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
On April 10, 2014, ecologists and biologists from across the US fanned out across Capitol Hill, visiting over 60 congressional offices to talk about how federal investment in science research yields benefits to society. Organized each year by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) event raises awareness among policymakers about how federal research benefits the communities they represent.
Participants in the BESC Hill visits came prepared to share their personal stories with congressional staff about how federal funding aids their research. The GSPA winners explained how their scientific work helps them advance their professional development and benefits the respective states where they conduct their research.
The visits coincided with bicameral letters from the House and Senate in support of $7.5 billion in funding for the National Science Foundation, which was central to the overall message advocated by the BESC participants. The House letter, circulated by Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and David McKinley (R-WV), garnered 132 signatures. Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) authored a similar Senate letter that secured 20 additional signatories.
Additional photos from the event can be viewed in a photo album on ESA’s Facebook page.
Coalition for National Science Funding Exhibition
In May, ESA was among 35 organizations that participated in the 20th Annual Exhibition and Reception of the Coalition for National Science Funding on Capitol Hill, entitled “Investments in STEM Research and Education: Fueling American Innovation.” ESA President-elect David Inouye (University of Maryland) spoke to Members of Congress and staff about his research into documenting changes in the blooming patterns of wildflowers at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.
Members of Congress attending included Reps. Rush Holt (D-NJ), Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Ranking Member of the House Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee.
View photos from the exhibition here.
USA Science & Engineering Festival
ESA also participated in the 2014 USA Science and Engineering Festival held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown Washington, DC on April 25-27. Approximately 325,000 people attended the festival. ESA’s booth featured an ecology game that spotlighted ecosystem features specific to Washington’s urban setting.
In addition to ESA staff, David Inouye was on hand at the booth to greet festival patrons as was ESA member Ben Bond-Lamberty, research scientist at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a partnership of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the University of Maryland, College Park.
View photos from the festival here.
MEMBERS IN ACTION
DEE BOERSMA (University of Washington) was featured in a National Geographic article focusing on the threatened status of the blue-footed booby bird whose numbers have declined from about 20,000 in the 1960s to 6,400 today.
PATRICK GONZALEZ (US National Park Service) presented scientific results on the impacts of climate change in the southwestern US during a Congressional briefing organized by the office of Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. The briefing focused on how “the Southwest best address current impacts while also building climate resiliency to manage risk and foster long-term prosperity.” Additional speakers also included Chris Treese, External Affairs Manager, Colorado River District; Margaret Bowman, Acting Environment Program Director, Walton Family Foundation; and Louis Blumberg, Director of the California Climate Change Program, The Nature Conservancy.
NANCY GRIMM (Arizona State University) was featured in a Q&A session with the Arizona Daily Star article for her contributions to the recently released National Climate Assessment report.
National Geographic also spotlighted TORRE JORGENSON (Alaska Ecoscience) for his research into “drunken trees,” defined in this piece as trees, including Birch and black spruce, that slump due to melted permafrost in the soil. The rate of melting, exacerbated by climate change, also has costly impacts on man-made infrastructure, including pavements and pipelines.
Live Science covered a study by KAREN LIPS (University of Maryland), which found that salamanders have shrunk in size by as much as eight percent over the past three decades due to climate change.
MATTHEW RICHARDSON (Smithsonian Institution) received the President’s Volunteer Service Award for contributing over 360 hours toward educational outreach and efforts to conserve endangered plant species in 2013.
THOMAS SWETNAM (University of Arizona) was featured in an Arizona Daily Star article spotlighting early wildfire outbreaks in Northern Arizona forests.
DON WALLER (University of Wisconsin-Madison) helped organize a “Confluence Conference: Great Lakes Water Levels” held at the University of Michigan Biological Field Station in March sponsored by the Midwestern based Environmental Law & Policy Center. The Minneapolis StarTribune covered the event.
LETTERS AND STATEMENTS
CJS Senate letter in support of NSF
ESA spearheaded a letter to the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee in support of the National Science Foundation. In addition for requesting $7.5 billion for NSF, the letter also expressed support for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs at the National Science Foundation. View the letter here.
ESA joined with the Coalition for National Science Funding on a letter to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee expressing concern with the spending levels authorized in the Frontiers in Research, Science Technology (FIRST) Act, noting sustained growth above inflation is necessary to maintain America’s global competitiveness in the area of science investment. View the letter here.
ESA sent another FIRST Act letter to the House science committee concerning public access language. The letter expressed support for Sec. 303 of the bill, which calls for an open, transparent and collaborative process between federal agencies and stakeholders in the development of public access policies for peer-reviewed scholarly research publications. View the full letter here.
Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure
ESA joined over 200 academic scholarly and educational organizations institutions and non-profits by endorsing the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which was jointly issued by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and which forms the basis of many institutions' policies.
The 9th annual SEEDS Leadership meeting convened at the John Wesley Powell Center at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. The theme of the meeting was "Food Security, Food Justice: Sustaining Agricultural Abundance and Healthy Communities." Thirty students from SEEDS Chapters across the US and Puerto Rico attended the four day event as did ESA President Jill Baron.
National Climate Assessment
On May 6, ESA issued a press statement on the release of the US Global Change Research Program’s third National Climate Assessment (NCA). The NCA is the most comprehensive peer-reviewed analysis of climate change in the United States. It highlights the multifaceted impacts of climate change that are happening right now.
“As an ecologist, you can’t escape the effects of climate change on natural resources. We’re observing climate impacts in nearly all natural and managed ecosystems,” said ESA President Jill Baron in the press statement. “In order to protect biodiversity and the natural resources that we rely on, we need to be developing policy now. The National Climate Assessment provides guidelines for how to respond and adapt.” Baron was also a contributor to the assessment.
View the full press release here.
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment’s May issue includes a letter from aquatic ecologist Carlos de la Rosa, director of Costa Rica’s La Selva Biological Station, recounting his experience witnessing a butterfly and a bee engaged in “tear-feeding” on a spectacled caiman. The image and story received wide media attention.
Sage grouse habitat loss
In March, an article in Ecosphere focused on the effects of wildfire on sage grouse habitat in the US Great Basin. The study, authored by ecologists at the US Geological Survey and US Forest Service, found that Bureau of Land Management interventions designed to restore ground cover and reduce erosion have not helped to restore habitat for the greater sage grouse. Their results may have bearing on a pending decision to protect the birds under the Endangered Species Act. Recovery of suitable sage brush habitat after wildfire was most closely linked to climatic conditions. The authors concluded that preserving existing sagebrush habitat for the birds is the best way to protect the species.
EcoTone: ESA’s blog is currently soliciting guest contributions about citizen science as well as posts highlighting ecology and its connections to policy and society. Contact ESA Communications Officer Liza Lester to learn more about contributing a post: firstname.lastname@example.org
ESA in Action Summer 2014: If you have an interesting story about sharing your work beyond the ecological community or have been actively involved in policy or media communication, we’d like to hear from you. Please send updates to ESA’s Public Affairs Office at email@example.com
Keep track of science and policy developments, news about your fellow ecologists and join the conversation through our Facebook page and twitter.