2011 ESA Science Committee meeting in Austin, TX

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Contributed by Andréa Kuchy


The Office of Science Programs carries out a broad range of activities in support of the ESA membership, the scientific community, and public agency scientists and decision makers. These activities are grouped into three broad categories. Advancing ecological science includes activities that promote the continued development of ecological science. Ecology for community includes projects that link the ecological research and management communities and help integrate ecological science into decision-making and education. Solutions for sustainability has consisted of a series of activities to examine and articulate the intellectual foundations for a new sustainability science and now encompasses support for ESA’s Earth Stewardship initiative. These efforts, in collaboration with those of ESA’s Education, Public Affairs, and Publications programs, maintain ESA’s reputation as a source of reliable knowledge in ecological science. We appreciate the continuing support of the Society and the direct involvement of Society members in Science activities, and we welcome your advice, ideas, and energy.

Advancing Ecological Science

Data Sharing Initiative
Information about past activities under this initiative, including workshop reports, is available at www.esa.org/science_resources/datasharing.php. Cliff Duke gave a talk on the initiative at the AGU meeting in San Francisco in December 2010. Duke has submitted a planning grant proposal to EPA, “Measuring the Contributions of Ecoinformatics to Environmental Protection,” for a meeting which would develop a plan of work and identify potential funders for a series of case studies and a workshop. Duke serves on a community engagement and outreach working group for Bill Michener’s DataONE project, and participated in a working group meeting at NCEAS in April 2011. The working group is developing two papers for publication.

ESA Emerging Issues/Millennium Conference
ESA’s first Emerging Issues/Millennium Conference, Water-Ecosystem Services, Drought & Environmental Justice, was held November 9-12, 2009, at the University of Georgia (http:// www.esa.org/millenniumconf/2009/). The conference attracted 100 participants, including 20 graduate students. A workshop based on case studies presented at the conference was held at the 2010 Annual Meeting, and the Office is working with poster authors on a paper based on the conference, “Understanding Water Resource Tradeoffs: Using Models and Scenario Analysis to Make Informed Decisions on Land Use Change and Ecosystem Services,” planned for submission to Ecosphere.

Planning continues for the next Emerging Issues Conference, Developing Ecologically-Based Conservation Targets Under Global Change, which is scheduled for February 26 – March 1, 2012 at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV.

ESA Panel on Vegetation Classification
The Science Office continues to provide support to the ESA Panel on Vegetation Classification. The Panel’s efforts are currently focused on peer review and training support for the United States National Vegetation Classification (NVC). The Panel launched online training webinars to train peer reviewers and associate editors on the NVC, and continues planning for mid-career managers workshops at Federal agencies to determine NVC training priorities and needs. The NVC Peer Review Board, formed by Panel members and other outside experts, is coordinating a peer review of 330 Group level descriptions, to be completed by Fall 2011. The Panel is also conducting a review of the classification’s three upper levels. These are the first major steps to standardize and make elements of the NVC available for research, management, mapping, and other purposes. Panel members have also provided guidance to the Federal Geographic Data Committee’s Vegetation Subcommittee on the potential for developing keys and other tools to help agency scientists use the NVC more effectively, and a draft key to the Class (highest) level of the hierarchy is being developed. Panel members are also beginning to coordinate with international colleagues to improve the cross-walk of the NVC to other international vegetation classification systems. Additional information on Panel activities is available on the Panel website, www.esa.org/vegweb.

Ecology for Community

Workshop on Strategies for Sustainability of Biological Infrastructure
Science staff hosted a workshop on Strategies for Sustainability of Biological Infrastructure, in partnership with the Meridian Institute and sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The November 2010 workshop brought together managers of various biological research infrastructure projects, including databases, field stations, and living stocks collections. The workshop identified the challenges to keeping long-term biological infrastructure projects operational, investigated different sustainability models, and developed recommendations for future collaboration. A full workshop report is available at www.esa.org/science_resources/programs/ecology_community.php#bioworkshop. Science staff have written several pieces based on the workshop, including an editorial, which appeared in the June issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, and a meeting report submitted to the ESA Bulletin. Science staff are also researching potential follow-up efforts, based on the workshop outcomes and recommendations.

Ecological Dimensions of Biofuels: Conference and Workshop
Work continues on products from this March 2008 conference and workshop. Four reports on biofuels and sustainability have been completed, and are available free at www.esa.org/biofuelsreports. A synthesis report is being prepared for publication in Issues in Ecology. Several manuscripts based on presentations at the conference were published in the June 2011 Ecological Applications. The Science Office developed a website with information about biofuels at www.esa.org/science_resources/biofuelsResources.php. Cliff Duke is serving on a National Research Council Committee on Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels. The committee report, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, should be complete in about a year.

Ecosystem Services Provided by Agricultural Wetlands
The Science Office worked with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to develop a set of articles about conservation practice effects on ecosystem services provided by wetlands on agricultural landscapes, along with a nontechnical summary for distribution to decision-makers and the general public. The articles were published in a supplement to Ecological Applications in April 2011, completing the project.

Issues in Ecology
The Office provides staff support to ESA’s Issues in Ecology series. Issue No. 13, “A Synthesis of the Science on Forests and Carbon for U.S. Forests,” was published in May 2010, and a Spanish translation will be published in July 2011. Issues currently in progress and projected to be published in 2011 include “Setting Limits: Using Air Pollution Thresholds to Protect and Restore U.S. Ecosystems,” funded by EPA; “Effects of Climate Change on U.S. Ecosystems and Adaptation Options,” also funded by EPA; and “Ecological Dimensions of Biofuels,” funded by the Energy Foundation as a product of ESA’s 2008 biofuels conference. Other Issues in progress are “Reactive Nitrogen in the Environment,” funded by an NSF grant to Eric Davidson at Woods Hole; “The Role of Landscape Connectivity in Planning and Implementing Conservation Priorities,” funded by the Forest Service, and “The Ecological Effects of Roads and Road Networks in Rural Environments,” a recently accepted proposal.

USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center
Science staff are working in partnership with The Wildlife Society (TWS) and the Meridian Institute on a National Partners Dialogue workshop to be held November 30 – December 1, 2011 for the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. The workshop will bring together about 50 stakeholders to provide feedback on the Center’s operation and organization since its beginning in 2009. The ESA team previously led a series of workshops to guide Center development in 2009. The report and additional information on the Center is available at http://nccw.usgs.gov, and the Science Office has paper copies of the report for anyone interested.

Solutions for Sustainability

This effort has included a series of activities, including a special session at the 2005 Annual Meeting, a symposium at the 2007 Annual Meeting, a workshop at Brown University in March 2007, and a symposium at the 2008 AAAS meeting. The project is led by a Steering Committee chaired by Gus Shaver and including Terry Chapin, Cliff Duke, Ann Kinzig, Debra Peters, and Osvaldo Sala.

For the next activity in this area, Science staff are working with ESA leadership on a proposal for a workshop and special issue of Frontiers on earth stewardship.

Annual Meeting Activities

The Science Office is organizing or participating in a number of activities at the 2011 Annual Meeting. These include meetings of the Issues in Ecology Advisory Board, the Science Committee, the Meetings Committee, and the Vegetation Classification Panel. Cliff Duke is organizing a symposium “Warfare Ecology: Impacts of Conflict on Environmental Security and Stewardship” with co-organizers Elvia Melendez and James Porter. This symposium builds on several special sessions on the environmental impacts of war at recent annual meetings. Duke is also a co-organizer of the workshop “Making Your Science Usable For Decision Makers” and the special session “Ecology and Human Rights: Defining the Relationship, Identifying the Opportunities.” The Vegetation Classification Panel is organizing a field trip “The National Vegetation Classification (NVC): Exploring the Unique Vegetation of the Edwards Plateau” and a workshop “Vegetation Analysis in Support of the National Vegetation Classification.” The Panel is also organizing an oral session “Taking Stock: The Role of Vegetation and Ecosystem Types in Guiding Ecological Assessments,” and an exhibit booth highlighting how the NVC can be used for mapping and assessment.

Other Activities

Science staff also participate in the scientific community in ways that help communicate ESA capabilities to the community and in turn inform the efforts of staff in the projects and activities summarized above. For example, Program Manager Jill Petraglia Parsons participates in the Sustainable Water Resources Roundtable (SWRR), which is working to test and integrate their set of environmental indicators with various partners, and Jennifer Riem participates in the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC)’s Youth Education Task Force. Director

Cliff Duke serves on the Steering Committee for the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable (SRR), which is developing sustainability indicators for rangelands; is a member of the National Research Council Committee on Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels; represents ESA on the Stewardship Action Council, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving social and environmental performance; and is one of two ESA representatives on the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition.

Science Committee

The Science Office thanks the members of the Science Committee, who provide valuable advice
and input on Office projects:

Jim Boyd (Resources for the Future)
Jeff Herrick (USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range)
Elisabeth Huber-Sannwald (IPICYT)
Lawrence Kapustka (SLR Consulting Ltd.)
Andrea Kuchy (University of Idaho)
Andrew Latimer (UC Davis)
Diane Pataki (UC Irvine)
Richard Pouyat (USDA Forest Service)

We extend special appreciation to Rob Jackson (Duke University), who is leaving the Committee after ably serving as Chair for the last four years. We are pleased to welcome new Chair, Deborah Goldberg (University of Michigan).


Cliff Duke, Program Director
Jill Petraglia Parsons, Program Manager
Jennifer Riem, Program Coordinator

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