilization – dams, locks, dikes, power plants, cities – has made life easier for people, but harder for fish and other denizens of the river. Restoration is a tricky problem. Economic reliance on these big rivers makes fundamental reversals like dam removals unlikely. Conservation laws and projects tend to be local, on the city or state level, and the river crosses many borders, complicating the restoration picture.

Brenda Pracheil and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, say tributaries have under-appreciated potential to compensate for habitat loss on the major concourses of the Mississippi Basin. The Platte, for example, has 577 kilometers of free-flowing, relatively intact habitat. It feeds into the heavily altered Missouri, a large mainstem river in the Mississippi Basin, and harbors many of the same fishes.

Pracheil found a correspondence between the volume rate of water flow and the presence of 68 large-river fishes, including paddlefish, blue catfish, and silver chub, most of which are threatened. A steep threshold separates tributaries with large-river fish from those without; 166 cubic meters per second is big enough for roughly 80% of large river specialist species. Below the threshold, almost none of these species are around. Pracheil says this threshold could be used to target tributaries for conservation attention. Existing regulatory structures don’t allow improvements on tributaries to count toward mainstem restoration mandates. The UW scientists argue that more flexibility could, in some cases, provide a better return on investment of conservation dollars, complementing efforts on the larger rivers downstream.

Enhancing conservation of large-river biodiversity by accounting for tributaries (2013) Brenda M Pracheil, Peter B McIntyre, and John D Lyons. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11(3): 124-128


Oyster reefs buffer acidic inputs to Chesapeake Bay

When European settlers arrived on Chesapeake Bay, it was encrusted with a treasure trove of oysters and other bivalves. The living oyster reef and its stockpile of empty shells was voluminous enough to influence the water chemistry of the bay, says marine ecologist George Waldbusser and colleagues. Based on harvest records from the 17th century, he estimates that the oyster-impoverished bay of 2013 is running “at least 100 million bushels behind where it was before we started harvesting, in terms of shell budget.”

Oysters eat microscopic phytoplankton, including algae, which the bay generally has overabundance of thanks to excess fertilizer runoff. Oysters are not just a tasty economic resource – they make Chesapeake Bay cleaner. The missing shells are a direct loss to oyster restoration, because oyster larvae are choosy about where they glue themselves down and start building their shells. They prefer other oyster shells as anchorage.

But in addition to providing habitat for future generations, oyster reefs appear to alter their local water chemistry. Like slow dissolving Tums in the belly of the estuary, disintegrating oyster shells are slow release capsules of calcium carbonate, an alkaline salt and a buffer against acidity. Seawater mixing in on the tide has a relatively high capacity to absorb acid inputs without a large change in pH. Fresh water flowing out to sea generally has a low buffering capacity, and is sensitive to acid sources, whether from human made point sources like coal plants or natural processes like the oysters’ own respiration. Coastal estuaries, where the waters meet, are also where oysters tend to cluster.

Ecosystem effects of shell aggregations and cycling in coastal waters: An example of Chesapeake Bay oyster reefs. (2013) George G. Waldbusser, Eric N. Powell, and Roger Mann. Ecology 94(4): 895-903 (Currently in authors’ preprint; contact Liza Lester for a type-set copy).


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.

 

The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is 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.

To subscribe to ESA press releases, contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org

Agriculture, Big Data, and Traditional Knowledge headline the Ecological Society of America’s 2013 Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, Minn.

August 4 – 9

Sustainable Pathways: Learning From the Past and Shaping the FutureESA2013 Minneapolis badge

 

The Ecological Society of America’s 98th annual meeting “Sustainable Pathways: Learning From the Past and Shaping the Future” will meet in in Minneapolis, Minn., from Sunday evening, August 4, to Friday morning, August 9, at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Early bird registration opens the first week of April.

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free (see credential policy below). To apply, please contact ESA Communications Officer Liza Lester directly at llester@esa.org.

Plenary sessions (open to the public):

  • Anthony Ives, Professor of Zoology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, will look deep into a lake in a lively volcanic region of northern Iceland, nutrient-rich  Mývatn (Icelandic for lake of midges), to meditate on the confluence of theory and empiricism in ecology. MacArthur lecture, Monday, August 5, 8:00 am.
  • Tony Hey, Vice President of Microsoft Research says science has already entered the era of Big Data. Future researchers will need digital tools, technology, and talent to integrate big data troves into the research machine. Hey, who has fingers in popular science communication as well as commercial computing, will present challenges and opportunities for management, visualization, and manipulation of data. Recent advances lecture, Wednesday, August 7, 12:15 pm

A preliminary program is online. Other highlights:

  • Field trips head out to the Fond du Lac Reservation, where traditional knowledge is combined with modern science to restore native wild rice and lake sturgeon [CANCELLED–update 7/12/2013], and ESA’s SEEDs undergraduate diversity program will take students and interested conference attendees to “Dream of Wild Health” a 10-acre, organic farm in Hugo, Minnesota, which aims to recover traditional Native American crop varietals and traditional farming knowledge.

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 Policy on Press Credentials

We will waive registration for reporters with a recognized press card and for 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.

We do not waive registration for editors of peer-reviewed journals, ad sales representatives, publishers, program officers or marketing professionals.

Institutional Press Officers

We will waive registration for press officers. If you cannot attend but would like to promote presenters from your institution, we are happy to distribute your press releases in the meeting Press Room.  Press officers may request copies of all abstracts related to their institution. For registration, more information, or help finding your scientists in our meeting program, please contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org or 202-833-8773 x211.

Newsroom Operation

Members of the press are exempt from registration fees and may attend all meeting sessions (*field trip fee still apply). A staffed press room, including computers, a printer, telephones and an interview area, will be available. The newsroom will be open:

  • Sunday, August 4: 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.
  • Monday, August 5 – Thursday, August 8: 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
  • Friday, August 9: 7:30 a.m.-Noon

 


The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and the trusted source of ecological knowledge.  ESA is 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 or find experts in ecological science at http://www.esa.org/pao/rrt/.

To subscribe to ESA press releases, contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org.