In India, vaccination, sterilization of stray dogs curbs rabies better than culls
Aug14

In India, vaccination, sterilization of stray dogs curbs rabies better than culls

When people encounter stray dogs in Jaipur, India, they cross the street to put distance between themselves and a potentially deadly bite. Street dogs are endemic in Indian cities and experience has taught citizens caution. The incidence of rabies in the stray population is uncomfortably high, resulting in about 20,000 human cases every year. Most cities have tried to solve the problem by killing the dogs, but a few communities are now experimenting with capturing, vaccinating, sterilizing, and then releasing the dogs back to the streets. The more expensive vaccination and sterilization strategy works better, says wildlife biologist Andrew Yoak of the Ohio State University, who presented the results of his work to model and understand the population effects this afternoon at the Ecological Society of America’s 99th Annual Meeting, held this year in Sacramento, Cal. “If you are trying to stop a disease spread by fighting, you don’t want to create a population vacuum that a bunch of new dogs will rush to fill – leading to a big peak in fights for new territory,” Yoak said. Sterilization means fewer puppies, but also reduces the number of conflicts with people, because mother dogs bite to defend their puppies. Rabies cases are the most numerous just after whelping season. Kids in poor neighborhoods are the most likely to be bitten. Yoak described ways managers can use modeling and population surveys to get the most bang for their vaccination buck.   Contributed oral session 121-1: Catching dogs with turtles: Using agent based modeling to optimize street dog control Thursday, August 14, 2014: 1:30 PM 314, Sacramento Convention Center Andrew James Yoak, Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University, Columbus,...

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Talking urban flamingos and coral reef villages at the Davis Science Cafe #ESA2014
Aug13

Talking urban flamingos and coral reef villages at the Davis Science Cafe #ESA2014

In cooperation with Jared Shaw, Ben Landis, the Davis Science Café, and CapSciComm, and ESA will bring two ecologists to DeVere’s Pub in Davis, Cal. Madhusudan Katti of Cal State Fresno and Simon Brandl of James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, will lead conversations about living with nature, from city flamingoes to the underwater villages of the Great Barrier Reef. This event is designed for communion and conviviality with members of the greater Sacramento-Davis community. When: Wednesday, August 13, 5:30 pm. Where: DeVere’s Pub, 217 E St, Davis, CA 95616    Preview: hear Katti and Brandl on Capital Public Radio’s Insight with Beth Ruyak, Wednesday morning starting at 9 am. Listen live or stream the archived show. Getting there: check the science cafe’s annual meeting page for public transit directions. Related posts:...

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New Frontiers in Eco-Communication
Aug13

New Frontiers in Eco-Communication

Guest post by Clarisse Hart, Outreach and Education Manager at Harvard Forest   Today in the Hyatt hallway, I passed a colleague with an imposing nametag terraced by four colors of ribbon. He is an ESA donor, a moderator, and two other things I can’t recall (possibly a juggler). This year my nametag has a ribbon, too. It’s a regular reminder that even though our science communication workshop (WK 15) is done, my duty to communicate ecology’s stories remains. The media label has a storied root – medium: an artistic material or form; the happy state between two extremes; the substrate where organisms grow in a lab. It feels like an encouragement to explore new forms of expression: to try, for example, sketching conference notes as illustrations – a departure from my own writerly toolkit.    WK15 contributor Perrin Ireland, who inspired many of us to try illustration this week, is documenting ESA talks in her polished and shareable way:   And the trend is catching on:   WK15 drawing section lead, Bethann G. Merkle (@commnatural) has collected a lot of the sketches from our workshop in a blog post on Illustrating Ecology…conferences, that is. Some of the sketches in that compilation foreshadow a project WK15 participants from the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) have initiated. These scientist scicommers have launched a Twitter media blitz, with mountain research ecologists describing their work in illustrations, photos, and creative writing. Follow it here, and we’ll highlight the full story later in the week.   Want to Join the Fun? Tonight from 6:30 to 8pm, we’re hosting a SciComm Innovation Lab Mixer in Convention Ctr room 202 (thanks, ESA!). There, we’ll share and troubleshoot projects, and (re)connect with new and old scicomm colleagues to talk shop and dream up new ideas. Everyone is invited – new and seasoned scicommers alike (this means you!). Those who still have the energy can follow the event with dinner and drinks. It’s no coincidence we’re hosting this mixer now. There is an exciting scicomm undercurrent at this year’s conference: The petition for a new ESA section dedicated to scicomm nearly has the requisite 50 signatures. WK15 participants and other ESA-goers are exploring their own penchants for innovative scicomm. We’ve read abstract-inspired poetry, had glimpses into notebooks overflowing with drawings, spotted social media discussions about art in science (#sciart), and seen slides using researchers’ sketches to convey key points. We’ll be following those stories here. If you’re interested in exploring the eco-comm frontier, join us tonight or get in touch. Missed WK 15? Get the lowdown on Storify. Browse photos . Explore the Advancing EcoComm website. Clarisse Hart is the Outreach and Education Manager at Harvard Forest—a...

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History of fire and drought shapes the ecology of California, past and future
Aug06

History of fire and drought shapes the ecology of California, past and future

Fire season has arrived in California with vengeance in this third year of extended drought for the state. A series of large fires east of Redding and Fresno, in Yosemite, and on the Oregon border prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency on Sunday, August 3rd. As force of destruction and renewal, fire has a long and intimate history with the ecology of California. Ecological scientists will discuss aspects of that history in detail at the upcoming 99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America on August 10 – 15th, 2014. “Big fires today are not outside the range of historical variation in size,” said Jon Keeley, an ecologist based in Three Rivers, Cal., with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center, and a Fellow of the Ecological Society. Keeley will present research on the “association of megafires and extreme droughts in California” at the Annual Meeting as part of a symposium on understanding and adapting to extreme weather and climate events. He will synthesize his research on the history of wildfire across the entire state, contrasting historical versus contemporary and forested versus non-forested patterns of wildfire incidence. He and his colleagues reviewed Forest Service records dating to 1910, as well as a wealth of newspaper clippings, compiled by a Works Progress Administration archival project, that stretch back to the middle of the last century. Understanding historical fire trends, Keeley said, means recognizing that when we talk about wildfire in California we are talking about two very different fire regimes in two different ecosystems: the mountain forests and the lower elevation chaparral, oak woodlands, and grasslands. The chaparral shrublands of southern California, and similar sagebrush ecosystems in the Great Basin, are not adapted to the kind of frequent fire typical of the mountain conifer forests in California. Fires in the lower elevation ecosystems are always crown fires, which kill most of the vegetation. In the millennia before humans arrived, these ecosystems burned at intervals of 100 to 130 years. These lower elevation ecosystems experienced unprecedented fire frequency in the last century, with fire returning to the same area every 10 to 20 years, altering the ecology of the landscape. “In Southern California, lower elevation ecosystems have burned more frequently than ever before. I think it’s partly climate, but also people starting fires during bad conditions,” Keeley said. Bad conditions include extended droughts and dry fall days when the Santa Ana winds blow through the canyons. In high elevation conifer forests, spring temperatures and drought are strongly correlated with fire, and Keeley thinks climate change and management choices are likely playing a role in current...

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The Rim Fire one year later: a natural experiment in fire ecology and management
Aug05

The Rim Fire one year later: a natural experiment in fire ecology and management

The enormous conflagration known as the Rim Fire was in full fury, raging swiftly from crown to crown among mature trees, when it entered the backcountry of Yosemite National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada in late August 2013. But inside the park, the battle began to turn, enacting a case study in the way management decisions and drought can combine to fuel large, severe fires.

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The control of nature: stewardship of fire ecology by native Californian cultures
Jul29

The control of nature: stewardship of fire ecology by native Californian cultures

Before the colonial era, 100,000s of people lived on the land now called California, and many of their cultures manipulated fire to control the availability of plants they used for food, fuel, tools, and ritual. Contemporary tribes continue to use fire to maintain desired habitat and natural resources.

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Making Your Science Matter
Jul28

Making Your Science Matter

This guest post is by Chris Creese, a member of the “Eco Comm Crew” behind the upcoming “Beyond the Written Word” science communication workshop (#15) at ESA’s Annual Meeting in Sacramento. See previous posts from EcoComm Crewmates: “Parachuting In: Writing that Drops Readers into the Field of Ecology” by Clarisse Hart, “From Oceans to Mountains, it’s all about Ecology…Communication!” by Holly Menninger, and “3 Reasons Why We Should Tell Stories about Scientists, Not Just Science” by Bethann Merkle. Get ready for some tough love, but I promise this will ultimately uplift you and your science. How many people know about your research? Is that number even based on hard data or is it wishful thinking? Excluding parents, partners and colleagues… how big is that number now? With about 2 million science papers published a year1, the question is, who’s really reading them. According to one study, up to half of all papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, referees and journal editors2. That could mean an audience of three, folks! Surely all your toil in the lab and field is worth more than that. Some of us might be feeling a bit smug knowing we’ve got more than a few followers. Well, cheers if you’re in this group, but keep reading because I’m going to share how you can still massively amplify that number. Those of us feeling a touch defensive might decide it doesn’t matter how many people follow our work because science isn’t about ego. I agree, it’s about contribution. The act of generating new information carries some innate value, but a greater sense of contribution comes from knowing where that information goes and what it accomplishes. “Impact” is more than a hook for your next NSF grant. So how do scientists better communicate their findings to make sure results have legs and reach more people? Journalists and press officers will tell you that a multimedia toolkit (and knowing how to use it!) is one of the answers. It’s also the focus of our ESA workshop taking place August 10th in Sacramento. This workshop gives you a taste of the different media opportunities available to share your science in compelling ways. By popping in for a few hours of training you’ll be ready to experiment with how to tell your story through photography, audio video (AV), illustration and writing. Are you ready to capture the imagination of the masses? The trick, says BBC Science producer Helen Thomas, is to create a “gawk” moment. When you drop jaws with arresting images it’s a lot easier to get your message across. She wasn’t kidding – she...

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For bees (and flowers), tongue size matters
Jul15

For bees (and flowers), tongue size matters

When it comes to bee tongues, length is proportional to the size of the bee, but heritage sets the proportion. Estimating this hard to measure trait helps scientists understand bee species’ resiliency to change. Ecologists will report on this and other pollination research news at the Ecological Society of America’s 2014 Annual Meeting in Sacramento, Cal., August 10-15.   For bees and the flowers they pollinate, a compatible tongue length is essential to a successful relationship. Some bees and plants are very closely matched, with bee tongue sized to the flower depth. Other bee species are generalists, flitting among flower species to drink nectar and collect pollen from a diverse variety of plants. Data on tongue lengths can help ecologists understand and predict the behavior, resilience and invasiveness of bee populations. But bee tongues are hard to measure. The scarcity of reliable lingual datasets has held back research, so Ignasi Bartomeus of the Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC) in Sevilla, Spain, and his colleagues at Rutgers University (New Brunswick, N.J.) looked for a more easily measured proxy, like body size. Bee tongues are proportional to body size, but modulated by family adaptations—bee families typically have characteristic tongue shapes and proportions. The research group came up with an equation to predict tongue length from a combination of body size and taxonomic relationships. Bartomeus will explain the equation and the usefulness of tongue length data for ecology at the 99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Sacramento, Cal., this August during the “Pollination I” oral session on Thursday afternoon, August 14. The meeting lasts five days and draws roughly 3,500 environmental scientists from around the world. A bee collects pollen on its body as it laps sugar-rich nectar from within the cupped interior of the flower’s petals, and carries the flower’s genetic heritage away with it to fertilize the next flower of the same species that it visits. In most species, the bee’s tongue is guarded by a long, two-sided, beak of a sheath, which folds under the body when the bee flies. Perched at the mouth of a flower, the bee unfolds the beaky maxilla and extends its tongue into the corolla of the flower, dipping and retracting it to lap up the nectar. If its tongue is too short to reach the nectar, the bee has a problem. Long flowers like honeysuckle or columbine are too deep for short-tongued bees. But longer isn’t always better; long tongues are harder to wrangle into short flowers. Long-tongued bees are often specialists, favoring a few deep-throated flower species. In the bumblebee-sparse southern tip of Argentina, for example, Bombus dahlbomii,...

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