ESA Policy News June 1: House energy bill restricts climate research, FY 2017 Interior bill cuts conservation funding, science committee convenes Zika hearing
Jun01

ESA Policy News June 1: House energy bill restricts climate research, FY 2017 Interior bill cuts conservation funding, science committee convenes Zika hearing

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  ENERGY: HOUSE PASSES BILL THAT RESTRICTS CLIMATE, ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH On May 25, the House passed S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act. The bill passed by a vote of 241-178. Eight Democrats joined all but six Republicans in supporting the measure. S. 2012 passed the Senate April 20, 2016 by a strong bipartisan vote of 85-12. The House used “an amendment in the nature of a substitute” to replace the Senate-passed text with the language of a more partisan House energy bill, H.R. 8, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015. The White House released a statement threatening to veto H.R. 8 in Nov. 2015, stating it would undercut efforts to increase the nation’s energy efficiency. The House language includes a number of restrictions on scientific research, particularly related to the Department of Energy Office of Science’s Biological and Environment Research (BER) program. The House legislation would authorize funding for BER 9.7 percent ($59 million) below the FY 2016 appropriated level. The legislation would also prevent BER from carrying out climate science research that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identifies as “overlapping or duplicative.” Further, the legislation would also require BER to “prioritize fundamental research on biological systems and genomics science” over “climate and environmental research.”   ESA submitted a letter to the leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee requesting that the cuts and restrictions to scientific research included in the House bill not be included in legislation negotiated between the two chambers. Click here to read the White House Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 8. APPROPRIATIONS: FY 2017 INTERIOR BILL CUTS FUNDING FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ENTITIES On May 24, the House Appropriations Committee unveiled its Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. As in recent years, the bill includes several provisions that would prohibit funding for Obama administration environmental regulatory initiatives. The bill funds wildland firefighting and prevention programs at $3.9 billion – fully funding the 10-year average for federal agency wildland fire suppression costs. The committee report outlining funding for wildfire specific accounts between the Department of Interior and US Forest Service has yet to be released. Of the $5.3 billion appropriated for the US Forest Service, $2.9 billion is targeted towards wildland fire suppression and prevention activities. EPA would receive $7.98 billion, $164 million less than the FY 2016 enacted level. Policy riders to prohibit the agency from implementing new regulations for greenhouse gas emissions, methane, mining and navigable...

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Amplified spending constraints, political division necessitates policy engagement by scientists
Aug28

Amplified spending constraints, political division necessitates policy engagement by scientists

  When Congress returns from the August recess, it will have just a few weeks (10 scheduled legislative working days total) to pass legislation to keep the government funded beyond Sept. 30 when the current fiscal year ends. Both the House and Senate have introduced appropriations bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. Congressional Republicans, now in control of both the House and Senate, have vowed to adhere to the sequestration spending caps on discretionary spending that were put in place by the Budget Control Act (Public Law 112-25). The Senate has introduced, yet failed to move its 12 of its FY 2016 spending bills to the Senate floor. The minority party has filibuster power in the Senate, requiring many bills to secure support from at least 60 Senators. Senate Democrats have vowed to oppose any appropriations bills that adhere to the sequestered spending constraints. Congressional Democrats and the White House have urged lawmakers to negotiate a deficit reduction alternative that provides relief to federal discretionary spending programs. Meanwhile, the House has managed to pass six of its 12 FY 2016 appropriations bills, including its Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies bill, which includes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among other agencies. During the most recent edition of the Ecologist Goes to Washington podcast, 2015 Graduate Student Policy Award recipient Cleo Chou discussed how sustained funding support from the NSF has been vital to both her research and continued education as a graduate student. Chou explained that her NSF Graduate Research Fellowship helped fund the past three years of her stipend as a Ph.D. student as well as her tuition. NSF also helped fund equipment at the facility where she conducts her research into carbon and nutrient cycling in tropical rainforests. Chou’s research will further understanding of climate change and will help ensure society can continue to benefit from the various ecosystem services tropical rainforests provide such as carbon sequestration, biodiversity and food. Chou also reflected on her overall experience in Washington, DC, learning about the federal budget process and the meetings she attended as part of the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition congressional visits to urge lawmakers to continue to support funding for NSF and biological research.  The visits helped lawmakers understand how sustained investment in scientific research benefits the communities they represent. The 2013 federal government shutdown showcased both the short-term and long-term effects a lapse in government funding can have on scientific research. Amid a multitude of political and practical considerations policymakers will weigh as they negotiate how to prioritize funding for national priorities, it is important that...

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Baron on earth stewardship and promoting a sustainable society
Jun16

Baron on earth stewardship and promoting a sustainable society

A key component of advancing earth stewardship involves communicating ecological science to stakeholders outside the ecological community. Continued outreach to policymakers at all levels of government is critical for sustaining investment and resources for all fields of science as well as building relationships that foster collaboration. Yet, now more than ever, success in the advancement of earth stewardship efforts necessitates engaging the ecological community with a diverse array of stakeholders who, in addition to policymakers, can include city planners, landowners, religious leaders and businesses. During the most recent edition of the Ecologist Goes to Washington podcast, ESA past president Jill Baron reflects on her work to advance the Earth Stewardship Initiative, which she carried forward from former Presidents Mary Power, Terry Chapin, Steward Pickett and Scott Collins. She also discusses her work as an ecosystem ecologist with the United States Geological Survey Fort Collins Science Center and her history of involvement with the Ecological Society of America. Baron also reflected on her 2014 annual meeting special session on engaging with business and industry to promote earth stewardship. Perhaps surprising to some, the business community has long been working on climate resiliency efforts that lower the cost of insurance, save energy, promote green infrastructure and other efforts that decrease their carbon footprint and help local economies adapt to climate change. Baron stresses the importance of ecologists practicing their science by reaching out to communities in need of environmental science knowledge and encourages young scientists to pursue careers in the corporate world, particularly in light of declining opportunities in academia and government. “There are great ecology students coming out of the pipeline, but only a fixed number of academic positions, and a dwindling number of federal service positions like my own. There is, however, a growing need for people with ecological background to inform and work on sustainability issues with corporations.  ESA can help show ecologists the many career opportunities that will make a difference, not just in the corporate world, but for the products they provide to society, and ESA can also show corporations there’s a need for this kind of knowledge as they move towards sustainability.” “We have in this country wonderful environmental regulations and those are incredibly important to maintain and strengthen, but in order to actually move sustainability activities forward, we must increasingly engage with the businesses that provide the products of daily life, not just...

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ESA Policy News May 20: America COMPETES reauthorization set for House floor vote, ESA GSPA winners visit Capitol Hill, NSF report analyzes STEM workforce
May20

ESA Policy News May 20: America COMPETES reauthorization set for House floor vote, ESA GSPA winners visit Capitol Hill, NSF report analyzes STEM workforce

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  SCIENCE: AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION BILL HITS HOUSE FLOOR This week, the US House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015. The bill reauthorizes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy Office of Science and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. The Ecological Society of America was among many scientific and education societies who issued action alerts to membership calling for scientists to express concern with the bill. The original America COMPETES Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-69) was a strongly bipartisan measure passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress and signed by a Republican president. It contained significant increases for federal science agencies. The 2007 bill and its 2010 reauthorization (P.L. 111-358) received strong support from the scientific community. In contrast, the 2015 bill is expected to pass the House largely along partisan lines and includes only mild increases for the federal agencies authorized in the bill. These increases also come at the cost of targeted cuts to the DOE Biological and Environmental Research Office and the NSF directorates for the social, behavioral, and economic sciences and the geosciences. The White House also issued a Statement of Administration Policy declaring that the president would veto the bill. Read the statement here. Click here to read NSF’s Impact Statement about the bill’s consequences to the research community. Click here to read ESA’s letter. APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE COMMITTEE RELEASES FY 2016 CJS FUNDING BILL On May 13, the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee unveiled its Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 funding bill. The bill includes funding for the Department of Justice, Department of Commerce and several key federal science agencies for the coming fiscal year that starts October 1, 2015. In total, the bill includes $51.4 billion in discretionary spending in FY 2016, a $1.3 billion increase over the FY 2015 enacted level. The bill includes $7.4 billion for the National Science Foundation; a $50 million increase over the FY 2015 enacted funding level, but $300 million less than the president’s request for FY 2016. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $5.2 billion, $274 million below the FY 2015 enacted level.  The National Aeronautic and Space Administration would receive $18.5 billion in FY 2015, a $519 million increase over FY 2015. Science programs at the agency would decrease by $7 million compared to the FY 2015 enacted level. Additional information on the...

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ESA Policy News April 15: California orders new water restrictions, EPA moves to protect pollinators, NOAA initiates algal bloom ‘early warning system’
Apr15

ESA Policy News April 15: California orders new water restrictions, EPA moves to protect pollinators, NOAA initiates algal bloom ‘early warning system’

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.    DROUGHT: CALIFORNIA ORDERS MANDATORY CUTS IN WATER USAGE On April 1, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued a landmark executive order requiring state residents to cut their water usage by 25 percent through February 28, 2016. The first-ever water restrictions target watering on lawns, campuses, cemeteries and golf courses. The order also instructs the California Energy Commission to pass appliance efficiency standards for toilets, faucets, urinals and other appliances resulting in saving 10 billion gallons of water in the first year. It also directs the State Water Resources Control Board to develop rate structures and other pricing mechanisms to discourage overuse. On April 9, the California Energy Commission adopted new efficiency standards for water-using appliances. The emergency situation allowed the Commission to prohibit the sale and installation of certain toilets, urinals and faucets that do not meet minimum water efficiency requirements as of Jan. 1, 2016, regardless of the manufactured date. Click here to view the full executive order announcement. Click here to view the California Energy Commission announcement. EPA: LETTERS SEEK TO CURB USAGE OF PESTICIDE HARMFUL TO POLLINATORS The US Environmental Protection Agency issued correspondence notifying manufacturers of neonicotinoid pesticides for outdoor use that applications to the agency seeking approval for usage may not be approved until risk assessments to pollinators are complete. The agency asks manufacturers with pending registrations for outdoor use of neonicotinoid pesticides to withdraw or change any references to using the product outdoors by April 30. Click here for more information. EUROPEAN ACADEMIES: NEONICOTINOIDS STUDY RELEASED On April 8, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) published its latest study on neonicotinoids and their effects on ecosystem services. It concludes that widespread preventive use of neonicotinoids has adverse effects on non-target organisms that provide ecosystem services such as pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity. David Inouye, ESA president offered his insight on the report. “The effects on pollinators (other than honey bees and bumble bees) and organisms that contribute to natural pest control and soil functioning have rarely been addressed in research so far, but acute lethal or sub-lethal effects have been observed on several natural pest control species such as insects and birds, and soil dwelling species such as earthworms. Thus neonicotinoids appear to have many of the same detrimental features that previous generations of pesticides, starting with DDT, have ultimately been found to have.” Click here for more information. EPA: CLEAN WATER RULE SENT TO WHITE HOUSE FOR FINAL REVIEW On April 6, the US Environmental Protection Agency and...

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ESA Announces 2015 Graduate Student Policy Award Recipients
Mar25

ESA Announces 2015 Graduate Student Policy Award Recipients

Graduate students from University of Illinois at Chicago, Princeton University, Oregon State University and University of Texas at Austin will speak with federal lawmakers about sustaining support for science  WASHINGTON, DC – The Ecological Society of America (ESA), the world’s largest professional society of ecological scientists, is pleased to announce this year’s Graduate Student Policy Award winners. The award affords ESA graduate students the opportunity to participate in two days of science policy activities, including meetings with congressional offices. This year’s winners are Sydney Blankers (University of Illinois at Chicago) Cleo Chou (Princeton University), Natalie Hambalek (Oregon State University) and Emlyn Resetarits (University of Texas at Austin). All four students demonstrate a commitment to engaging in public policy and the ESA Award allows them to build on their prior experiences. Blankers, Chou, Hambalek and Resetarits, will participate in a congressional visits event in Washington, DC, this May, sponsored by the Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) and co-chaired by ESA. The event brings together young scientists from across the country to meet with lawmakers. The scientists will highlight the benefits of biological research and education in their respective states and the nation. Participants attend sessions about how current political and fiscal issues may impact federal agencies. ESA graduate student policy awardees also meet with federal ecologists to learn about their work and that of their respective agencies. 2015 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award winners Sydney Blankers is pursuing a Masters in urban planning and policy with a concentration in environmental planning. She studies regulatory and economic techniques for influencing development and resource use in a manner that is more in tune with urban community ecosystems. She will present her thesis on urban and natural interconnectedness at the American Planning Association National Conference in Seattle in April 2015. Through her work with the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce in Chicago, she has interviewed sustainable businesses and showcased their work through a marketing campaign. Cleo Chou is expected to obtain her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology this year. Her dissertation is on carbon and nutrient cycling in tropical rainforests. She is a fellow in the Princeton Energy and Climate Scholars group, an interdisciplinary group of PhD students from energy and climate-related fields. She also serves as project coordinator and co-author of a publication on nuclear fusion technology as an energy source in the Andlinger Center Energy Technology Distillate series, geared towards policymakers as well as academics. As an undergrad at Columbia University, she planned and organized events designed to bring timely and social-relevant science to the student body and local community. Natalie Hambalek’s policy engagement began while as an undergrad at...

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Congressional briefing brings together former lawmaker, scientists to consider climate engineering options
Dec11

Congressional briefing brings together former lawmaker, scientists to consider climate engineering options

On Dec. 4, 2014 the Ecological Society of America (ESA) co-organized a congressional briefing entitled “Climate Engineering: Future Guiding Principles and Ethics.” The briefing was also sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America and the Soil Science Society of America. The briefing featured former House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), who held several hearings on climate engineering—also known as geoengineering—in 2009 and 2010. Featured speakers also included Paul Bertsch, Deputy Director of Australia’s Land and Water Flagship of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Michael MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs with the Climate Institute. Click here for additional information on the briefing.              ...

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NSF IGERT: Transcending traditional disciplinary boundaries to advance career opportunities in science
Jun23

NSF IGERT: Transcending traditional disciplinary boundaries to advance career opportunities in science

This year’s 2014 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA) winners, (left to right) Brittany West Marsden (University of Maryland), Sarah Anderson (Washington State University), Amber Childress (Colorado State University), Johanna Varner (University of Utah), and Andrew Bingham (Colorado State University) participated in policy training at ESA’s Washington, DC office on April 9. (Credit/ESA file photo) In April, 60 biologists and graduate-level scientists stormed Capitol Hill as part of the annual Biological and Ecological Sciences Congressional visits, co-organized by the Ecological Society of America. One of the central goals of the annual visits is to urge Members of Congress to support funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the only federal agency whose mission includes support for all fields of science and engineering, except medical sciences. The regionally divided teams met with staff in House and Senate offices, relaying the importance of their research with personal narratives and advocating for $7.5 billion for the NSF for upcoming Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, which begins October 1, 2014. Later this spring, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees unveiled their respective Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bills for FY 2015. Both bills include increases for the NSF, a small triumph given current fiscal restraints. However, the Senate bill would increase funding for NSF by $83 million to $7.255 billion, level with the president’s FY 2015 budget request, but not meeting inflation needs. Meanwhile, the House bill includes $7.4 billion for NSF, a $237 million increase over FY 2014. Ultimately, House and Senate appropriators this fall will compromise on determining the final NSF budget for FY 2015. The ability of key science programs to provide vital resources to researchers in their career development will rest on the outcome of these bicameral negotiations. One important NSF program is the Interdisciplinary Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT). The program works to compliment a graduate student’s developing disciplinary expertise with a more diverse set of professional skills that transcends their traditional learning experience. The program expands students’ skill set with training in bioethics, research ethics, business innovation, and improves their capacity to communicate science to an array of public audiences. Since 1998, the IGERT program has funded nearly 5,000 graduate students at over 100 educational institutions in 41 states across the US. During the most recent edition of the Ecologist Goes to Washington podcast, 2014 Graduate Student Policy Award recipient Sarah Anderson details her experience with the IGERT and how it advanced her career: “It allowed me to do my research very intensively in my field of study, but it also let me get training [in my case] in public policy and think about my research in a...

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