ESA donates $16,615 in carbon offsets to Minnesota re-forestation project
Oct04

ESA donates $16,615 in carbon offsets to Minnesota re-forestation project

Two years ago, Lee Frelich was sitting in a committee meeting when the idea came to him: the Ecological Society should plant a forest. ESA sets aside $5 for every person attending the Annual Meeting to offset the environmental costs of travel to the meeting location. This year, on Frelich’s advice, the Society wrote a check to a Minnesota non-profit devoted to restoration of local lands and waters.

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Good-bye ESA, a farewell photo gallery
Sep19

Good-bye ESA, a farewell photo gallery

By Nadine Lymn, ESA director of public affairs After 21 years working for the Ecological Society of America, first as communications officer and then as director of public affairs, I feel like I’ve kind of “grown up” with ESA.  During my time here, I got to see ESA go from a mostly volunteer-run organization to one with a professional staff of thirty. The Society opened a headquarters office in Washington, DC and learned what goes into effectively managing a mid-size scientific organization. It launched its Issues in Ecology series and the journals Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment and Ecosphere and started a blog. It worked to increase human diversity in our field through its award-winning SEEDS program. And members sought out more opportunities to share ecological science beyond our community. I am deeply grateful to our members and my colleagues for the wealth of experiences and happy memories I’m taking with me. Hope you enjoy some of my favorites in this photo gallery. E.O. Wilson and Jane Lubchenco at ESA’s 1994 Annual Meeting held in Knoxville, TN. Gordon Orians, Judy Meyer, Jerry Franklin, and Jane Lubchenco at 1994 Annual Meeting. All are past presidents of ESA. Reporters attending ESA’s 1997 Annual Meeting in Albuquerque, NM got to participate in a field trip of the Sevilleta LTER. Note Scott Collins on the far right. Members of ESA’s 1998 Public Affairs Committee. Back row: Tom Stohlgren, Rick Borchelt, Susan Musante (ESA staff), Shealagh Pope, Curtis Bohlen, Yaffa Grossman. Front row: Chris Potter, Nadine Lymn (ESA staff), Richard Pouyat, Ann Bartuska (VP for Public Affairs), Rebeccah Goldberg. Rosina Bierbaum (White House OSTP) talked with reporters during an ESA press conference in 1998. ESA Executive Director Katherine McCarter, Science EIC Don Kennedy (ESA Opening Plenary speaker) and ESA President Alan Covich at the 2007 ESA Annual Meeting in San Jose, CA. ESA President Norm Christensen with ESA’s 10,000th member, Walter Heady in 2007. Charlie Nilon, with ESA’s Education Committee, participated in congressional meetings. Robert Twilley talked about the ecological aspects of Hurricane Katrina at an ESA congressional briefing in 2005. ESA President Steward Pickett talked about the ecology of cities with visitors to ESA’s booth at the 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC. ESA 2007 Graduate Student Policy Award recipients Dena Vallano (left) and Thomas Morrison with ESA Science Policy Analyst Colleen Fahey on Capitol Hill. ESA President Mary Power with the Society’s 2010 Regional Policy Award recipient Mayor John Fetterman. ESA VP for Public Affairs Sunny Power with Congressman Hinchey and other constituents in 2004. Margaret Palmer and Emily Bernhardt tell Rep. Ehlers about their research during the...

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USGS scientist named Ecological Society of America president
Sep09

USGS scientist named Ecological Society of America president

Jill Baron takes up the chair of ESA’s governing board, which lays out the vision for overall goals and objectives for the Society.

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Interview with a unicorn (long-form staff science writer)
Aug28

Interview with a unicorn (long-form staff science writer)

Amy Harmon has a unusual, and probably unique, job at the New York Times. Though assigned to the national desk, she writes long, narrative stories about the intersection of science and society — the kind that take a year to research and write, and the kind that almost no one gets paid a salary to write anymore in this new age of journalism. All of her stories focus tightly on people. She explores science and the social implications of technology through the stories of individuals. Longform interviewed her about her July 2013 feature, “A race to save the orange by altering its DNA,” about tussling painfully over genetically modified crops with fellow NY Times writer Michael Pollan, and her approach to storytelling. There is behind-the-curtain information in there useful for any scientist who anticipates being interviewed by a reporter. Harmon does not have a background in science. She picked up the beat at the Los Angeles Times, a job she took to make ends meet after graduating in 1990 (20 years later, fresh young reporters take dishwashing jobs to cover their reporting habits!). “My only skill, having been in the first class at Michigan to be assigned an email address, was that I knew how to use email,” she told Longform dude Evan Ratliff, laughing wryly at the memory of her young self explaining the world wide web to the LA Times newsroom. She set up a modem at her desk to communicate with college friends. And the Times was like, wow, she knows of technology. Harmon interviews many scientists just to gain background understanding of her topics. She explained that she now divulges at the beginning of interviews that she probably won’t quote the person she’s interviewing, so that she won’t have to awkwardly apologize later. Scientists, she said, are very generous with their time anyway. “I will say that on this subject, GMOs, scientists, not even scientists who are engaged in doing genetic engineering, but just like, every biologist that I talked to, care a lot about it, because they do feel like the public is misled about it. And so it was not hard to get scientists to talk to me for this story.” [35:00 minutes in]   Harmon’s Pultizer Prize winning 2006 – 2008 series on genetic testing, “The DNA Age,” with multimedia extras. Longform Podcast interview with Amy Harmon “A race to save the orange by altering its DNA,” 27 July 2013.  ...

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Crowdsourcing the ESA2014 opening plenary
Aug01

Crowdsourcing the ESA2014 opening plenary

ESA’s 2013 annual meeting in Minneapolis is drawing near, but we are already planning for Sacramento in 2014! The public affairs committee wants to know what you would like to hear at the Sunday evening opening plenary next year. What topic would fire you up? Who would you get on a plane early to see? Because Sacramento is in the middle of California’s Central Valley, one of the most productive and intensely farmed agricultural areas in the world, the committee floated several themes related to intensive agriculture. Don’t like any of these topics? Leave us a comment or email llester@esa.org with your suggestion. Take Our Poll   ESA members often suggest speakers like Micheal Pollan and Jared Diamond. We would love to see those guys too — but keep in mind that speakers of Pollan-level popularity cost big $$. It’s okay to dream, but we challenge you: who is the next Michael Pollen? Consider people in your own subfield who can beautifully communicate concepts across disciplines. Which of your peers are amazing...

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In ecology news: bicentenarian rockfish, floating tuna attractors, death tangles for silky sharks
Jul05

In ecology news: bicentenarian rockfish, floating tuna attractors, death tangles for silky sharks

THIS STORY about a man and fish (a shortraker rockfish, Sebastes borealis) started as a little local news spot in the Daily Sitka Sentinel in late June – man catches record-breaking 39.08-pound rockfish! Could be 200 years old! [Update 7/8/2013 — The Alaska Dispatch reported Friday that Alaska Fish and Game determined the fish was only 64 years old. — Thanks to Benjamin Walther for the tip.] It suddenly blew up into a wide-release story in the slow news week around the July 4th holiday, with headlines like this one from io9: “Man catches freaky 200-year-old fish, promptly kills it” or a slightly different take from the L.A. Times: “Ancient rockfish caught in Alaska: Why nobody threw it back.” A graduate student posting as “Dr What?” took up oi9’s gauntlet: “This guys was fishing at 900 feet. That depth is the equivilent of 30 atmospheres of pressure. Rockfish have a gas filled sack called a swim bladder that helps them maintain their buoancy. From that depth, the swim bladder would have massively expanded and almost surely killed the fish before he got it to the surface. I study rockfishes (I’m a marine biologist in Central California) and anything deeper than about 400 feet dies when you get it to the surface. Anything deeper than about 50 feet needs assistance returning to the bottom to recompress. This guy couldn’t have known what he had until he got it the surface and by then it was dead. Cut him some slack.” A long thread ensues in which Dr What? explains some science and explains some of his own personal opinions (without mistaking one for the other, for the most part – which isn’t easy), and wins over a few io9 commentators. Occasionally, fisheries conservationists defend recreational fishermen, comments are worth reading, and people play nice on the internet. I could not confirm Dr What?’s statement that the fish’s otoliths (analogous to inner ear bones in a mammal, fish otoliths accumulate rings of carbonate that record years lived) put the fish’s age at closer to 100 years, however. As far as I can tell, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is still working on it. IN OTHER fish news, a report published on e-View in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment this week found that silky sharks are swimming head-on into “fish attracting devices” (FADs—basically, tangles of junk and old nets with a strange and mysterious magnetism for tuna) and becoming entangled. The authors estimate that hundreds of thousands of silky sharks die in FADs, yearly. Read about it in Conservation Magazine. John David Filmalter, Manuela Capello, Jean-Louis Deneubourg, Paul Denfer...

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The difficulties of science ed for all
Jun21

The difficulties of science ed for all

Jason Pittman loves teaching preK-6th grade science. He’s won a bunch of teaching awards. And he’s leaving — exhausted by the unending groveling for funding.

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Supreme Court rules natural genes not patentable
Jun17

Supreme Court rules natural genes not patentable

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday, June 13th, that Myriad Genomics Inc. may not retain exclusive rights to the use of DNA sequence information for breast cancer associated genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, stating that Myriad had not created anything new in identifying the genes.

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