SEEDing a peer network for all students: an interview with SEEDS alumna Betsabé Castro
Jun01

SEEDing a peer network for all students: an interview with SEEDS alumna Betsabé Castro

SEEDS alumna Betsabé Castro is a recipient of prestigious 2015 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Award. Castro completed her BS at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, and is currently completing her MA at the University of Missouri, Columbia. She will begin her PhD program at the University of California, Berkeley in the fall of 2015. ESA’s SEEDS program is the proud recipient of a new 4-year, $597, 643 grant to develop 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. Read more about it in the SEEDS NSF award announcement. Interview by Teresa Mourad, Director, Education and Diversity Programs,ESA   What is your research project about? My research question is: Can artificial selection of ethnobotanical plants enhance phenotypic variation?  I am interested in comparing plants selected for their medicinal and edible value in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, as well as other Caribbean islands, to examine whether the selection of those traits lead to evolutionary change and variation in phenotypes.   What shaped your project? I have always been interested in plant-people interactions.Looking back, I can trace my interest to my childhood, where I spent many hours with my grandparents while my mother worked more than one job. We could not always see a doctor when sick, but my grandparents both knew how to prepare herbal medicines using plants in their backyard. I would help them to prepare traditional herbal decoctions, infusions, and aromatherapy inhalations. I started out in college thinking I would study medicine but quickly realized that it was not for me. Then I discovered a strong curiosity towards environmental science and ecology courses in the second year of college. I also reconnected with my ethnobotanical interest after taking a workshop on medicinal plants with Maria Benedetti and a course on Puerto Rican ethnobotany with Dr. Gladys Nazario. Since then, I have been involved in multiple projects: investigating the ecological role of the invasive African grass (Megathyrsus maximus) on Mona Island in Puerto Rico; examining a trophic cascade involving humans, coyotes, mule deer, and native wildflowers in the Rocky Mountains; studying biocultural conservation of Mapuche traditional ecological knowledge in Puerto Saavedra, Chile; exploring ethnobotanical properties of invasive species in Puerto Rico; and in my most recent research project evaluating linguistic endangerment worldwide from a socioecological approach. I must say that I have fell in love with both ecology and ethnobotany! I feel that listening to the people in our communities is of great value. Our elders have traditional ecological and botanical knowledge that should not be ignored. They...

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Fighting a fungal threat to Salamanders
Apr30

Fighting a fungal threat to Salamanders

Ecologist Karen K. Lips wants to protect wild salamanders from exposure to a deadly new fungal infection spreading through the pet trade.

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ESA launches new OA journal with the Ecological Society of China
Mar18

ESA launches new OA journal with the Ecological Society of China

Ecosystem Health and Sustainability showcases applications of ecological science in support of sustainable development during an era of extensive and accelerating human and environmental change. Today, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the Ecological Society of China (ESC) jointly launch a new open access scholarly research journal to foster communication of applied ecological research across national and disciplinary boundaries. Ecosystem Health and Sustainability (EHS, ISSN: 2332-8878) features international collaborations, interdisciplinary research, and multi-scale projects. “The new journal emphasizes research applying ecological science to decision-making in support of sustainable development at local, national, and international scales,” said Dr. Shirong Liu, president of the Ecological Society of China. The journal encourages integration of natural, social, and behavioral studies and seeks research with implications for strategic planning and governance. “EHS is the first ecological journal published cooperatively by two scientific societies headquartered in different countries,” said Dr. David Inouye, president of the Ecological Society of America. “But it was created to publish research on ecosystem health and sustainable development from scientists all over the world, not just China and the United States.” A committee of ESA and ESC representatives selected Dr. Yonglong Lu, a distinguished professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as EHS Editor-in-Chief for his solid grounding within the ecological research communities of both societies’ home countries. Dr. Lu has recruited 80 editorial and advisory board members from 27 countries. The journal is honored to include editors from Africa, Asia (including India and Russia), Europe, Oceania, and the Americas. “The editors particularly look for submissions from scientists working in parts of the world experiencing rapid economic development and rapid environmental change,” said President Liu. Editor-in-Chief Lu said fostering publication of research from developing and newly industrializing economies is vital. The new journal is an opportunity to build a truly global ecological resource. “I am honored to take on this new role joining the efforts of the two societies, and would like to work together with peer scientists on getting the new journal recognized internationally. Ecosystem Health and Sustainability will open a platform for international cooperative research on ecology and sustainability science and promote communication between the scientists in developed and developing countries about applications of ecological science for sustainable development. This is very much needed,” said Dr. Lu. The journal is published in English. It is open access and digital only, based on the model of ESA’s rapid-publication journal Ecosphere, which launched in 2010 and was recently indexed in Web of Science. “We would like the new journal to become a home for data from big, multinational collaborations, including ongoing long-term research projects and interim results from broad-scale ecological assessments,”...

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Islands of fertility in the sagebrush sea
Feb04

Islands of fertility in the sagebrush sea

Sagebrush ecosystem recovery appears to be hobbled by loss of soil complexity when topsoil is remixed at oil and gas development sites, losing the “islands of fertility” associated with mature shrubs. Related news stories: “Sage Advice: Couple’s research plants seeds for reclamation of sagebrush.” Dennis Webb. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Monday, February 2, 2015. “State should improve reclamation process.” Editorial. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Wednesday, February 4, 2015. In big sagebrush country, re-establishing the ecosystem’s namesake shrub may jump-start the recovery process more successfully after oil and gas development than sowing grass-dominated reclamation seed mixes typically used to quickly re-vegetate bare soil on well pads, report two Colorado scientists in the January 2015 issue of Ecological Applications, released today. Big sagebrush is often conspicuously absent at restoration sites decades after disturbance. Historically, grasses have dominated the vegetation recovery following development, offering limited diversity and poor quality habitat for the 350 wildlife species harbored by what was once the most widespread ecosystem in the western United States. “Successful restoration is more than establishing vegetation. To restore wildlife habitat so that it is self-renewing, it is critical that soils are returned to a healthy status as quickly as possible,” said the study’s lead scientist, Tamera Minnick, Professor of Environmental Science at Colorado Mesa University. The authors sampled two undisturbed reference sites and eight reclaimed or abandoned natural gas well pads in Rio Blanco County, Colorado. They found that none of the oil and gas well pads included in the study had returned to a reference, or pre-drilling, condition, even those that had had 20 to 50 years to recover. When a well pad is built, the topsoil and lower soil layers are removed and stored in piles in order to create a level work surface for drilling wells. Today’s well pads, often consisting of dozens of wells per pad, may require removing soil from an area of 3-10 acres. When drilling is completed, current reclamation standards require oil and gas companies to replace the soil and reestablish plants. However, the stored soils are now thoroughly mixed or homogenized and have lost the patchy pattern of soil nutrients that existed before the well pad was built. “Sagebrush modifies its habitat to create patchy soils that make the habitat more resilient and even better for supporting sagebrush and all the other plants and animals that depend upon this important ecosystem,” said Richard Alward, Principal Ecologist with Aridlands Natural Resource Consulting, and the study’s coauthor. Other researchers have documented that sagebrush shrubs trap decaying organic matter, moisture, and nutrients in the soil beneath  their canopies, creating “islands of fertility” in sagebrush habitat, which Minnick and Alward...

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Lessons in Finance for Sustaining Biological Infrastructure
Jan30

Lessons in Finance for Sustaining Biological Infrastructure

Sustaining Biological Infrastructure training course, 9-11 June 2015 Living stocks, field stations, museum collections, data archives – a wealth of material and data infrastructure support the everyday activities of biologists. Collections and tools require steady funding to maintain materials and services and infrastructure managers must also be able to innovate, developing their resources to get the most value for users. But funding this essential infrastructure is not as sexy as developing new projects. As government agencies cope with tight budgets, the traditional funding support for infrastructure is feeling the pinch. Project directors face the need to diversify their approach to funding and manage long-term planning given diverse and sometimes unpredictable revenue streams. ESA’s training course in Sustaining Biological Infrastructure is customized to help directors of biological databases, field stations, museum collections, living stocks collections and other biological infrastructure expand their financial toolset. Participants will learn strategies for enhancing the financial stability for their projects and programs and communicating effectively with funders, users, and providers.   Call for participants: Applications for the June 9-11, 2015 SBI training course are due Friday, February 6, at 5:00 pm EST. Who should apply: Ideal applicants include experienced directors and principal investigators of biological infrastructure projects (such as digital data resources, museum and living stocks collections, field stations, and marine laboratories) that have been established for at least two years. More information is detailed on the training course website. 2015 Instructors: Lynda Ramirez-Blust, Financial Management Strategist and Coach, LSRB Consulting Jon Anderson, Senior Research Scientist, LI-COR Biosciences Marilyn Hoyt, Consultant, Nonprofit Consulting SBI Advisers: Kevin McCluskey, Curator, Fungal Genetics Stock Center Helen Berman, Former Director, Protein Data Bank (PDB) Bill Michener, Project Director, Data Observation Network for Earth (DataONE) Mary Klein, President and CEO,...

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