Sylvia Fallon, a Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, blogged about ecosystem dynamics and the key role of salmon in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed last week, in a post inspired by Peter Lisi’s presentation at ESA’s 2012 annual meeting in Portland. Peter is a postdoc in Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. Here’s an excerpt from Sylvia’s post:
Bristol Bay in southwest Alaska supports the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery. And now scientists have a new understanding why: water temperature and stream flow. Variation in the temperature and flow of streams is key to supporting not just Bristol Bay’s prolific salmon populations, but also the area’s immense wildlife diversity from bears to birds to plants, according to new research presented this week at the Ecological Society of America meetings in Portland, Oregon. Working in the Wood River watershed of Southwest Alaska, scientists found that the diversity of stream conditions results in salmon that spawn at different times throughout the season, thereby extending the time that predators and scavengers can feast on this important food supply.
…continue reading “Watching the river flow – the complex effect of stream variability on Bristol Bay’s wildlife” on Sylvia’s NRDC blog.
In addition to speaking in a symposium on “The Evolving Role of Environmental Scientists in Informing Sustainable Ecosystem Policy and Management” at ESA2012, Sylvia delivered a lunchtime address to ESA’s Rapid Response Team, advising them on her area of expertise, policy engagement.
In the early 2000′s, ESA assembled a diverse group of ecologists from agencies, academia and other research environments, who agreed to be on call to reporters and policy makers for expert information on rapidly evolving events of with ecological ramifications — events like the 2010 BP oil spill and hurricane Katrina. But the Team is not just for breaking news. They are also on hand (or on the other end of a phone) to provide ecological context and background on biofuels, climate change, agriculture, forests and fisheries. The Team’s membership turns over every few years to bring in new blood and give longer functioning members a break.
Rapid Response Team scientists, and ESA members at large, are also encouraged to reach out to media and legislators before being asked.
Fish & Wildlife and other government agencies, for example, typically have public comment periods for policy proposals. Sylvia urged the Team not to underestimate the power of commentary from independent scientists. “In these situations, my association with an environmental advocacy group does tend to compromise my credentials,” she said. During comment periods she often reaches out to scientific community to submit comments, “begging, will you comment, have you commented, can I write some comments for you?”
She added that letters of support can bolster agency scientists on management issues that are highly visible and carry heavy political baggage. “In cases where it’s political and they need to justify their decision, a letter from an environmental organization doesn’t do a lot of good. A letter from a group of scientists or a scientific society can help them do their job.”