Ecological word associations, animated
Jan26

Ecological word associations, animated

Created by Ray Dybzinski (Loyola University Chicago, Institute of Environmental Sustainability) and Gord McNickle (Purdue University, Botany and Plant Pathology, @EvoEcoGames) and originally published on 8 January 2016. Which ecological concepts have most occupied ecologists over the last fifty years? The video animates the frequency of words appearing in Ecology abstracts from 1964 (when the journal began publishing abstracts with research articles) to 2013. Word size is proportional to frequency. Proximity in abstracts is reflected in proximity and shared color in the word cluster. Dybzinski and McNickle used VOSviewer, a program for visualizing bibliographic networks, to map a moving window of words from 400 abstracts. Learn more about their methods in the notes to the YouTube post. Van Eck, N.J., & Waltman, L. (2010). Software survey: VOSviewer, a computer program for bibliometric mapping. Scientometrics, 84(2), 523-538. – See more at: http://www.vosviewer.com/publications/  ...

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Wiring food webs at Lake George
Nov12

Wiring food webs at Lake George

A collaborative project at Lake George, NY, merges sensory, experimental, and natural history data to develop a better model for environmental monitoring and prediction in lake ecosystems around the world. Guest post by Matt Schuler, a 2013 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award winner currently working as postdoctoral researcher in Rick Relyea’s lab at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. The clear waters of Lake George offer an unobstructed view of the claw-like Ponar Grab Sampler as it reaches the sandy lake bottom, 15 feet below our boat. Kelsey Sudol, an undergraduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) pulls sharply upward on the rope attached to the grab sampler, triggering a spring-loaded mechanism. The trap clamps shut around the soil and invertebrates that live in and on the soil, and she draws them to the surface. After we have separated mollusks, arthropods, and insect larvae from the soil with a sieve, this will be one of 30 samples taken from around the lake each month. We will use the data from these samples to understand how invertebrate biomass, diversity, and composition change across space and time. Our invertebrate surveys are part of a food web study that is measuring the complex interactions of the organisms living in Lake George, from the smallest plankton to the largest lake trout. However, measuring and modeling the food web of the 44-square-mile lake is only one component of the Jefferson Project at Lake George. The Jefferson Project is a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort between RPI, IBM, and the FUND for Lake George. Researchers in ecology, engineering, computer science, and the arts and humanities – among other fields – are working together to build a better understanding of lake ecosystems around the world. The project combines new technologies, including an Internet of Things (IOT) computational platform, with observational and experimental data, in developing a new model for environmental monitoring and prediction. The IOT computer platform captures and analyzes abiotic data from a series of “smart” sensors located in and around the lake. The sensor data are combined with food web data and experimental data to form a comprehensive picture of how Lake George functions as a complex ecosystem. This new model can be emulated around the world, helping to redefine how we monitor ecosystems, understand the impact of human activities, and provide insight for the protection of freshwater resources. These lofty goals would not be possible without 35 years of water quality and chemistry monitoring data collected by researchers at Rensselaer’s Darrin Freshwater Institute, with support from The FUND for Lake George. Those data indicate that the water quality of Lake George is changing – with noticeable increases in salt, algae,...

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Landscape ecologist Monica Turner steps up as ESA’s 2015-16 President
Sep25

Landscape ecologist Monica Turner steps up as ESA’s 2015-16 President

Monica Turner, the Eugene P. Odum Professor of Ecology and a Vilas Research Professor in the Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin-Madison became President of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) on August 14, 2015. She will serve for one year. “It is a tremendous honor to serve as President of the Ecological Society of America, and even moreso to serve during our centennial year. ESA is my primary professional society, and I have been a member since I was in graduate school. Many aspects of the profession have changed over the years, but I remain firmly committed to ESA’s mission. Our journals will remain highly respected sources of excellent research as we transition to our new publishing partnership with Wiley, and I’m excited that all members will have complimentary online access. “Ecologists also face challenges, including heightened needs for communicating ecology to diverse audiences and for providing policy makers with sound ecological science to use as the basis for decision-making. I look forward to working with the ESA staff, Governing Board, and membership this year as we position ESA to support ecology and ecologists in the years ahead,” Turner said. Turner is an internationally recognized landscape ecologist, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America. She received the Ecological Society of America’s Robert H. MacArthur Award in 2008. Her field studies and simulation models have provided new insights about the causes and ecological consequences of spatial patterning in the environment. She has studied disturbance regimes, vegetation dynamics, nutrient cycling, animal movements, and climate change, and is well known for her long-term studies of recovery after the large fires that swept through Yellowstone National Park in 1988. Turner’s quarter century of work in Greater Yellowstone has generated new understanding about the resilience of forest ecosystems to severe fires and bark beetle outbreaks. This research has laid the groundwork for deeper understanding of how major disturbances shape ecosystems in space and time. Turner also studies land-water interactions in Wisconsin, effects of current and historical land use on Southern Appalachian forest landscapes, and how land-use and climate change affect ecosystem services—the benefits provided to people by...

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Reviving extinct Mediterranean forests
Sep09

Reviving extinct Mediterranean forests

Extinct Mediterranean forests of biblical times could return and thrive in warmer, drier future, researchers argue in a September 2015 report for Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

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ESA presidents comment on NEON de-scoping
Sep03

ESA presidents comment on NEON de-scoping

A guest commentary from 16 current and past presidents of ESA addressing a recent move by the National Science Foundation to shrink the mission scope of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). Dear Colleague, During the recent ESA Centennial Meeting in mid-August, ESA Past-presidents gathered in Baltimore to discuss NEON’s (National Ecological Observatory Network) future. Here are some thoughts we’d like to share with you. The ecological community strongly supports the goals and mission of NEON, despite the recent de-scoping, and looks forward to working with NEON to achieve its potential. A recent article in Science by Jeffrey Mervis highlights many of the problems that have plagued a program of unprecedented size and scale for the ecological community. Nevertheless, we remain excited about the potential new science that could emerge from successful NEON. Years in the planning stage, NEON was conceived to generate consistent empirical data across broad scales of time and space that could reveal regional- and continental-scale contexts and forcing factors driving ecological change. The 30-year lifespan of NEON will benefit a generation of ecologists and generate new hypotheses while accurately documenting environmental change. Other national and highly successful major-infrastructure projects such as the Hubbell telescope also encountered major problems during deployment. Poor initial performance was solved and the telescope was improved in part through extensive engagement of the astronomy community. Analogously, it is essential to foster transparent communication among the scientific community, National Science Foundation (NSF), and NEON to ensure that the re-scoped NEON best meets the needs of environmental and ecological science in the U.S. While any project of this scale faces construction, budget, and scheduling challenges, the recent decision by NSF and NEON for a significant reduction in infrastructure shocked many in the research community. We must now confront these challenges in a collaborative and transparent way that can renew much of NEON’s mission despite scaling back relocatable sites, some core site capabilities, and eliminating the aquatic experiment. The de-scoping decisions were made with some input from the scientific community, NEON’s Science, Technology and Education Advisory Committee, and representatives of the NEON Board of Directors. While this is a good start toward better communication, much stronger engagement with the scientific community would be achieved by establishing a consortium for environmental biology similar to those of other scientific communities (e.g. astronomers, climate scientists, oceanographers, and seismologists) to coordinate the mission, use and products of large national infrastructures. We believe successful NEON could generate valuable data to help address problems that currently challenge the very fabric of society and the biosphere that sustains it.  NEON can compliment, but not replace, other forms of ecological research, and we are encouraged...

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