Public Affairs Program: Science for Policy and Policy for Science

ESA’s Public Affairs Office manages the Society’s public policy and media initiatives. Working closely with its elected leadership, we facilitate opportunities for members to engage beyond the scientific community through media contacts, press releases, social media, briefings, and one-on-one meetings with policymakers.

Every year, ESA engages in science policy to inform policy affecting the ecological community and fosters support for research and STEM education. ESA broadens its impact by joining with other scientific associations through membership in coalitions: Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition, Climate Science Working Group, Coalition for National Science Funding,- USGS Coalition, NDD United, National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species.

Policy Letters

Working with ESA President Monica Turner, staff developed and distributed 26 ESA letters addressing issues and regulations. Topics ranged from federal funding for scientific research to advocating for the United Nations General Assembly to recognize 2020 as an “International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists.”

Policy Updates and Analyses

Every two weeks, a succinct Policy News Update is available to members summarizing relevant federal policy issues. Through the Intersociety Working Group for the past few decades, ESA and the American Institute of Biological Sciences pen the Biological and Ecological Sciences chapter analyzing the president’s FY 2017 budget request to Congress. The entire report is published in print and online by AAAS.

Providing Opportunities for ESA Members to Engage in Policy

Graduate Student Policy Award


Timothy Treuer

Kristen Lear

Samantha Werner

Jessica Nicole Welch

Matthew Pintar

Brian Kastl

The Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition, co-chaired by ESA and the American Institute of Biological Sciences, brought six ESA Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA) winners and 24 other young scientists to Washington DC for meetings with their US Representative and Senators. The ESA 2016 GSPA recipients are Brian Kastl (University of California), Kristen Lear (University of Georgia), Matthew Pintar (University of Mississippi), Timothy Treuer (Princeton University), Jessica Nicole Welch (University of Tennessee), and Samantha Lynn Werner (University of New Hampshire). Prior to the Capitol Hill meetings, participants received communication training and an overview of the federal budget process.

Senator Wicker 4.2016

With all BESC participant-teams combined, teams met with 60 congressional offices to ask for their support for $8 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Fiscal Year 2017. They highlighted how federal investment in scientific research, specifically related to NSF’s biological sciences directorate, benefits the communities the lawmakers represent.

Coalition for National Science Funding Capitol Hill Exhibition

ESA joined 37 organizations to participate in the 22nd Annual Exhibition and Reception of the Coalition for National Science Funding (NSF) on Capitol Hill, entitled “Investments in STEM Research and Education: Fueling American Innovation.” This year’s exhibit coincided with the Graduate student Policy Award date, so the students represented ESA. In preparation, they created fact sheets about how NSF funding supports their research and benefits society.

2016 GSPA winners pictured with NSF Director France Cordova. Back Row, left to right: Brian Kastl (University of California), Kristen Lear (University of Georgia), Timothy Treuer (Princeton University), Matthew Pintar (University of Mississippi), Front Row, left to right: Samantha Lynn Werner (University of New Hampshire), Jessica Nicole Welch (University of Tennessee), and NSF Director France Cordova.

Climate Science Hill Day

For the second year, ESA members participated in Climate Science Day (CSD). The annual education and outreach event is sponsored by the Climate Science Working Group (CSWG), of which ESA is a member along with other scientific associations. The goal is to advance understanding of climate science research with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

On February 11, CSD teams from various societies met with over 100 House and Senate offices and congressional committee staff. Meetings with freshman Senate and House members were prioritized along with lawmakers who serve on committees with jurisdiction over climate science. ESA member participants included Matthew Hurteau (University of New Mexico), Knute Nadelhoffer (University of Michigan), and Adam Rosenblatt (Yale University). All three are seasoned veterans of Capitol Hill.

Adam Rosenblatt, CSD

Matthew Hurteau, pictured right, for CSD

Knute Nadelhoffer, CSD

Media and Community Outreach

ESA works to bring the research presented in our meetings and journals to the attention of journalists through in-house press releases and tipsheets and collaboration with press offices at the home institutions of our authors and members.

Press Releases

Selected press releases from August 2015- August 2016.

Expanding the reach of environmental research with Citizen Science

Public participation in scientific research has surged in popularity and prominence in recent years through the connections of the world wide web, an explosion of smartphone pocket computing power, and a slow cultural change within professional science toward a more open and welcoming research environment. To help guide program managers in deciding if citizen science is right for their organizations and how best to design citizen science projects to meet their organization’s goals, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) has released a report today summarizing how “Investing in Citizen Science can improve natural resource management and environmental protection.”

Duncan C. McKinley et al. Investing in Citizen Science can improve natural resource management and environmental protection. Issues in Ecology #19, Fall 2015. [pdf]

Credit, USFWS.

Science-driven strategies for more effective endangered species recovery

The US Endangered Species Act can protect more species, more effectively, through expanded partnerships and science-driven implementation ecologists say in the Winter 2016 edition of Issues in Ecology

Species recovery in the United States: increasing the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act. Daniel M. Evans, Judy P. Che-Castaldo, Deborah Crouse, Frank W. Davis, Rebecca Epanchin-Niell, Curtis H. Flather, R. Kipp Frohlich, Dale D. Goble, Ya-Wei Li, Timothy D. Male, Lawrence L. Master, Matthew P. Moskwik, Maile C. Neel, Barry R. Noon, Camille Parmesan, Mark W. Schwartz, J. Michael Scott, and Byron K. Williams. Issues in Ecology #20, Winter 2016. [pdf]

Photo credit: VF Gabriel.

Building with nature: ecological design for next generation cities

A special Centennial Issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment explores ecological innovations for infrastructure in the face of climate change. The November 2015 Special Issue on Innovations in the face of climate change examines innovations big and small, from massive technological installations like Rotterdam’s proposed next generation Dutch Windwheel to municipal planning and the individual construction and land use choices of city residents.

“Cities are emergent systems, with only 5 to 7 thousand years of history, mostly during the relative climatic stability of the Holocene,” said guest editor Kristina Hill, an associate professor at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. “We’ve never tried to operate a city during a rapid climate change, especially not on the scale of population we now have, with our largest cities housing upwards of 20 million people.”

Big cordgrass salt marsh. Credit, R.K. Peet.

Adaptable, ecology-based U.S. National Vegetation Classification for monitoring multi-scale change debuts today

Public release of a 20-year collaborative effort to devise a unified and consistent national reporting system for plant communities opens new avenues for broad-scale and long-term analyses of landscape change.

The Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) Panel on Vegetation Classification has worked to ensure the scientific rigor of the classification and facilitate the classification’s development, collaborating with NatureServe, the U.S. Forest Service,  and the U.S. Geological Survey  to form a U.S. National Vegetation Classification partnership. These agencies, along with the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and others, continue to fund ongoing peer-reviewed revisions.

Photo Credit, Kelly P. Goodwin (2014).

Ecological collapse circumscribes traditional women’s work in the Mesopotamian Marshes of Iraq

As the land at the heart of the cradle of civilization dries out, an ancient culture is being lost with the unique ecosystem that sustains it.

Nadia Al-Mudaffar Fawzi, Kelly P. Goodwin , Bayan Mehdi, Michelle L. Stevens (2016) Effects of Mesopotamian Marsh (Iraq) desiccation on the cultural knowledge and livelihood of Marsh Arab women. Ecosystem Health and Sustainability 2(3):e01207. doi: 10.1002/ehs2.1207 Full text open access

Social Media

“Lethal control methods need to be subjected to the same gold standard of science as anything else,” Treves says. He…

Posted by Ecological Society of America on Tuesday, September 13, 2016

New in Ecological Applications-"Geographic origins and population genetics of bats killed at wind-energy facilities."…

Posted by Ecological Society of America on Monday, March 21, 2016

National Vegetation Classification launches

Posted by Ecological Society of America on Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"To be clear, everyone I spoke with at METRICS could tell me the technical definition of a p-value — the probability of…

Posted by Ecological Society of America on Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gabe Popkin picked up this story form George Sugihara's students at #ESA100 in Baltimore last August.

Posted by Ecological Society of America on Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Prairie restoration, now with more fireballs #ESA2016To restore the grasslands of the Great Plains, a Nebraska…

Posted by Ecological Society of America on Wednesday, August 3, 2016

*Luring mosquitoes into honeysuckle traps*Beyond the blood meal, mosquitoes need sugar and safe and nurturing pools to…

Posted by Ecological Society of America on Wednesday, July 20, 2016

In predicting the future of speciesConclusions differ for population lumpers and splittersEcological ApplicationsHä…

Posted by Ecological Society of America on Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Dutch Sand Engine experiment in dynamic coastline management is an artificial sand beach designed to erode. Sand…

Posted by Ecological Society of America on Wednesday, January 27, 2016

To celebrate the centennial of the society, ESA journals staff collected some of the most notable papers published in…

Posted by Ecological Society of America on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

“When fires happen like the King Fire that are characterized by large uniform severe patches of high-severity fire, this…

Posted by Ecological Society of America on Monday, August 8, 2016

The volcano-cactus connectionSaguaro cacti, the famously recognizable icons of the Southwest, are tall, tough, and…

Posted by Ecological Society of America on Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Farewell to a keystone ecologist

Posted by Ecological Society of America on Friday, June 24, 2016

The first global assessment of the threats to creatures that pollinate the world’s plants was released by a group…

Posted by Ecological Society of America on Friday, February 26, 2016

Which ecological concepts have most occupied ecologists over the last fifty years? The video animates the frequency of…

Posted by Ecological Society of America on Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Public Affairs Office Staff (August 2015-August 2016)

Director: Alison Mize

Science Policy Analyst: Terence Houston
Public Information Manager: Liza Lester

Public Affairs Committee (August 2015 – August 2016)

Frank Davis: Vice President

Bruce A. Byers
Dan Evans
Alexis C. Erwin
Laura Petes

Student Co-reps
Sarah M. Anderson
Kellen Marshall

Monica Turner: President