Ecology in an Era of Globalization Challenges and Opportunities for Environmental Scientists in the Americas

Conference Description

Background and Purpose
Environmental concerns are increasingly global in nature and extent. The international movement of people, goods, and services, and the resulting global economy, both contribute to global environmental impacts and offer opportunities to mitigate them. Despite these growing challenges and opportunities, ecological research remains focused at local levels, with collaboration limited by national borders and funding. New initiatives are required to increase the utility and availability of environmental research to managers and policymakers in public and private sectors. Increased collaboration among environmental scientists is required to address emerging issues associated with human migration, invasive species and the global transformation of agricultural and industrial production systems.

In response, the Ecological Society of America (ESA), is organizing a conference designed to develop strategies to increase international access to ecological knowledge and to increase collaboration among environmental scientists. This conference, Ecology in an Era of Globalization, will be held in Merida, Mexico, January 8 – 12, 2006, co-hosted by the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán and the Centro de Investigaciones Científicas de Yucatán.

Ecology in an Era of Globalization will be organized around three subthemes: invasive species, human migration, and production systems. The conference will begin with an evening plenary session, followed by three full days featuring keynote speakers, oral presentations, and poster sessions. Oral presentations and posters will include both invited submissions and contributions solicited in an open call for papers. Workshops will also be organized around the three subthemes.

The invasive species subtheme will address such topics as dispersal of invasive plant and animal species, emerging diseases, and resistance of local ecosystems to invasive species and disease.

The human migration subtheme will address the environmental effects of international and local emigration and immigration on recipient and source areas. Potential topics include infrastructure development needs and impacts, effects on land cover, and land use impacts.

The production subtheme will focus on ecosystem transformations, including land use change, required to produce goods and services for human use. Potential topics include the effects of changes in forest and agricultural policy on economies, biodiversity, and ecosystems throughout the Americas.

A primary product will be the initiation of an “Ecological Knowledge Network for the Americas”. The network will promote the application of ecological knowledge and data to increase sustainability. It will enable users (local, national and multinational organizations) to rapidly access and synthesize existing information from multiple databases. It will link knowledge users with data and project-specific teams of local and international experts using web-conferencing facilities.

The conference will also develop additional recommendations for increasing communication and collaboration among environmental scientists and private and public sector organizations involved in economic and social development, and for applying ecological science to problems associated with globalization. These recommendations will be communicated in articles in international science and policy journals and newsletters, and in a series of workshop reports that will be made available on ESA’s web site and possibly published in ESA’s journal Ecological Applications.

The organizers wish to attract 300-500 participants, representing all sectors with an interest in the intersection of global trade and the environment – the academic research community, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector. Students will have the opportunity to present papers and posters and begin to form the personal relationships essential to lasting international collaboration.

ESA, a professional society of 9,000 ecologists from 80 countries, has called for a series of actions to globalize access to ecological knowledge. These actions include efforts to foster international collaboration and stimulate communication among environmental researchers, students, managers, and practitioners. In 2003, ESA cofounded the Federation of the Americas, which brings together ecological societies and related organizations from a number of Latin American countries. ESA has also founded chapters in Mexico and Canada. Ecology in an Era of Globalization, the first major fruit of these collaborations, is being organized by a program committee cochaired by Dr. José Sarukhán of the National University of Mexico, and Dr. Jeff Herrick of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.