Diverse People for a Diverse Science

By Nadine Lymn, ESA director of public affairs “Just watch these students—watch for their names.  They will continue to shine and you will keep coming across their names.  Some are already taking leadership roles and after this meeting will be doing even more to help bring ecology alive.” Teresa Mourad is talking about the undergraduate students who will gather next week for the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) SEEDS Leadership Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Mourad is ESA’s Director of Education and Diversity Programs and manages its award-winning SEEDS (Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability) program. SEEDS’ mission is to diversify and advance the ecology profession through opportunities that stimulate and nurture the interest of underrepresented undergraduate students to not only participate in ecology, but to lead. The program’s 8th annual leadership meeting will bring together over 35 students to participate in a four-day meeting they helped develop and will help run.  Held this year at Dillard University, a HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in New Orleans, the February 20-23 meeting will feature workshops, field trips, data analysis, discussion panels and projects all under the rubric of ecological recovery and harnessing science to build social resilience. Mourad says this year’s theme and location really underscore the human components of environmental disasters.  SEEDS students are very interested in seeing the science of ecology make a difference in human communities, such as those impacted by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.  The leadership meeting will include a case study of the hurricane as well as the BP oil spill of 2010. “Being there to witness a rebounding community—I hope that the students leave with a sense of hope, a sense of what is possible,” says Mourad. The students will learn how ecological impacts of disasters are measured and what role ecologists have played before and after these events.  They will conduct natural resource damage assessments in the New Orleans lower 9th ward neighborhood and will also learn about rebuilding the city and ways in which ecologists can inform and support recovery efforts. ESA’s president, Scott Collins (University of New Mexico) will run a workshop on scientific ethics to explore topics such as the responsibility of researchers toward the community. Faculty members from the University of New Orleans, Loyola University and Dillard University will also run workshops at the meeting. Tracy Austin, Executive Director of the Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas, will share with SEEDS students her insights on careers in the private sector.  Mitsubishi is helping to support this year’s SEEDS Leadership Program. Working with mentors, students will develop recommendations and ideas that address key components of the meeting, such as...

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Baltimore’s Watershed 263 experiment in socioecology
Jan16

Baltimore’s Watershed 263 experiment in socioecology

Ecological restoration makes city dwellers happier and healthier. by Liza Lester, ESA communications officer IN the first summer after my move from the cool green climes of western Washington State to Washington, DC, I gained a primal, physical understanding the urban heat island effect. Summer in the District of Columbia is a hot, humid shock for a native northwesterner, and last summer was record-breaking hot. Cycling away on humid summer evenings from the baking concrete and asphalt canyons of downtown, the steady progression into increasingly leafy residential neighborhoods felt like an essential reward, without which the long, sweaty uphill climb would not be psychologically tenable. A patch of woods, one of the many remnant forts of mostly forgotten historical significance dotting our nation’s capital, seemed to breathe blessed, refrigerated air over me as I turned the corner on the last leg of my journey. Thank you, elder generations, for this gift of evapotranspiration! That patch of woods is, of course, contributing more than a cool breeze to passing commuters. It is an ecological refuge, an absorbent surface during intense thunderstorms of the midatlantic summer, and a sponge for nitrogen and phosphorus washing off city streets and lawns. It’s an all-season draw for joggers, dog-walkers, and folks out for an evening stroll.  Parks, playgrounds and tree-lined streets make this working class (though, like much of Washington, rapidly gentrifying) neighborhood a pleasant place to live. And having a pleasant place to live is not trivial, nor is it just a marker of safety and economic privilege. It confers better health and well-being. “We had this hypothesis that there is a link between the social revitalization and ecological revitalization of urban neighborhoods,” said Peter Groffman, a microbial ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York. Organizations like the USDA Forest Service and Baltimore’s Parks & People Foundation had observed the connection for many years, he said. The people on the ground say that projects that improve water quality by planting vacant lots, parking strips, and other urban spaces with trees and community gardens also bring people out of doors and teach local kids about their environment – and do so at lower cost than traditional engineering solutions to sewage management and stormwater runoff. When you bring neighbors outdoors to work on a shared community problem, the project brings people together. It creates, as the sociologists like to say, “social cohesion.” People see that they have power over their environment – that, as a group, they have access to power and city services. They start to demand access to other services that residents of wealthier parts of the city...

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ESA donates to PNW conservation orgs to offset envr costs of its meeting

By Nadine Lymn, ESA director of public affairs When 5,000 individuals from across the United States and around the globe convene for a scientific conference such as the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) recent meeting in Portland, Oregon it takes an environmental toll: The energy required to power the planes, trains and automobiles people use to travel to and from the meeting (although some attendees bike!).  And, the hotels and convention center that were built to provide the facilities needed to host thousands of people ate up habitat and displaced wildlife. As one way to offset these environmental costs, ESA contributes $5 for each meeting registrant which the Society then donates to a local project or organization in the city in which it meets.  This year’s meeting in Portland, Oregon was the Society’s largest and ESA donated $12,475 each to the Columbia Land Trust and to Friends of Trees. The Columbia Land Trust works to conserve the lands, waters and wildlife of the Columbia River region, from east of the Cascades to the Pacific Ocean.  It collaborates with landowners, local residents and government entities to conserve forests, ranch lands and critical habitats in Oregon and Washington states and uses a science-based stewardship program to restore and manage these areas. The Trust will use ESA’s donation for its Mt. St. Helens conservation project, which aims to protect working forest and habitat on some 20,000 acres at the base of Mt. St. Helens.  The area is under development pressure because of its alluring mountain views and scenic waters and is home to threatened species such as bull trout.  The acreage includes high elevations that, with global warming, may become increasingly important habitat for some species. Friends of Trees is a Portland-based organization that describes its mission as bringing people in the Portland-Vancouver and Eugene-Springfield metro areas together to plant and care for city trees and green spaces.  The organization also provides guidance to volunteers on restoration techniques and has planted nearly half a million trees and native plants since its founding in 1989. ESA’s donation will help Friends of Trees offset the Tree Scholarship Program during the 2012-2013 planting season. Each year, Friends of Trees provides scholarships to low-income families who want to plant with the organization, but cannot afford the $35-$50 cost. ESA’s donation will allow Friends of Trees to subsidize the purchase and planting of 275 trees for these families. The organization says the trees will go where they are needed the most and will provide benefits for the community for years to come. Last year’s ESA meeting was held in Austin, Texas and the Society donated to Bat...

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Building a community that thrives online

Sandra Chung knows social media. As a communications specialist for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) she handles all things multimedia, including spearheading NEON’s Twitter feed (@NEONinc, with Jennifer Walton), and Facebook page. Last week, Sandra wrote about the power of Twitter to open up a meeting (the Ecological Society of America’s 97th annual meeting, to wit) and start conversations both in the moment, and in the fallow days following the intense social mixer and heavy data-dump of the event. Here’s a sample: For a few days in early August, the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) was a hot topic on Twitter. I know that because #ESA2012 was trending (right). There among the Internet memes and celebrity names was #ESA2012, a hashtag code that Twitter users used to flag tweets related to the meeting. One of the hottest social media topics of the day was a scientific meeting. It wasn’t the first time that it happened, and it won’t be the last. …continue reading “Building a community that thrives online, offline and after the meeting” at NEON Notes. At ESA2012, Sandra teamed up with paleoecology postdoc and blogger @JacquelynGill to present a workshop on “Social Media for Collaboration, Outreach and Impact.” The duo covered the basics of Twitter operations and online etiquette, and delved into more complex questions with their audience, like how to engage personably while tweeting under the aegis of an organization. If you missed the workshop, flip through their slides, embedded in Sandra’s NEON Notes post, for an overview.  But to get the whole story, you really had to be there as Jacquelyn and Sandra passed the lead seamlessly back and forth, fielding continuous questions and comments from the audience (corporeal and Twitter-projected) in the best unconference style, and making this feat of facilitation seem easy. The conversation is ongoing. Check it out at #ESA2012. Find more Portland 2012 blog highlights under EcoTone’s ESA2012...

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