104th Annual Meeting: Preview and Highlights

ESA Annual Meeting 2019 Logo.Bridging Communities and Ecosystems: Inclusion as an Ecological Imperative


June 19, 2019
For Immediate Release

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


The ecological community is transforming – inclusive approaches to ecology can build bridges between theory and practice, connect those working in disparate landscapes and disciplines, and incorporate diverse perspectives. Using inclusive approaches allows ecologists and the entire community to establish socio-environmental connections, address widespread ecosystem change, take advantage of technological advancements and analytical techniques, and engage in interdisciplinary collaborations. The following selected sessions and events at the Annual Meeting delve into this year’s meeting theme.


Organized Oral Sessions

Developing Effective Environmental Leaders Requires Diverse Perspectives, Innovative Approaches, and Transdisciplinary Exploration (OOS14)
Wednesday, August 14, 2019: 8:00 AM – 11:30 AM, M107

Environmental justice issues require inclusive and holistic transdisciplinary approaches. These approaches need to integrate often incomplete and/or contradictory information from a broad array of disciplines while also factoring in some understanding of the political landscape. For decades, advocacy groups and educators have worked to increase scientific literacy and enlist the public in addressing ecological threats. Real progress in addressing ecological challenges requires inclusion, public engagement, an educated electorate, and individuals willing to become involved in what is, most likely, a long and arduous process. This session aims to explore how we can bring the complexity of these issues into our classrooms without overwhelming students.

A Day in the Life of an Ecologist in Science Policy (OOS28)
Friday, August 16, 2019: 8:00 AM – 11:30 AM, M104

Fewer than 15% of STEM graduate students will follow in their adviser’s footsteps and pursue a career in academia. Given that the unemployment rate for science and engineering PhDs hovers around 2%, the other 85% to 99% must go on and have careers, but where are they working? This organized oral session will begin to answer that question and illuminate the fascinating career journeys that ecologists have found within the nexus of science and policy—one of many potential career trajectories. Each talk will feature an ecologist’s unique career journey, extraordinary professional experiences, and provide a glimpse into what a day in the life of an ecologist is like.



Agroecology with Communities: Cross-Disciplinary Collaborations Between Ecology, Agriculture, and Social Science (SYMP5)
Tuesday, August 13, 2019: 1:30 PM – 5:00 PM, Ballroom D

Food and fiber production is a major force of global environmental change and source of livelihood for millions of people around the world. It lies at the intersection of human and non-human nature, and requires trans-disciplinary approaches for research and understanding. Connecting ecology with human systems like agriculture is important for both informing our understanding of how ecosystems work as well as addressing various environmental challenges. Ecologists studying agriculture are thus in a unique position to bridge communities and ecosystems using novel theoretical and methodological approaches. This symposium seeks to highlight the ways in which agroecology can integrate the natural and social sciences to address complex problems facing people and the environments on which they depend.

Integrating Human Health with Ecosystem Services – Research to Provide Practical Tools for Healthier and More Resilient Communities (SYMP8)
Wednesday, August 14, 2019: 8:00 AM – 11:30 AM, Ballroom E

The US EPA’s Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC) National Research Program has provided $2 million in research grants to fund academic projects through the Science-To-Achieve-Results (STAR) program. These projects carry out community-based research that foster better understanding of how ecosystems and ecosystem services support human health and well-being. In this session, four research projects will examine how communities can promote human health and well-being in their decision makings and management practices regarding some of their most vitally important ecological systems. A common goal of the projects is to develop scientific evidence-based tools, models, or approaches to better enable communities to integrate environmental, societal, and economic information for optimal outcomes.


Inspire sessions

The Field Work Experience: Rite of Passage or Barrier to Entry? (INS2)
Monday, August 12, 2019: 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM, M108

The advancement of understanding ecological systems as they manifest in the field is core to the discipline of ecology. For many, field work experiences have traditionally served as a rite of passage by cementing their identities as ecologists. For some, however, field work can be a barrier or a negative experience that discourages career choices in ecology. As the community aims to be more inclusive, we need to consider the role of field work in engaging or discouraging students. This session explores the undergraduate field learning experience (from field courses to research experiences) and its role as an inspiration and learning experience, but also as a potential barrier to the profession, particularly for those from groups underrepresented in science, and considers how we can remove barriers to create more inclusive field experiences.

Public Gardens in a Changing World: The Unique Position of Arboreta and Botanical Gardens to Address Today’s Ecological Challenges (INS16)
Thursday, August 15, 2019: 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM, M108

Arboreta and botanical gardens provide ideal settings to study and address some of the most pressing ecological challenges of the 21st century. Additionally, public gardens have a strong outreach mission to promote and improve the natural environment and connect people with plants. These features allow scientists working within public gardens to address issues ranging from adaptive capacity and resilience, to climate change impacts, to best practices in restoration. All of this is done in the context of strong public engagement. This session brings together scientists from a variety of public gardens to showcase the ways in which arboreta and botanical gardens serve as a hub from which to connect cutting-edge ecological research with public outreach to address 21st century issues related to global change and the mitigation of these impacts through management of degraded ecosystems.


Special sessions

Civic Engagement for Scientists: Getting Involved With Local Government (SS3)
Monday, August 12, 2019: 10:15 AM – 11:30 AM, M101/102

Communities thrive when all members participate and meet challenges together, and democracies thrive when individuals are engaged with their local governments. Civic engagement can be an important and enriching experience for anyone, regardless of their background or career path. Scientists and engineers can offer unique contributions to their local communities and to city, county, and state governments, including inquiry-driven and evidence-based approaches to solving problems and technical expertise in specific subjects. In this session, Engineers & Scientists Acting Locally will host a panel of STEM professionals who have made substantive contributions to their communities through state and local government engagement. The panelists will tell their stories about how they got involved locally and how they’re making a difference.

Local Science Policy Issues in Louisville: Linking Ecology, Decision-Making, and Community Health (SS10)
Monday, August 12, 2019: 10:15 AM – 11:30 AM, L013

In this special session, come hear about partnerships and projects in the local Louisville area that connect ecologists, decision-makers, and community members to promote human and environmental health. Among the projects discussed will be Green Heart Louisville, a first of its kind study to rigorously and scientifically assess the impact of green space on air quality and health in urban communities. Panelists will discuss how ecological knowledge can inform decision-making around issues of local importance, including new development and the legacy effects of past urbanization. Panelists will also give their perspectives on how community relationships can refine and amplify the utility of science and ultimately make science more useful to impacted communities.


Field trips

Louisville’s Urban Waterways: Ecology, Community Engagement, and Brownfields (FT6)
Tuesday, August 13, 2019: 8:30 AM – 12:00 PM, Market Street Pre-function

Despite the channelized nature of Beargrass Creek, Louisvillians consider the creek to be one of the city’s biggest assets. This tributary of the Ohio River runs through much of Jefferson County and is subject to environmental stressors such as combined sewer overflows, non-point source pollution, and increased erosion and channelization due to runoff. Stream and river health are further compromised when former industrial areas are adjacent or within the watershed. In Louisville, two former landfills have been repurposed for the public good with varying degrees of success. Limitations on what can be planted, where plantings can take place, and how they will be maintained results in challenges to restoring natural systems to provide ecological benefits. This walking tour will explore sites where ecological restoration has been used to enhance the water quality near former landfills, including the Waterfront Park on the Ohio River, the current police impound lot on Beargrass Creek, and a future botanical garden between the two.

Louisville Grows Urban Agriculture Tour (FT7)
Wednesday, August 14, 2019: 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM, Market Street Pre-function

Louisville Grows’ mission is to grow a just and sustainable community through urban agriculture, urban forestry, and environmental education. Our community-based approach to our work is meant to demonstrate to average citizens that community is an important aspect of the systems we inhabit and that our communities are a prime resource for addressing socio-ecological issues such as food scarcity and urban heat. Our field trip will take attendees to four sites of urban agriculture. The 7th Street and Parkland Community Gardens are spaces where residents of some of Louisville’s lower socioeconomic neighborhoods are able to provide themselves with fresh, healthy food in the midst of food-insecure neighborhoods. Michael Rogers’ private urban agricultural site further demonstrates how urban settings can be used to produce food. The Hope Community Farm is run by refugees living in Louisville who sell their produce as CSA shares. Hope Farm demonstrates how urban agriculture can be a resource for disenfranchised people who can use their skills and increase their agricultural knowledge as a means of providing a living and establishing themselves in a new place.



Building Bridges in a Full World: How to Teach Ecological Economics Across the Disciplines (USSEE) (WK2)
Sunday, August 11, 2019: 8:00 AM – 11:30 AM, L018

Instructors across ecological disciplines routinely engage with economic concepts in their classrooms. The field of Ecological Economics (EE) acknowledges that we live in a world of man-made capital and the products thereof stressing the biophysical limits of the ecosphere. EE calls for transdisciplinary, not just interdisciplinary, approaches to addressing the issues we face, providing a bridge for instructors to connect economic applications to ecological concepts. This workshop will invite educators across sustainability, ecology, and economics-related disciplines to learn the core principles of ecological economics. Participants will work towards discovering and refining ways that EE can fit into their existing coursework, prompt new courses, or bring value added to disciplinary curricula.

Including Citizen Science in Your Research – Working with Citizen Science Data, Volunteers, and More (WK7)
Sunday, August 11, 2019: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, L008

Citizen science in ecology is growing rapidly, in part because it can help address otherwise intractable questions such as those that depend on data at large scales, from private lands, tied to human activities, or that require close observations by long-term residents. Huge new citizen science-developed data sets are now available, and there are strong incentives to engage the public in science. However, recent surveys of scientists have identified barriers to the use of citizen science, including concerns about data quality, a limited awareness of citizen science that matches their needs, and difficulty figuring out how to start engaging in citizen science. This workshop will help participants new to citizen science overcome those barriers and will help those already doing citizen science learn new approaches and techniques.


2019 Annual Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky
Bridging Communities and Ecosystems: Inclusion as an Ecological Imperative
11-16 August 2019

Ecologists from 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories, and countries around the world will converge on Louisville, Kentucky this August for the 104th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Up to 3,000 attendees are expected to gather for thousands of scientific presentations on breaking research and new ecological concepts at the Kentucky International Convention Center, August 11-16, 2019.

In the spirit of collaboration, inclusion and cross-disciplinary science, the Ecological Society of America will be holding its 104th Annual Meeting in partnership with the United States Society for Ecological Economics (USSEE), one of many regional professional organizations within the umbrella society of the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE).

The Opening Plenary features Karen Warkentin, professor in the Biology Department and the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program at Boston University, who will speak about, “All the variations matter: bridging disciplines and communities to study diversity in life history and sexual behavior.” The event is free and open to the general public.

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free. To apply, please contact ESA Public Information Manager Zoe Gentes directly at gro.asenull@setnegz. Walk-in registration will be available during the meeting.



The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the worlds 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 3,000 – 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at https://www.esa.org.