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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ESA Policy News December 5: House floats FY 2015 spending deal, NEON scrutinized, Apply for 2015 GSPA
Dec05

ESA Policy News December 5: House floats FY 2015 spending deal, NEON scrutinized, Apply for 2015 GSPA

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE FLOATS FY 2015 SPENDING BILL This week, House leadership announced its plan to continue spending for most government agencies throughout the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 and avert a government shutdown. The House’s 2015 omnibus appropriations bill would fund most government agencies through Sept. 30, 2015. The sole exception would be the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which would only be funded through March. The deal has often been nicknamed a “cromnibus” package, given that it’s mostly an omnibus, save for DHS, which is funded at existing levels, much like a continuing resolution.  An omnibus is preferential to a continuing resolution in that it gives appropriators more leeway to direct spending levels at a programmatic level. GOP lawmakers singled out the DHS because it has jurisdiction over implementation of the president’s controversial immigration executive order to provide a pathway to legal status for an estimated five million undocumented immigrants. The shortened extension would allow next year’s Republican-controlled House and Senate to pass an FY 2015 funding bill with spending constraints on the agency related to the executive order. The bill is expected to be introduced on Dec. 8. HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE EXAMINES NEON ACCOUNTING On Dec. 3, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing to review a series of audits of spending by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of the Inspector General and the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) conducted the audits. The first 2011 audit found that the documentation proposing a $433.7 million NEON construction project was inadequate to audit as “none of its proposed cost elements for labor, overhead, equipment, etc., reconcile to its supporting data.” Subsequent audits reports were conducted. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) acknowledged “in response to these audits, NSF has made a number of adjustments to how the agency evaluates costs of major projects” while maintaining that “$150 million in unsupported and questionable costs in the NEON proposal demonstrates that major problems at NSF continue.” Democratic committee members noted there was no representative from NSF itself to provide a balanced perspective.  An NSF spokesperson has stated that the agency has already addressed some issues raised in the audits and is actively working to resolve others. Click here to view the 2011 audit report. Click here to view the 2012 audit report. Click here to view the 2014 audit report. Click here for additional information on the hearing. NSF: CORDOVA ANNOUNCES REVISED TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY GUIDELINES At the November National Science Board (NSB) meeting, National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France A. Córdova outlined...

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ESA Policy News: November 30

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. BUDGET: FISCAL CLIFF TALKS CONTINUE, NO SOLUTION IN SIGHT As the fiscal cliff negotiations continue, leaders in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic-controlled Senate have sketched out their broad goals. Included in the “fiscal cliff” are a series of automatic discretionary spending cuts (budget sequestration) and the expiration of a multitude of tax cuts and unemployment benefit extensions. The discretionary spending cuts include significant spending reductions to science agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United States Geological Survey. On the Republican side, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have declared that Republicans are open to revenue increases, yet are unwilling to raise specific income rates. Republicans have called on Senate Democrats and the White House to outline what specific discretionary spending cuts and entitlement reforms they would embrace.Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, have called on Republicans to outline specific revenue increases and changes to the tax code. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has stated that simply closing loopholes will not generate the necessary revenue. On Nov. 29, the White House offered an initial plan that would raise $1.6 trillion in revenue and $400 billion in spending cuts. The first $960 billion in revenue would come from allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for the highest income earners. Another $600 billion in revenue would come from changes to the tax code. The proposal, put forward by Treasury Secretary Geithner, would also grant the president more latitude to raise the debt ceiling with a required two thirds vote from Congress to prevent it. As part of the plan, the White House also is requesting $50 billion in new stimulus spending and a $30 billion extension of unemployment benefits. The $400 billion in savings comes from changes to healthcare and entitlement programs. The plan also calls for extending the payroll tax cut or providing a similar tax cut targeted towards working families. The Administration’s proposed revenue increases alone are a non-starter for Congressional Republicans (and some Democrats) with both Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell soundly rejecting the proposal. A number of organizations who benefit from non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending have come together to form “NDD United,” a broad effort to inform policymakers on the multifaceted detrimental impacts NDD cuts would have on communities nationwide. The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is among the scientific societies that participate in these efforts. ESA has joined in NDD United activities and recently spearheaded a letter to...

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Social science in action

By Nadine Lymn, director of public affairs Social scientists have been weathering repeated attacks lately from congressional leaders deriding  the value and validity of their work. The scientific community has responded.   The Ecological Society of America is one of several scientific societies serving as a collaborator to show support for social science and its contributions to other fields and to society. A new initiative of the National Academy’s Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences in Action (SBSIA) aims to “raise awareness of the vitality, validity, and value of the social and behavioral sciences to the scientific enterprise, to public policy, and to the nation’s well-being…” Earlier this week, a symposium, held at the National Academy of Sciences, highlighted the key role social science plays in national security, medicine and engineering.  Biologist Rita Colwell, health policy analyst Lucian Leape, national security psychologist Robert Fein and mechanical engineer John Lee were among the speakers who highlighted how social science is integral to their work. Colwell said that without her social scientist colleagues, she would have had neither the access nor the success in reaching the 150,000 individuals in 50 villages in Bangladesh to tamp down the incidence of cholera.  This social-biological collaboration reduced cholera by 50 percent in three years.   The insights provided by a social scientists opened the way to reach these communities, said Colwell.  The social scientists developed the questionnaire with local mores in mind, knowing what questions would and would not be appropriate in the region.  They understood the cultural practices and environmental views of the local people and selected families to participate in the study. “It would have been a tragedy” said Colwell, if the scientists had missed the chance to help so many people who were suffering and dying from this disease.  Colwell has studied cholera for 40 years and she and colleagues knew that it can be dramatically curtailed by filtering water through sari cloths folded five times.  Cholera—which is often fatal—is a bacterium that occurs naturally in the environment and is associated with a tiny zooplankton called a copepod.  Filter out the copepod and you’ve also filtered out the cholera bacterium, along with a host of other water-borne bacteria and viruses. Women in the rural villages of Bangladesh are the ones who educate the family and are therefore key to addressing the problem—Colwell and her fellow researchers  in essence trained the women to be extension agents who learned how to filter the water and then shared this technique with others.  When Colwell and colleagues did a follow-up study five years later, they found that a significant proportion of women were...

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ESA Policy News: August 19, 2011

Here are some highlights from the latest Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston. EPA: AGENCY DEFENDS ‘ENDANGERMENT’ FINDING IN FEDERAL COURT On August 18, the Environmental Protection Agency filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit defending its Dec. 2009 ‘endangerment’ finding that carbon dioxide emissions threaten public health. The finding resulted in the first-ever federal limits on greenhouse gases from large industrial plants. The brief is being challenged by various conservative states and industry organizations, including the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who contend that EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gases are a burden on the nation’s economy. The Obama administration maintains that it relied on “thorough and peer-reviewed assessments of climate change science” from the U.N.-affiliated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the National Research Council. FWS: RECOVERY DECLARED FOR LAKE ERIE WATER SNAKE On August 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced it has removed the Lake Erie water snake from the endangered and threatened species list after a nearly decade long recovery from threats including human killings and habitat loss. The snake, found on offshore islands in western Lake Erie in Ohio and Ontario, is the 23rd species to be delisted due to recovery. The species was first listed as threatened in 1999. In 2003, FWS finalized a recovery plan that called for protecting the animal’s shoreline habitat and increasing cooperation with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife and other partners. Recovery criteria include a combined population of at least 5,555 snakes on the U.S. islands, sustained for six years, and protection of key habitat. According to the Department of Interior, through continued habitat protection and public education, the Lake Erie water snake population grew to about 11,980 in 2009, and has exceeded the minimum recovery level since 2002. About 300 acres of inland habitat and 11 miles of shoreline have been protected for the snake since it was listed. Partners in the efforts to recover the Lake Erie water snake include the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Northern Illinois University, Lake Erie Islands Chapter of the Black Swamp Conservancy, Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Put-in-Bay Township Park District, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Ohio State University Stone Laboratory. GREAT LAKES: EPA DISTRIBUTES RESTORATION GRANTS On August 8, the Environmental Protection Agency announced the first of several awards towards totaling nearly $30 million for Great Lakes Restoration. The awards are distributed through the administration’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), first proposed by President Obama in Feb. 2009 and...

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A New ESA Section on Policy

This post contributed by Richard Pouyat, ESA Vice President for Public Affairs from 2005 – 2008 The purpose of an ESA Section as described on the ESA website is to “. . . promote the various special interests of the Membership.  Activities are intended to encourage research, exchange ideas, and facilitate communication between ecologists with similar disciplinary interests.”  In recent years the Society’s sections have expanded in scope and now reach beyond a scientific discipline.  Newer sections include Education, Environmental Justice, International Affairs, and Student.  These broader topical sections have become very popular with the membership (Education: 362, Environmental Justice: 76, International Affairs: 70, and Student: 574).  Moreover, this new expanded view of sections has helped the Society meet an important goal—namely to encourage its diverse community of members to become more involved in their Society.  Without a doubt, the newest sections have become a way for individuals to become involved in issues or with other ecologists that go beyond the disciplines that make up ecological science.  They bring together like-minded members who wish to expand the relevance of ecology beyond ecologists. The Society’s newest addition is the Policy Section, spurred by the leadership of former ESA Vice Presidents of Public Affairs Richard Pouyat, Laura Huenneke, Alison Power, Timothy Schowalter, Ann Bartuska and Anthony Janetos.  Their goal—and that of the over 50 ESA members who added their names to the petition to propose the new section—is to strengthen the intersection of ecological science and public policy. Specifically, the Section proposes to: (1)  foster interaction among ecologists who have worked or currently work in policy positions, or have the desire to communicate with members who have public policy experience (2)  form a database of members who have policy experience that can be utilized by the Governing Board, ESA sections and chapters, Public Affairs, Science, and Education Offices, and standing ESA committees (3)  facilitate collaborative links among members through symposia, organized oral sessions, special sessions, and social events in Washington DC and regionally; and (4)  work with the Society’s Public Affairs Office to facilitate the participation of students in training exercises and one-on-one interactions with policy makers. The Policy Section was initiated based on the realization that a significant number of ESA members have or continue to work in some capacity on public policy at non-governmental organizations (NGOs), on Capitol Hill, and with federal agencies.  As a group these members represent an invaluable resource to ESA.  In addition, there has been a growing desire by many ecologists to engage in relevant policy issues in their local communities and the Policy Section provides a home for these members.  This newest ESA Section...

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