Farewell, ESA Meeting 2009

As ESA’s Annual Meeting drew to a close today and the city of Albuquerque breathed a sigh of relief — now there might be places for locals to sit in a restaurant! — the echoes of the meeting were just beginning.  Scientific meetings are a place to bring together scientists from myriad subfields: in the case of ecology, from biogeochemistry to microbial ecology to agroforestry to physiological ecology…and the...

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Green up that roof

A greenroof atop Chicago’s city hall. Having a garden on your roof isn’t just nice for a garden party; it can make your city more environmentally friendly. Planting a rooftop garden can offset heat, increase city biodiversity and decrease stormwater runoff, which is why many cities around the world are creating laws to encourage the use of greenroofs. In Berlin, Germany, for example, any new building that can have a...

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TNT and plants: shrubs as toxin detectors

Photo courtesy of Julie Naumann. If you’ve been to many national forests, chances are you’ve seen signs like the one to the left: walk on this field and a land mine might explode. In her talk this morning at the ESA Annual Meting, Julie Naumann of the U.S. Army Corps of engineers explained that even if they don’t explode, these buried capsules of TNT and other explosives are bad news for plants. Land mine capsules...

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Communicating uncertainty – a scientific or a political question?

This post was contributed by ESA’s Director of Public Affairs, Nadine Lymn. While other voices boldly make authoritative assertions over issues that may be deeply nuanced, scientists tend to communicate their considerable knowledge in ways which make them sound wishy-washy at best and completely uncertain at worst.  This was the theme of a symposium session, “Global Sustainability in the Face of Uncertainty: How to More...

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Flu evolving in the human body ecosystem

The field of disease ecology is a fast-evolving one as ecologists realize more and more that the insides of animals and plants are really like small-scale ecosystems, encompassing the same rules as large-scale ecosystems, like species interactions, environmental variability and evolutionary change. Katia Koelle of Duke University gave a talk yesterday about evolution in the H3N2 virus — not to be confused with the H1N1 swine...

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Reduced tilling improves soil microbe biodiversity

The theme of this year’s ESA meeting is “Ecological Knowledge and a Global Sustainable Society, and the program shows it: there are at least six sessions devoted completely to sustainable agriculture and agroforestry.  Most studies approach the problem of increasing cropland productivity while causing little harm to the environment by assessing above-ground processes, like cropland biodiversity or the use of pesticides....

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Master-of-one caterpillars dodge bird predation

Insect herbivore species often specialize on the host plants that they eat, evolving adaptations to use a plant’s unique set of resources.  But like any time you throw all your eggs in one basket, these caterpillars put themselves at risk. Michael Singer of Wesleyan University gave a talk today at the ESA Annual Meeting that evaluated these tradeoffs in caterpillars. “A lot of evolutionary ecologists have pondered the...

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Food for fish dwindling on developed lakes

A pulse of midges swarms over Lake Malawi in Africa. Photo credit: The Daily Mail. Freshwater fish often rely on terrestrial insects as a portion of their food supply. In lakes, the size and shape of the lake can determine how much the fish rely on terrestrial insects for food. But with humans’ love of lakefront property, the resulting development of lakeshores could have an impact on these insect subsidies. Tessa Francis, a...

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