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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Watching the river flow – the complex effect of stream variability on Bristol Bay’s wildlife

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...

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An Interconnection of Ecologists (#ESA2012)

Bruce Byers wrote up his impressions of the recent ESA Annual Meeting in a recent blog post: 12th of August, 2012. Old English is full of “terms of venery,” words for groups of animals: a pod of whales, a pack of wolves, a herd of deer, a gaggle of geese, a murder of crows, a pride of lions, a leap of leopards, a kettle of hawks, a parliament of owls. Most of these terms tried to say something about the behavior of the species they described. Many are quite poetic, most have fallen into disuse; but thanks to the wonderful book “An Exaltation of Larks,” by James Lipton, we have access to this old flock of words. For a week in early August, five thousand ecologists met in Portland, Oregon, and talked about how everything is interconnected. It was an interconnection of ecologists. Continue reading  “An Interconnection of Ecologists (#ESA2012) at Bruce’s blog Tales from the...

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Reflections on the keynote by Jerry Franklin (#ESA2012)

Joern Fischer is back with blog post on Jerry Franklin’s Monday morning plenary talk, “Forests, Fish, Owls, Volcanoes . . . and People: Reflections on fifty years of accumulated ecological knowledge and its application to policy.” Jerry Franklin just gave a very inspiring keynote address, on his favourite topic, the forests of the northwest of the US. This was one of the most beautiful speeches I have heard in some time – mostly because Jerry shines with such a genuine passion for ‘his forests’, and a genuine humility. It is clear that Jerry is out for the forests; not for himself. This is what people feel; it is the difference between a keynote by someone who is clever and somebody who is wise. The audience appreciated it, and gave Jerry a standing ovation. What kinds of topics did Jerry cover? …continue reading “Reflections on the keynote by Jerry Franklin (#ESA2012)” at Joern’s blog Ideas for...

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ESA and Twitter – Sunday

Computational ecologist Ted Hart is in Portland (OR), blogging ESA’s annual meeting at Dynamic Ecology. Here’s an excerpt from his Sunday post–thanks for sharing, Ted! In 2007 at ESA I and two other people were using twitter. Back then I didn’t understand it and had to ask what hashtags were. I gave up on twitter until 2010 and now with a new handle I think I finally get it. One of my favorite things to do with twitter is text mine it. So here’s a word cloud of the 745 tweets with the #ESA2012 tag from Sunday. Clearly Jane Lubchenco and the plenary sessions were on lots of people’s minds. …continue reading “ESA and Twitter — Sunday,” and check out Ted’s Monday talk itinerary at his blog Distributed Ecology. Follow Ted on twitter at...

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Heads up for ESA Portland!

During ESA’s 2012 annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, next week, EcoTone will be highlighting blog posts from meeting participants. Joern Fischer of Leuphana Universität, Lüneburg, gets the jump on the conference coverage today with a post at his blog Ideas for Sustainability, excerpted below.  I’ll be a the Ecological Society of America Meeting in Portland next week! And I intend to blog about it, with a random bias towards whatever I find interesting. This, most likely, will mean I’ll comment on conservation and sustainability issues being discussed; and who knows, perhaps I’ll feel the urge to have random rants about the uselessness of mega-conferences (you never know…); or I might complain about jet fuel being senselessly burned in the name of science. Myself, I’ll be presenting in a symposium on “Human behavior and sustainability” — details here. I have thought more than once that flying to this thing to talk about how we need behaviour change is a complete load of crap (excuse me) — and I doubt I’ll get over this feeling. So, this time, I will go, for various reasons, but the irony is certainly not lost on me. The symposium is loosely based on a paper I led with Robert Dyball, which you can find here. Rob is coordinating the symposium. See you at the ESA, perhaps! …continue reading “Measuring academic activity — and heads up for ESA Portland!” at Joern’s blog Ideas for Sustainability. Follow Joern on Twitter @ideas4sust Have an ESA2012 blog post you want to share? Email Liza: llester [at] esa [dot]...

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A unified field theory for public participation in scientific research
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A unified field theory for public participation in scientific research

Disparate citizen science disciplines come together at the Public Participation in Scientific Research conference by Liza Lester, ESA communications officer The idea of a big, cross-disciplinary meeting had been floating around citizen science circles for a while. Though public participation in scientific research has deep roots in the history of science, in the last few years it has taken off spectacularly from launch pads across the disciplines of science and education, fueled by advances in communications technology and a sea change in a scientific culture now eager to welcome outsiders as collaborators. There was a feeling that the time had come to muster the leadership from their independent community science fiefdoms for an intellectual potlatch. Citizen science, crowd-sourced science, DIY research, volunteer monitoring, community participatory action research – the variety of banners flying over participatory science projects reflects the diversity of their origins, from astronomy to zoology. Workshops had been organized before, notably by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, but they were small, field-oriented, and unable to meet growing demand. “The participatory science field has been growing, but in isolated silos. Even within the environmental sciences, the water quality people self-organize separately from the biology people,” said Abe Miller-Rushing, a science coordinator for the National Park Service up at Acadia National Park, in Maine. “We really wanted to have an open-invite meeting that emphasized innovation, and could kick-start conversations.” So Miller-Rushing and a handful of scientists and educators hatched a plan to make their dream meeting happen. It all comes together on August 4th-5th as a conference-within-a-conference at ESA’s 2012 annual meeting in Portland, Oregon: the “Public Participation in Scientific Research Conference” (technically ESA’s “workshop #1” for organizational purposes, it starts early on Saturday morning, before ESA’s main event kicks off with the Sunday evening keynote). “Jennifer and I were talking about this at a meeting, and I think Rick was there too, and we decided – hey, let’s just do it.” [Update, 8/2/2012: Rick Bonney phoned me to correct the record: the PPSR conference was actually conceived over a large pot of chili at Jennifer’s house, out in the woods near Ithaca, NY. The three (and Jennifer’s husband Sam, famous chili artist) got to rehashing the need for an open-invite meeting. “And Abe said, you know, I really think that we could pull this off if we worked with ESA on it.” –Thanks for the update, Rick!] Miller-Rushing will open the upcoming conference with a presentation on the history of public participation in scientific research. He has a paper on the same topic, with Richard Primack of Boston University and Rick Bonney of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,...

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A marketplace for nature’s services

In the Willamette River watershed, an experiment in ecosystem economics is underway. Map of the Willamette River Basin; Temperature Effects of Point Sources, Riparian Shading, and Dam Operations on the Willamette River. Credit, Oregon Water Science Center, USGS. “What we want to do,” said Bobby Cochran, “Is take the money that we’re spending now and redirect it the way nature would spend it.” Cochran is executive director of the non-profit Willamette Partnership, and he was talking about the limited supply of conservation dollars. How does he think nature would spend them? It’s easier to get him to say what nature would want to achieve: improvements that meet the needs of human and wildlife communities, not just the stipulations of regulatory checklists. But ideals can be difficult to accomplish. He thinks market systems can point the way to efficient solutions by giving people a monetary incentive to get creative. “Look at all the money we are investing in the environment – we’re spending a lot of money,” Cochran said. Our traditional mechanism for protecting natural resources is to react to visible problems, big problems, burning river-type problems – problems that can be addressed with the regulation of specific industries, or point sources of pollution. The problem of how to make human development sustainable is diffuse, and complex. It is a Wicked Problem with no easily defined solution. And the public mood is turning against disaster narratives. Cochran doesn’t want the public to think of streams, trees, and fish as obstacles and expenses. They are precious assets. He says framing a natural system as an economic good puts it into a context where decision makers recognize its value. So the Willamette Partnership is embarked on an experiment in harnessing market forces to protect the watersheds of the Willamette River Basin in northeastern Oregon. Cochran’s plan requires the establishment of a market for “ecosystem services,” the benefits that nature provides to people. The idea of trading ecosystem services has surged in popularity since the 2005 United Nations Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. It translates the beauty and utility of a wetland into pounds of phosphorus removed from agricultural runoff, Joules of heat pulled out of urban wastewater, and inches of floodwater absorbed upstream of riverside communities. The Willamette Partnership is a coalition of public utilities, academic, agriculturalists, environmental non-profits, and do-gooder for-profits united by an interest in the ecology of the Willamette River Basin in northeastern Oregon. That ecology encompasses the native ecosystems of the coastal Pacific Northwest between the rainshadowed slope of the coastal range and the oceanward slope of the Cascade Mountains, the population of the greater Portland metropolitan area ( and...

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