Take the sustainability research leadership survey
Jul14

Take the sustainability research leadership survey

Calling ecological researchers around the globe: How do you collaborate across disciplines and institutional sectors? A guest post by Josh Tewksbury, natural historian, global hub director of Future Earth, board member for the Leopold Leadership Program, and a research professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder     The Leopold Leadership Program, Future Earth, START, and researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder would like 15 minutes of your time for a survey they have co-developed. The anonymous results will help them learn how to facilitate capacity for transdisciplinary research on sustainable development around the world. take the survey   Who: graduate students and post-docs; pre-, post-, and non-tenure-track folks in academic institutions; and researchers working in NGOs, think tanks, government, and the private sector Why: To build understanding of the skills, tools, competencies, and other capacities which researchers need in order to construct usable knowledge for sustainable development Intended outcomes: 1) A peer-reviewed paper; 2) a white paper to inform funding communities about where the gaps are; 3) data to inform program strategies for our organizations and for funders Time commitment: 10-15 minutes to complete the survey   Future Earth, the Leopold Leadership Program, and START, a global science capacity building organization, want to gain a greater understanding of the barriers, motivations, skills and competencies that researchers face as they attempt to work across disciplines and with non-research professionals.  The three organizations collaborated with Amanda Carrico an expert on survey design at the University of Colorado Boulder, to come up with the first global assessment focusing on these issues. The first survey is now live.  It takes about 15 minutes to complete and focuses on the skills, tools, and capacities which researchers need in fields critical to conservation and sustainable development in order to co-construct credible, relevant scientific knowledge with users of that knowledge. In addition, the survey explores the motivations for this work, and the barriers researchers face when they go down this path. The survey and associated information are anonymous. Our goal is to capture the diversity we need to provide some of the first global information on training needs for researchers who want to work across disciplines in fields related to conservation and sustainable development. We want to hear from people across the research community: graduate students and post-docs; pre-, post-, and non-tenure-track folks in academic institutions; and researchers working in NGOs, think tanks, government, and the private sector. We have results from almost 90 countries so far, but the penetration in ecology is still low. I would love to use the results of the survey to learn how ecologists see these problems, compared with, for example, economists, or engineers. The results from this...

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Wiring food webs at Lake George
Nov12

Wiring food webs at Lake George

A collaborative project at Lake George, NY, merges sensory, experimental, and natural history data to develop a better model for environmental monitoring and prediction in lake ecosystems around the world. Guest post by Matt Schuler, a 2013 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award winner currently working as postdoctoral researcher in Rick Relyea’s lab at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. The clear waters of Lake George offer an unobstructed view of the claw-like Ponar Grab Sampler as it reaches the sandy lake bottom, 15 feet below our boat. Kelsey Sudol, an undergraduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) pulls sharply upward on the rope attached to the grab sampler, triggering a spring-loaded mechanism. The trap clamps shut around the soil and invertebrates that live in and on the soil, and she draws them to the surface. After we have separated mollusks, arthropods, and insect larvae from the soil with a sieve, this will be one of 30 samples taken from around the lake each month. We will use the data from these samples to understand how invertebrate biomass, diversity, and composition change across space and time. Our invertebrate surveys are part of a food web study that is measuring the complex interactions of the organisms living in Lake George, from the smallest plankton to the largest lake trout. However, measuring and modeling the food web of the 44-square-mile lake is only one component of the Jefferson Project at Lake George. The Jefferson Project is a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort between RPI, IBM, and the FUND for Lake George. Researchers in ecology, engineering, computer science, and the arts and humanities – among other fields – are working together to build a better understanding of lake ecosystems around the world. The project combines new technologies, including an Internet of Things (IOT) computational platform, with observational and experimental data, in developing a new model for environmental monitoring and prediction. The IOT computer platform captures and analyzes abiotic data from a series of “smart” sensors located in and around the lake. The sensor data are combined with food web data and experimental data to form a comprehensive picture of how Lake George functions as a complex ecosystem. This new model can be emulated around the world, helping to redefine how we monitor ecosystems, understand the impact of human activities, and provide insight for the protection of freshwater resources. These lofty goals would not be possible without 35 years of water quality and chemistry monitoring data collected by researchers at Rensselaer’s Darrin Freshwater Institute, with support from The FUND for Lake George. Those data indicate that the water quality of Lake George is changing – with noticeable increases in salt, algae,...

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Ecology from treetop to bedrock: human influence in earth’s critical zone #ESA100
Aug11

Ecology from treetop to bedrock: human influence in earth’s critical zone #ESA100

An organized session on Critical Zone Ecology at ESA’s 100th Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Md. Tuesday, August 11, 2015: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM, rm 328 Conference website Program Native Apps More press releases for the 100th Annual Meeting   On the high slopes of the Eel River watershed on California’s North Coast Range, large conifers sink their roots deep through the soil and into fractures in the mudstone bedrock, tapping water reserves that scientists are only recently learning to appreciate. These unexpected reservoirs may provide resiliency to the Eel River ecosystem in intensive droughts, such as the one California is now experiencing. “The way water is stored, intercepted, and released is critical to drought and extreme floods. Researchers are getting surprises about how important the deep fractured bedrock can be,” said Mary Power, a stream ecologist at the University of California at Berkeley and an investigator at the Eel River Critical Zone Observatory, one of ten Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs) funded by the National Science Foundation that bring together geologists, hydrologists, microbiologists, climate scientists, ecologists, and more to work on research questions that tend to lie at the interface of their disciplines. Power will report on effects on interactions of vegetation and the underlying geology on salmon and river ecosystems as part of an organized series of talks showcasing Critical Zone Ecology at the 100th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Baltimore, Md. this August 9–14. “How flashy or spongy will the watershed be when it rains? Will the storm runoff be stored, and infiltrate, or flash off downslope? What are the water storage and slow release dynamics that will—please, please—keep us going through this drought?” These are pressing questions that the interdisciplinary team is working on at the Eel River CZO, Power said. Large conifer trees span the critical zone between bedrock and atmosphere, in which the movements and actions of water, air, and a complex web of living organisms shape and transform the physical crust of the earth. Water can be stored in weathered bedrock, changed chemically during storage, and drawn up to the atmosphere by big trees. It flows down through rock fractures to supply downslope surface waters. In this relatively narrow space lie all the life-sustaining resources supporting terrestrial life on earth. Earth’s critical zone supports human societies and is deeply impacted by the actions and activities of those societies. “To ecologists, the Critical Zone is an ecosystem, a watershed,” said Kathleen Lohse, who directs the new Reynolds Creek Critical Zone Observatory in southwest Idaho and co-organized the meeting session on critical zone ecology. “I’m trained as an ecosystem scientist. My specialty is soil....

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The Interdisciplinary Ecologist: Remembering a Great, Helping the Next #ESA100
Jul15

The Interdisciplinary Ecologist: Remembering a Great, Helping the Next #ESA100

A guest post by Clare Fieseler (twitter: @clarefieseler), a PhD candidate in the Curriculum for the Environment and Ecology at UNC-Chapel Hill. Fieseler has co-organized a workshop on “Educating the Interdisciplinary Ecologist: Assessing Educational Ecosystems to Help PhD Students Succeed, Get Hired, and Push Boundaries” at ESA’s 100th Annual Meeting in Baltimore on Saturday, August 8, with fellow UNC-Chapel Hill graduate students Sierra Woodruff and Dennis Tarasi. →Click here to help them out by taking a 10-minute online survey on interdisciplinary research in ecology (Survey closes on July 15, extended to Friday, July 17, 2015 at 11:59pm).   In 2008, in my first month of graduate school, ecologist Raphael Sagarin put me on a plane to Texas on an international, interdisciplinary mission. President George W. Bush was a lame duck and the construction of the U.S.-Mexico Border wall, visible on my descent into El Paso, was going forward at a steady but grueling pace. My task, broadly, was to report back to “Rafe,” as he was called, and his fellow Duke University researchers as to whether interdisciplinary scholarship might help address a group of gathering voices concerned by the wall’s little-discussed impact on hydrology, vegetation, and migrating species. I assumed Rafe was the norm: an early-career ecologist calling Washington-based security experts one day, emailing environmental advocates the next, and co-drafting NCEAS proposals with wetland scientists on the weekends. Some graduate students mocked Rafe’s slightly sweaty appearance in the hallways, but it was during his frequent bike rides, he once told me, that he did his best thinking. “Rafe consistently came up with really novel ideas that were counter to the narrative that was out there, that were on the edge. And he turned out to be right,” remembered Larry Crowder, science director at Stanford University’s Center for Ocean ­Solutions and former Professor at the Duke University Marine Lab. Rafe was fervent about generating new dialogue, but also testing boundary-crossing ideas. And the pages of ESA’s Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment reflect that; he was equally as well published in the Write Back section as the thesis-driven Research Communications. Rafe tragically passed away last month, hit by a truck while riding his bike to the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 where he was founding a new ocean program. Police say the driver was drunk. I like to imagine Rafe was having another brilliant aha! Moment as he was riding that day, synthesizing pieces from history, political science, and ecology. After his death, I downloaded Rafe’s CV to remind myself of the many diverse workplaces, mentors, research teams, and interdisciplinary working groups his vision reached. His educational and professional journey...

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“Nothing is hard, only new” – navigating interdisciplinary graduate research
Jan13

“Nothing is hard, only new” – navigating interdisciplinary graduate research

In this guest post, Kellen Marshall, a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois, shares the challenges of combining her passions for environmental justice and ecological research.

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