ESA Tipsheet for March 4,5, 2019

Upcoming research in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

Thursday, 28 Feb 2019
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, gro.asenull@setneGZ


Get a sneak peek into these new scientific papers, publishing on March 4,5, 2019 in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

  • Digging for ancient parasites in museum archives
  • Species origin is linked to extinction risk
  • Pollinator-friendly cities need to be human community-friendly, too
  • Is North America’s “old growth” forest concept less important than we think?


Parasites hidden in museum specimens can teach us about diseases of the past and present

Specimens found in museum collections such as this one at the Berlin Museum of Natural History help scientists study preserved parasites. Photo courtesy of  S. Galyonkin/Creative Commons.

When ecologists respond to spreading infectious diseases, they need to establish a picture of the “normal” conditions they are trying to recover. According to a review published by researchers at the University of Washington and the Natural History Museum in London, the skeletons, fossils, and floating specimens found in museum and university collections provide a way for ecologists to track long-term shifts in parasitic infections. Many preserved specimens (such as frozen mammoth organs or fossilized dinosaur bones) also happen to contain preserved parasites. The authors explain how parasites can be examined using advanced imaging techniques and DNA analyses to reconstruct stories about diseases over time. 

Author Contact: Chelsea Wood (ude.wunull@doowlehc)

  • Harmon A, Littlewood TJ, and Wood CL. 2019. Parasites lost: using natural history collections to track disease change across deep time. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 17:



Setting the record straight: non-native species are more frequently implicated in extinctions than native species

Brown tree snakes have caused many extinctions in Guam and elsewhere. Photo courtesy of P. Kirillov/Creative Commons.

A number of papers published in the last two decades have argued against the use of species origin as a guiding principle for natural resource management, citing a lack of evidence that non-native species are truly a major cause of biological extinction or other environmental damage. A new analysis of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species shows that species classified as “alien” have in fact contributed to more plant and animal extinctions than have native species.

Author Contact: Tim Blackburn (

  • Blackburn TM, Bellard C, and Ricciardi A. Alien versus native species as drivers of recent extinctions. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 17:



Giving urban communities a voice in pollinator conservation initiatives

Residents express concern about potential crime at this ‘pocket prairie’ site. Photo courtesy of Mary Gardiner.

Parks, gardens, and vacant lots are ideal candidates for pollinator conservation sites, but in cities, the presence of undeveloped green spaces with lots of unmown grass and vegetation is sometimes viewed as a sign of poverty or neglect. Because tall plants offer concealment from onlookers, “pocket prairie” plots can even be viewed by residents as dangerous and as potential areas of criminal activity. A review by researchers from Ohio State University describes how scientists can connect with local communities to learn how to design public green spaces that are viewed as attractive and safe while still conserving populations of bees and other pollinators.

Author Contact: Mary Gardiner (ude.usonull@92.renidrag)

  • Turo KJ and Gardiner MM. 2019. From potential to practical: conserving bees in urban public green spaces Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 17:



Out with OLD growth, in with ecological contiNEWity

Forests like this old-growth cedar forest in Chun T’oh Whudujut Park and Protected Area, Canada may be assessed by their lichens. Photo courtesy of Yolanda Wiersma.

Forest managers in North America usually rely on tree age when deciding which old-growth forests have the most conservation value. However, a new article by researchers from the Canadian Museum of Nature and Memorial University of Newfoundland contends that “ancient woodlands” do not necessarily require old, stately trees to be considered ancient. Instead, the length of time the area has existed uninterrupted as a forest – regardless of the age of individual trees in the forest – is a better way to identify priority areas for conservation. The authors suggest that lichens, which tend to rely on old forests, could be a way for conservation biologists and forest managers to determine how long an area has been forested. Most biologists and managers do not have expertise in identifying lichen species, but improvements in image recognition software could make it more feasible for non-lichenologists to learn how to identify these cryptic species in the field.

Author Contact: Yolanda Wiersma (ac.numnull@amsreiwy)

  • McMullin RT and Wiersma YF. Out with OLD growth, in with ecological contiNEWity: new perspectives on forest conservation. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 17:




The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at