Giant Tortoises Migrate Unpredictably in the Face of Climate Change

Unlike many migratory species, Galapagos giant tortoises do not use current environmental conditions to time their seasonal migration


April 18, 2019
For Immediate Release                                   

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211,


Galapagos giant tortoises are sometimes called Gardeners of the Galapagos because they are responsible for long-distance seed dispersal. Their migration is key for many tree and plant species’ survival. Photo courtesy of Guillame Bastille-Rousseau.

Galapagos giant tortoises, sometimes called Gardeners of the Galapagos, are creatures of habit. In the cool dry season, the highlands of the volcano slopes are engulfed in cloud which allows the vegetation to grow despite the lack of rain. On the lower slopes, however, there is no thick fog layer, and vegetation is not available year round. Adult tortoises thus spend the dry season in the higher regions, and trek back to the lower, relatively warmer zones where there is abundant, nutritious vegetation when the rainy season begins.

The tortoises often take the same migration routes over many years in order to find optimal food quality and temperatures. The timing of this migration is essential for keeping their energy levels high, and climate change could disrupt a tortoise’s ability to migrate at the right time.

In the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecology, researchers use GPS to track the timing and patterns of tortoise migration over multiple years.

“We had three main goals in the study,” says Guillaume Bastille-Rousseau, lead author of the paper. “One was determining if tortoises adjust their timing of migration to current environmental conditions. Two, if so, what clues do they use to adjust the timing, and, three, what are the energetic consequences of migration mis-timing for tortoises?”

The researchers expected the migrations to be timed with current food and temperature conditions because many other migratory species operate that way. Bastille-Rousseau says “many animals, such as ungulates, can track current environmental conditions and migrate accordingly – what researchers sometime refer to as surfing the green-wave.”

Contrary to the researchers’ expectations, however, migration is weakly associated with current conditions such as fog, rain, and temperature. For instance, if it is unseasonably arid, it appears the tortoises do not take that variation into account when deciding it is time to migrate. It is unclear at this point whether they are basing their migration decisions on memories of past conditions or if they are simply incorrectly assessing current local conditions.

Galapagos giant tortoises migrate from arid lowlands to foggy, cooler uplands during the dry season to find more consistent, if not as nutritious, vegetation. Image courtesy of Guillame Bastille-Rousseau.

Bastille-Rousseau says the team is surprised by the mismatch, stating “tortoise timing of migration fluctuated a lot among years, often by over two months. This indicates that migration for tortoises may not just be about foraging opportunities. For example, female tortoises have to make decisions related to nesting, and we still have a lot to learn about migration in giant tortoises.”

Fortunately, this sub-optimal timing may not yet have critical impact on tortoise health. Potentially due to their long lives of up to 100 years and large body size, bad timing of migration has smaller consequences for giant tortoises compared to small, short lived animals. Giant tortoises can go up to a year without eating and survive, while other migrating species must eat more regularly to sustain their energy levels.

Giant tortoises are important ecosystem engineers in the Galapagos, responsible for long-distance seed dispersal, and their migration is key for many tree and plant species’ survival. How the tortoises’ variation in migration timing will affect the rest of the ecosystem is still unclear. Because tortoises do not seem to be tracking annual variation in environmental conditions, it is quite possible that the mistiming of migration will keep increasing in the future.

“One concern is that at some point in the future,” Bastille-Rousseau adds, “migration may not be an optimal strategy for tortoises. There may be a reduction in the number of individuals doing these long-distance movements. This would likely have cascading consequences for the whole ecosystem.”


Journal article

Bastille-Rousseau, Bastille, et al., 2019. Migration triggers in a large herbivore: Galapagos giant tortoises navigating resource gradients on volcanoes. Ecology. DOI: 10.1002/ecy.2658



Guillaume Bastille-Rousseau, James P. Gibbs, and Jacqueline L. Frair: Roosevelt Wild Life Station and Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Charles B. Yackulic: U.S. Geological Survey, Southwest Biological Science Center

Freddy Cabrera: Charles Darwin Foundation, Puerto Ayora, Galápagos, Ecuador

Stephen Blake: Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, and Roosevelt Wild Life Station, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry; Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell, Germany; Whitney Harris World Ecology Center, University of Missouri-St. Louis; Department of Biology, Saint Louis University; WildCare Institute, Saint Louis Zoo


Author contact:

Guillame Bastille-Rousseau



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 3000-4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at

Ecological Society of America announces 2019 award recipients

April 16, 2019
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211,


The Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present the 2019 awards recognizing outstanding contributions to ecology in new discoveries, teaching, sustainability, diversity, and lifelong commitment to the profession during the Society’s Annual Meeting in Louisville, Ky. The awards ceremony will take place during the Scientific Plenary, Monday, August 12, at 8 AM in Ballroom C in the Kentucky International Convention Center. Learn more about ESA awards on the home website.


Eminent Ecologist Award: Robert D. Holt

The Eminent Ecologist Award honors a senior ecologist for an outstanding body of ecological work or sustained ecological contributions of extraordinary merit.

Dr. Robert D. Holt – Eminent Scholar in Biology and Arthur R. Marshall, Jr., Chair in Ecology at the University of Florida – is the recipient of the 2019 Eminent Ecologist Award. His contributions over the past 40 years offer major conceptual advances into the dynamics of how species interact and their ecological and evolutionary consequences of such interactions. The hallmark of his work is the use of relatively simple models to explore common but complex phenomena in nature.

In his very first paper while still a graduate student, Holt challenges the prevailing wisdom that competition for shared resources is the predominant interaction that structures biological communities by demonstrating that a shared predator can cause identical outcomes via the mechanism he terms apparent competition. He continues to challenge this view by pioneering analyses of other food web configurations, which he terms community modules, including food webs that include multiple species in multiple trophic levels and predators that compete for resources with their prey. Additionally, Holt also champions the investigation of pathogens in influencing community structure. In all of these areas, Holt has authored foundational papers that challenge the conventional wisdom, and continues their development into ever richer complexity.

Holt’s analyses and thinking are not confined to the purely ecological. He also explores the consequences of these population and food web processes for the adaptation of interacting species and how that adaptation further shapes communities. He has authored seminal papers on the evolution of dispersal and habitat choice, the dynamics of adaptation for species with complex life cycles, and the potential for sink populations to evolve into source populations (i.e., evolutionary rescue). All this work infuses ecological realism and spatial thinking into theories of natural selection. 

Throughout his career, Holt has also been a generous mentor and collaborator. The number of people with whom he has collaborated on ideas and papers is legion, and all tell of an exciting exchange and development of ideas with someone who truly valued the interaction. He has been particularly generous with graduate students, post-doctoral associates and junior faculty, many of whom recount striking up fruitful and long-lasting collaborations with him upon their first meeting. Holt’s career exemplifies that great science and great friendship can go hand-in-hand.


Distinguished Service Citation: Charles D. Canham

The Distinguished Service Citation recognizes long and distinguished volunteer service to ESA, the scientific community, and the larger purpose of ecology in the public welfare.

Dr. Charles D. Canham, Senior Scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, exhibits distinguished volunteer service to the ESA, to the larger scientific community, and to the larger purpose of ecology. His strong support of the ESA emphasizes his generosity and commitment to the Society over many years. Dr. Canham thinks deeply about safeguarding and enhancing ESA as an institution for future generations of ecologists. Many ESA members are committed to service, but Canham’s deep, transformative contributions are making lasting improvements contributing to the long-term success of the society.

In his service to ESA, Canham is unfailingly generous in discussion and listening carefully to all points of view. He provided astute guidance as a member of the editorial board for three of ESA journals: Ecology, Ecological Monographs, and Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. While preserving the high standards set by the journals, Canham always maintains the respectful, thorough, and constructive input that authors appreciate, regardless of the fate of their manuscripts. Additionally, Canham also served ESA through section leadership (Secretary, Vice-chair and Chair of the Vegetation Section) and as a two-term Secretary on the Governing Board where his institutional knowledge was invaluable during major Society transitions While Secretary, he was always willing to try new ways to help ESA thrive and grow.

Canham also has great impact as an ecologist, with over 12,000 citations of his work. One of his major scientific contributions is re-envisioning the growth strategies of tree seedlings and saplings in the forest understory. Prior to his work, the paradigm was that shade-tolerant species had evolved to “grow,” albeit slowly, under low light. Through a combination of detailed measurement and elegant modeling, he demonstrates that that natural selection favors “survival” until the next canopy opening rather than growth in the shade. The premium is on survival. This paradigm shift caused a reevaluation of the drivers of tree demography and forest responses to disturbance. His two top papers on modeling and measuring light in the understory and sapling responses have been cited over thirteen hundred times.

Beyond ESA, Canham devotes much effort to causes that advance conservation. He has been a very active member on nonprofit boards of directors for organizations that have on-the-ground impact. Among others, these include the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Land Trust, Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and Hudsonia.


Eugene P. Odum Award for Excellence in Ecology Education: Ricardo Rozzi

Odum Award recipients demonstrate their ability to relate basic ecological principles to human affairs through teaching, outreach, and mentoring activities.

Dr. Ricardo Rozzi, Professor at the University of North Texas, is a giant in the field of biocultural conservation and has pioneered innovative methods of teaching the integration of philosophy and ecology. He teaches and mentors students across all levels, starting from preschool, K-12 groups, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as informal adult education. Rozzi clearly takes the approach of getting the greatest knowledge of ecology to the greatest number of people and in so doing, making large-scale conservation impact. He holds multiple professor, researcher, and director appointments across institutions in both Chile and the U.S. His work as well as his approach to education focuses on the inclusion of diverse audiences, championing cultural and socio-economic issues in Latin America.

Rozzi is a thought leader in ecological conservation in theory and in practice. He has authored more than 25 books, more than 150 referred journal articles, and over 50 book chapters, both in English and in Spanish. Beyond creating globally recognized education programs – such as Field Environmental Philosophy – and novel teaching activities – such as Ecotourism with a Hand Lens – Rozzi also engages with governmental policies and the media to build bridges for international approaches to ecological education.


Commitment to Human Diversity in Ecology Award: Maria N. Miriti

ESA’s Commitment to Human Diversity in Ecology award recognizes long-standing contributions of an individual towards increasing the diversity of future ecologists through mentoring, teaching, or outreach.

Dr. Maria Miriti, Associate Professor of plant ecology at Ohio State University (OSU), is an expert on the population and community dynamics of desert perennials of the Colorado Desert in California. Miriti is a pioneer in strategic development of programs to enhance human diversity of environmental professionals, through targeted recruitment and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students in the sciences, and through development of unique curricular programs that increase understanding and interest in environmental careers in middle school students and facilitate bridges from high school to college programs.

Miriti organizes faculty and students in innovative programs to introduce local minority high school students to the wonders of STEM programs at OSU. She has led “dissertation bootcamp” programs for minority graduate students at OSU, and is proactive in hosting scientists from underrepresented groups to present departmental seminars. Most recently she broadened her ecology education outreach efforts to middle school minority students by obtaining funding to implement and direct a community garden project that teaches area students the connections between plant science and healthy food production methods.

Miriti chairs the OSU department’s diversity committee, providing leadership in discussion of departmental climate and curricular improvements to increase retention of graduate students from underrepresented groups. Moreover, OSU recently appointed her as Chair of the Council on Academic Affairs at OSU, solidifying her status as a leader among academics at the university and providing her with a broader platform to discuss the importance of human diversity in enhancing the science profession.


Robert H. Whittaker Distinguished Ecologist Award: Jingyun Fang

The Whittaker Award recognizes an ecologist with an earned doctorate and an outstanding record of contributions in ecology who is not a U.S. citizen and who resides outside the United States.

Dr. Jingyun Fang – a Cheung Kong Scholar, Professor, and Chair of the Department of Ecology, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences at Peking University – is one of the most renowned ecologists in China. During his career, Fang has played pivotal roles in the advancement of ecology, in informing national and international policy, and in building a scientific community of ecologists in China. He makes significant contributions to the understanding of carbon cycling, biodiversity, remote sensing, and plant stoichiometry. Fang has published 7 books and over 370 peer-reviewed papers, including key papers in Science, Nature, and PNAS. His work uses environmental and anthropogenic gradients at local and national scales – conceptually similar to Whittaker’s classical gradient studies – to markedly influence the understanding of the variation in and controls over diversity, carbon cycling, and ecosystem services. His body of work advances numerous concepts that Whittaker pioneered, and also establishes new standards of scientific rigor that were impossible in Whittaker’s time.


W.S. Cooper Award: Songlin Fei, Johanna M. Desprez, Kevin M. Potter, Insu Jo, Jonathan A. Knott, and Christopher M. Oswalt

The Cooper Award honors the authors of an outstanding publication in the field of geobotany, physiographic ecology, plant succession, or the distribution of plants along environmental gradients. William S. Cooper was a pioneer of physiographic ecology and geobotany, with a particular interest in the influence of historical factors – such as glaciations and climate history – on the pattern of contemporary plant communities across platforms.

Understanding how species change their distributions in response to climate change is a fundamental question in ecology, but our understanding is hampered because impacts are often species-specific and influenced by non-climatic factors. Fei and his team shed new light on this problem with an impressive dataset of repeat measurements taken of 86 tree species across the eastern U.S. from 1980 to 2015. They not only find that trees are shifting their ranges in response to recent climate change, but that the nature of those shifts is influenced by species traits and evolutionary history. Fei and colleagues find that angiosperms (e.g., include hardwood, broad-leaved deciduous trees) have primarily shifted westward in recent decades, while gymnosperms (e.g., softwood conifers) have primarily shifted northward. Importantly, they find that precipitation has so far played a stronger role than temperature in driving these observed range shifts. Overall, this paper represents an important advancement in the understanding of the complexities of climate change impacts on species ranges, and highlights the importance of disentangling the different climatic drivers of range shifts.


George Mercer Award: Jesmer, Brett R., Merkle, Jerod A., Goheen, Jacob R., Aikens, Ellen O., Beck, Jeffrey L., Courtemanch, Alyson B., Hurley, Mark A., McWhirter, Douglas E., Miyasaki, Hollie M., Monteith, Kevin L., and Kauffman, Matthew J.

The Mercer Award recognizes an outstanding, recently-published, ecological research paper by young scientists.

Conditions in nature are better in different areas at different times, and many animals migrate to track resources. But how do they figure out where to go and when to go there, especially when that requires traversing vast distances? Jesmer and colleagues compared migration of historical and translocated populations of bighorn sheep and moose, demonstrating that ungulate migration is inherited culturally rather than genetically. This creative and interdisciplinary work represents a strong collaboration between researchers in academia and wildlife managers from state agencies, demonstrating that behavioral ecology provides an important foundation for pressing ecological and management questions.


Sustainability Science Award: McPhearson, T., S.T.A. Pickett, N.R. Grimm, J. Niemela, M. Alberti, T. Elmqvist, C. Weber, D. Haase, J. Breuste, and S. Qureshi

The Sustainability Science Award recognizes the authors of the scholarly work that makes the greatest contribution to the emerging science of ecosystem and regional sustainability through the integration of ecological and social sciences.

McPhearson and colleagues provide an international perspective on how ecological research focused on urban areas can improve sustainability. Urban areas are expected to be highly at risk from global environmental changes and this article highlights the need for a conceptual synthesis that allows urban residents to make better decisions concerning their environment and the social relations within it.

The paper is also quoted and highlighted in the 2018 NSF report titled ‘Sustainable Urban Systems: Articulating a Long-term Research Agenda.’ Because it articulates a multi-faceted research agenda for both social scientists and ecologists, the paper will continue to have impacts in advancing the scholarship around urban resilience and sustainability.


Innovation in Sustainability Science Award: Bennett, E.M., M. Solan, R. Biggs, T. McPhearson, A.V. Norström, P. Olsson, L., Pereira, G.D. Peterson, C. Raudsepp-Hearne, F. Biermann, S.R. Carpenter, E.C. Ellis, T. Hichert, V. Galaz, M. Lahsen, M. Milkoreit, B. Martin López, K.A. Nicholas, R., Preiser, G. Vince, J.M. Vervoort, and J. Xu.

The Innovation in Sustainability Science Award recognizes the authors of a peer-reviewed paper published in the past five years exemplifying leading-edge work on solution pathways to sustainability challenges.

Bennett and colleagues provide compelling examples drawn from around the globe of concrete ways to improve sustainability and resilience through environmental innovations, reconfigurations of social-ecological relationships, and effective engagement with local stakeholders. The authors represent a diverse mix of institutions distributed in North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. The publication calls attention not only to world-wide ‘seeds of hope’ for a brighter future, but also to continuing efforts to glean knowledge and experiences that will foster a healthier planet and a higher quality of life for its inhabitants. Their work highlights the types of changes that can be implemented to improve sustainability, resilience, and quality of life in rural and urban area.


Learn more about the August 11-16, 2019 ESA Annual Meeting on the meeting website.

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free. To register, please contact ESA Public Information Manager Zoe Gentes directly at 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

104th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America convenes in Louisville, Kentucky

Bridging Communities and Ecosystems: Inclusion as an Ecological Imperative;
11–16 August 2019

April 11, 2019
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211,


Environmental scientists, educators, and policy makers are gathering in the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, Kentucky this August 11th through 16th, 2019, for the 104th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), co-hosted with the United States Society for Ecological Economics (USSEE). Ecologists from around the world attend the five-day conference, which is expected to host over 2,000 presentations this year.

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free (see credential policy below). To apply, please contact ESA Public Information Manager Zoe Gentes directly at Walk-in registration will be available during the meeting.

Meeting plenaries and symposia will explore the meeting theme “Bridging Communities and Ecosystems: Inclusion as an Ecological Imperative.” 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 supports ecologists and the entire community to articulate socio-environmental connections, address widespread ecosystem change, take advantage of technological advancements and analytical techniques, and engage in interdisciplinary collaborations.

In the spirit of collaboration and inclusion, ESA is holding this meeting in partnership with the USSEE, one of many regional professional organizations within the umbrella society of the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE). In addition to ESA’s scientific sessions and business meetings, USSEE will hold sessions focused on economics, human impact, sustainable development, and more.

Karen Warkentin, Professor in the Biology Department and the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program at Boston University, is opening the meeting Sunday, August 11th at 5:00 pm. Her plenary lecture, “All the variations matter: bridging disciplines and communities to study diversity in life history and sexual behavior,” will discuss how the discovery of widespread and diverse expressions of same-sex sexual behavior in animals calls into question research based solely on the reproductive function of sexuality. Both inclusive biology, which integrates perspectives from diverse human lives, and interdisciplinary perspectives from fields such as gender studies and queer theory, can increase the variation we notice, inform the questions we ask, and broaden our understanding of nature.

In addition to her role at BU, Warkentin is a research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. She is an integrative biologist whose research combines ecology, evolution, development, behavior, and physiology to understand variation in life histories. Warkentin is also interested in reproductive diversity and evolved and plastic variation in sexual traits.

Field trips explore the meeting’s theme outside the convention center, with a particular focus on the nexus of agriculture, waterways, and urban ecology. There are more navigable miles of water in Kentucky than any other state in the contiguous U.S.; 90,000 miles of streams provide one of the most expansive and complex stream systems in the nation. It also has an expansive park system, which includes one national park, two National Recreation areas, two National Historic Parks, two national forests, two National Wildlife Refuges, 45 state parks, 37,896 acres of state forest, and 82 Wildlife Management Areas.

Local ESA members will lead visiting colleagues to the Thomas More University Biology Field Station for fish and algae sampling on the Ohio River. On a walking tour of Louisville’s urban waterways, participants will view sites where ecological restoration is enhancing water quality near former landfills. Other field trips present the opportunity for participants to learn about sustainable and organic agriculture on research farms, about management efforts to protect 400-year-old forests, and about how the socioeconomic gradient across the city relates to urban biodiversity.


ESA Policy on Press Credentials

The ESA Press Office provides complimentary press registration to public information officers and institutional press officers, professional journalists representing media organizations, freelance journalists, photographers, videographers, bloggers, podcasters, authors, filmmakers, institutional science communicators, and student journalists, for the express purpose of gathering news and information to produce media coverage of ESA meetings.

Public information officers and institutional press officers who cannot attend, but would like to promote presenters from their institutions, are welcome to prearrange distribution of press releases and other author materials on the meeting website and in the on-site Press Room. Press officers may request copies of all abstracts related to their institution. For registration, more information, or help finding scientists in our meeting program, please contact Zoe Gentes at or (202) 833-8773 x211.

Representatives of publishing houses, the business side of news media, political action committees or similar, and for-profit corporations, will not be accredited as press and will not be eligible for complimentary press registration. Editors of journals or other publications who do not report for or edit their outlet’s news section will also not be accredited as press and are not eligible for complimentary press registration.

Press registrants receive, at no charge, a badge that provides access to all scientific sessions, the press room and the press conference room. Some events and activities, including but not limited to invitation-only events and communications workshops, are not open to press badge holders.

Scientists who will be presenting at the meeting and who are also reporting from the meeting for a recognized media outlet may also be issued press credentials at the discretion of the ESA Press Office. Anyone who presents at the meeting must also register for the meeting and pay the appropriate fee as a presenter. These registrants should first register as press and indicate that they are also a presenter on their press registration form. These registrants should not register as a presenter until after being contacted by a member of the ESA Press Office who will provide additional information for registering as a presenter.

All press room badges are issued at the discretion of the ESA Press Office. Press room badges are non-transferable. All registrants must provide credentials regardless of whether they have received press registration for past ESA meetings.


On-site Press Room

Pre-registered press may pick up their credentials in the Press Room and enjoy coffee, tea, internet access, a printer, telephones, and an interview area. On-site registration will also be available.

Location: Kentucky International Convention Center, room TBD

Press Room hours:

  • Sunday, 11 August: 1:00 pm-5:00 pm
  • Monday, 12 August –
    Thursday, 15 August: 7:30 am-5:30 pm
  • Friday, 16 August: 7:30 am-Noon



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

Ecological Society of America announces 2019 Fellows

April 4, 2019
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211,


The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is pleased to announce its 2019 Fellows. The Society’s fellowship program recognizes the many ways in which its members contribute to ecological research and discovery, communication, education and pedagogy, and management and policy.

Fellows are members who have made outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by ESA, including, but not restricted to, those that advance or apply ecological knowledge in academics, government, non-profit organizations, and the broader society. They are elected for life.

Early Career Fellows are members within eight years of completing their doctoral training (or other terminal degree) who have advanced ecological knowledge and applications and show promise of continuing to make outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by ESA. They are elected for five years.

ESA established its fellows program in 2012 with the goal of honoring its members and supporting their competitiveness and advancement to leadership positions in the Society, at their institutions, and in broader society. Past ESA Fellows and Early Career Fellows are listed on the ESA Fellows page.


Fellows elected in 2019 in recognition of their contributions to the science of ecology:

Peter B. Adler, Professor, Utah State University, Department of Wildland Resources

Elected for providing critical insight into climate change impacts on biodiversity through the application of sophisticated statistical analyses to extensive datasets, and, more broadly, for leadership in generating and preserving the spatially and temporally extensive data needed to observe and forecast anthropogenic impacts.



Steven R. Beissinger, Professor, UC Berkeley, Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management, and Museum of Vertebrate Zoology

Elected for innovative research that quantifies the effects of a century of contemporary climate and land-use change on birds and mammals; that integrates field studies, analytical methods, and models for managing threatened species; and that advances understanding of the ecology and behavior of birds.



Ottar N. Bjørnstad, Distinguished Professor, Pennsylvania State University, Department of Entomology and Biology

Elected for advancing the way time-series methods are applied to long-term population dynamic data for small mammals, insects, and fisheries and for developing new ways of analyzing and understanding data for influenza and measles – the two most important directly transmitted viral diseases of humans.



Gordon B. Bonan, Senior Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Department of Climate and Global Dynamics

Elected for research linking terrestrial ecology with atmospheric science and enabling pioneering contributions to the quantitative understanding of how ecological processes operating at small scales can collectively influence Earth’s climate.



Elizabeth T. Borer, Professor, University of Minnesota, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior

Elected for transforming how ecologists do science through her leadership of the global plant Nutrient Network, and for advancing understanding of how global changes impact the composition, diversity, and function of ecosystems, and the disease dynamics and microbiomes of interacting species.



John F. Bruno, Professor, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Department of Biology

Elected for excellent research in the fields of ecology, evolutionary biology, conservation biology, climate change, and marine science, including experimental field and synthetic work that has advanced and even overturned major theory and sparked important debates in conservation biology.



Ingrid C. Burke, Dean, Yale University, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

Elected for advancing fundamental understanding of ecosystem processes, particularly carbon and nitrogen cycling in semi-arid rangeland and grassland ecosystems, and applying those biogeochemical principles to rangeland ecosystem management.



Daniel F. Doak, Professor, University of Colorado Boulder, Environmental Studies Program

Elected for fundamental contributions to population ecology and conservation biology, particularly through the use of quantitative methods in population projection and matrix modeling, and for his long-term commitment to mentoring graduate students and other young professionals.



Tadashi Fukami, Professor, Stanford University, Department of Biology

Elected for contributions to advancing community, ecosystem, and evolutionary ecology through a novel focus on historical contingency in community assembly, and to promoting inquiry-based education in ecology.



John Harte, Professor, UC Berkeley, The Energy and Resources Group/ESPM

Elected for foundational leadership on early work on climate change and education of the ecological crisis to come, for pioneering work on feedbacks and synergies among global change drivers, and for development of the maximum entropy theory of ecology.



Bruce A. Hungate, Regent’s Professor of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Center for Ecosystem Science and Society

Elected for advancing understanding of how soil nutrients regulate terrestrial ecosystem feedbacks to climate change and for developing new tools that fuse the molecular revolution in microbial ecology with quantitative ecological insights using stable isotopes, metabolic flux analysis, and ecological theory.



Felicia Keesing, Professor, Bard College, Department of Biology

Elected for pioneering research in the ecology of infectious diseases and community ecology of African savannas, and pedagogical research that she has integrated into a vision and practice of college science teaching for enhancing scientific literacy.



Jonathan M. Levine, Professor, Princeton University, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Elected for research that fundamentally advances understanding of biological invasions and species coexistence, often by deploying creative, highly controlled experimental units across landscape-scale environmental gradients in natural communities and integrating field data with theoretical models.



David Lindenmayer, Professor, Australian National University, Fenner School of Environment and Society

Elected for outstanding conceptual and long-term empirical research on interacting drivers of landscape transformation in forests, plantations, and agricultural environments, and seminal contributions to understanding how pre-existing landscape conditions interact with land use change to shape temporal and spatial patterns of biodiversity occurrence and ecosystem conditions.



Thomas E. Lovejoy, Professor, George Mason University, Environmental Science and Policy

Elected for research showing how effects of Amazon deforestation led to loss of species over time, and for leadership as the spokesperson and educator for ecological concepts dealing with sustainable tropical forestry and biodiversity.



Brian J. McGill, Professor, University of Maine, Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions & School of Biology and Ecology

Elected for important contributions to the fields of macroecology, population and community ecology, spatial ecology, and global change, and for exceptional service to the discipline via editorial work and the Dynamic Ecology blog.



Rosamond L. Naylor, Professor, Stanford University, Department of Earth System Science

Elected for designing ecologically and economically sound practices that protect native species and enhance global food security in marine and terrestrial ecosystems.



Diane E. Pataki, Professor, University of Utah, School of Biological Sciences

Elected for advancing new approaches to understanding the interactions between humans and ecosystems in urban systems.



Catherine M. Pringle, Distinguished Research Professor, University of Georgia, Odum School of Ecology
Elected for contributions to understanding stream ecosystems through the perspective of leading long term research from tropical to temperate systems and sustained mentoring to generations of students in aquatic conservation ecology.



Matthias C. Rillig, Professor, Freie Universität Berlin, Institute of Biology

Elected for outstanding contributions in plant-soil-microbial ecology, seminal discoveries in ecosystem processes, fostering a scientific culture of international collaboration, and providing a supportive environment for early-career researchers.



Pamela Templer, Professor, Boston University, School of Biology

Elected for advancing understanding of the effects of climate change on biogeochemical cycles in forests, the patterns and mechanisms of nitrogen retention and loss in temperate and tropical forest ecosystems, and the effects of urbanization on air and water pollution, nutrient cycling, and carbon sequestration.



Scott R. Saleska, Professor, University of Arizona, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Elected for seminal contributions to global ecology and earth science including pioneering novel methodologies that have revolutionized understanding of the drivers of productivity and forest dynamics in the Amazon and of microbial dynamics in thawing permafrost systems, and for contributions to international educational infrastructure and national environmental policy.



John (Jack) W. Williams, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Geography

Elected for fundamentally important contributions in paleoecology, biogeography, and climate change ecology, notably no-analog climates and ecosystems, the role of megaherbivores in regulating late-glacial vegetation, and creative applications of paleoecoinformatics, and for his generosity and impact in mentoring and collaboration.



Jianguo Wu, Dean’s Distinguished Professor, Arizona State University, School of Life Sciences and School of Sustainability

Elected for outstanding contributions to landscape ecology, urban ecology, and sustainability science, particularly in the areas of hierarchical patch dynamics, spatial scaling, habitat fragmentation and biodiversity, ecological impacts of urbanization, and landscape sustainability.



Early Career Fellows (2019 – 2023) elected for advancing the science of ecology and showing promise for continuing contributions: 

James C. Beasley, Associate Professor, University of Georgia, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources

Elected for outstanding contributions internationally in applied ecology through his research in invasive species ecology, carnivore ecology, scavenging ecology, and wildlife population ecology in landscapes abandoned following nuclear accidents.



David J. Civitello, Assistant Professor, Emory University, Department of Biology

Elected for advancing understanding of infectious disease dynamics in a changing world through his work integrating mathematical modeling, field studies, and laboratory experiments on how biodiversity, resource, and competition gradients affect disease risk.



Gregory R. Goldsmith, Assistant Professor, Chapman University, Schmid College of Science and Technology

Elected for outstanding contributions to research in the plant physiological ecology of tropical forests and for innovative contributions to engaging diverse audiences through both formal and informal education.



Elise S. Gornish, Cooperative Extension Specialist, University of Arizona, School of Natural Resources and the Environment

Elected for her exceptional leadership in advancing impactful, stakeholder-driven research in the field of ecological restoration; outstanding contributions to outreach, science communication, and education; and dedication to translational science partnerships to enhance management and policy decision-making.



Erin Mordecai, Assistant Professor, Stanford University, Department of Biology

Elected for advancing understanding of infectious disease dynamics in a changing world through her work on how pathogens maintain species diversity in natural communities and how climate and land use change affect the dynamics of vector-borne disease in humans.



Malin L. Pinsky, Associate Professor, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources

Elected for advancing fundamental understanding of the ecological and evolutionary consequences of global change for marine populations and communities, and for facilitating the use of this knowledge in conservation and public policy.



Ashley Shade, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, & Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences

Elected for advancing understanding of the consequences of microbial diversity for resilience, how the interactions among microbes impact resilience, and how microbiomes can be leveraged to support plant stress tolerance and ecosystem stability.



Abigail L. S. Swann, Associate Professor, University of Washington, Department of Atmospheric Sciences and Department of Biology

Elected for advancing understanding of linkages between vegetation change and the atmosphere via “ecoclimate teleconnections,” including understanding of the climate impacts of plant distributions and plant functioning, and of the processes responsible for plant-climate interactions.



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

ESA Tipsheet for April 1, 2019

Upcoming research in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

Monday, 1 Apr 2019
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211,


Get a sneak peek into these new scientific papers, publishing April 1, 2019 in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

  • Artificial lights from cities cause disruption among nocturnally migrating birds (Chicago, Houston, and Dallas are the worst)
  • How your age can predict your attitude toward nature
  • Building a global research network to track wildlife in cities
  • Using new tech to keep a finger on Earth’s pulse
  • Thinking outside the box when cities are the last chance for saving species


Artificial lights from cities cause disruption among nocturnally migrating birds (Chicago, Houston, and Dallas are the worst)

The radiance of major urban center artificial light at night is measured by satellite. Photo courtesy of Kyle G. Horton.

Researchers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the University of Oxford’s Edward Grey Institute have collected over two decades of data from satellites and weather radars to pinpoint the areas where artificial light affects the highest number of nocturnally migrating birds, and at what times of year the most birds are affected. They found that birds migrating through Chicago, Houston, and Dallas faced the highest levels of exposure, and that levels of exposure in these areas were as much as 20 times higher than in the 122 other major cities they studied. 

Author Contact: Kyle Horton (



Reconnecting older teenagers with nature before and as they enter adulthood could be critical. Photo courtesy of E Bentall/

How your age predicts your attitude toward nature

Conservation organizations often encourage people to spend time outdoors as a means of motivating pro-environmental behavior. However, humans’ sense of connection to nature depends on many social and psychological factors, and may also fluctuate with age, providing useful patterns to consider when designing audience-specific conservation strategies. A team of researchers from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the University of Essex surveyed nearly 400 people to identify age- and demographic-related patterns in humans’ connection to nature and found that connection was much lower in teenagers than in children under 12 and that males consistently showed lower levels of nature connection than females, with the exception of those in their late 20s.

Author Contact: Joelene Hughes (



Building a global network to track squirrels and foxes in cities

A coyote (Canis latrans) in a cemetery in Chicago, Illinois. Photo courtesy of Seth B. Magle.

Researchers from Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and a number of universities across the US have developed a network of research groups that collect and share data about biodiversity in cities. In a new Frontiers paper, the authors show how the Urban Wildlife Information Network (UWIN)’s  protocols, which were first implemented in Chicago, can be adapted for use in virtually any city and for any type of wildlife, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. UWIN partners also collaborate with science educators and crowdsourcing research platforms such as Zooniverse to engage communities in local environmental research.

Author Contact: Seth Magle (



In this remote-sensing image, colors indicate distance from scanner and saturation indicates laser reflectivity. Photo courtesy of M Palace/CC BY 4.0

Using new tech to keep a finger on Earth’s pulse

Remote-sensing measurements offer a way for ecologists to obtain large volumes of data that show how ecosystems are changing; furthermore, collecting these measurements is more cost-effective than many types of on-the-ground field experiments. A new review in Frontiers examines the advantages of five high-tech approaches: spectroscopy, thermal and fluorescence imaging, terrestrial laser scanning, digital repeat photography, and unmanned aerial systems. For example, infrared cameras can generate round-the-clock heat maps of plants to show how they are responding to changes in the environment in near real time, and drones’ flight paths can be pre-programmed to collect data from the same places multiple times. The authors explain how such approaches can be used alone or in combination to carry out accurate and far-reaching planetary-scale global-change experiments.

Author Contact: Alexey Shiklomanov (


Thinking outside the box w
hen cities are the last chance for saving species

Urban-restricted species rely on a variety of land-use types such as golf courses, railway verges, and roadsides. Art courtesy of E Pirtle.

Many endangered species persist only in urban areas, so efforts to save them depend entirely on conservation strategies in cities. Ecologists from the University of Melbourne identified 39 threatened Australian species that are restricted to urban areas (including the Western swamp tortoise, several orchid species, trees, and a snail species) and discussed the strategies that have been used to protect them. They recommend that urban conservationists prioritize small, unconventional urban areas not typically used for conservation, keep careful watch on development activities, be willing to maintain secrecy regarding the location of threatened species, and engage human communities in stewardship and conservation activities.    

Author Contact: Kylie Soanes (







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


Woolly Stars Need Catastrophes to Live

In the Santa Ana River floodplain, an endangered plant needs the effects of intense flooding to grow and survive in loose soil


March 19, 2019
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211,


The endangered Santa Ana Woolly Star depends on catastrophic floods to create its preferred habitat of loose soil. Thanks to a huge dam, natural floods are now nonexistent in its home turf. Photo courtesy of Darren Sandquist.

A small, crunchy, spiny plant redefines toughness as it thrives on catastrophic flooding. The endangered Santa Ana Woolly Star does not just prosper with floods, though; it depends on them. Thanks to a huge dam, natural floods are now nonexistent in its home turf.

In a study published in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecosphere, researchers use different soil treatments mimicking flood effects in the woolly star’s preferred habitat, exploring the effectiveness of each to help the plant survive in the face of urban development.

The woolly star (Eriastrum densifolium) is a perennial plant that grows on loose and unstable clay, silt, sand, and gravel left by infrequent, large floods in the Santa Ana River floodplain of southern California. It was classified as an endangered species in 1987 under the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 due to flood control measures that reduce its habitat. With the construction of the Seven Oaks Dam in 2000 – the tenth largest earthen dam in the world – the occasional flooding, scouring, and deposition of new soil needed to create the woolly star’s favored habitat does not occur at all.

Without targeted reestablishment of flows and flood pulses, or treatments that artificially mimic catastrophic flooding, woolly star populations are unlikely to exist for long in the floodplain.

In the newly published paper, Rebecca R. Hernandez of the University of California, Davis, and Darren R. Sandquist from California State University, Fullerton, examine the effectiveness of different soil treatments on native plant recovery. The methods mimic one or more physical disturbances occurring after a natural flooding event: the researchers cleared all plant cover, scoured the top soil layer, and added sand to imitate deposits that occur after flooding. They established an experimental site in 1999, using treatments on plots of land and surveying for plant cover, abundance, maturity, and diversity at varying intervals after treatments were given.

Researchers use soil treatments that mimic one or more physical disturbances occurring after a natural flooding event, such as scouring away topsoil. Photo courtesy of Ken Corey/USFWS.

“The surveys reported here are the first to examine recovery of alluvial sage scrub native plant populations – in particular the federally endangered Santa Ana River woolly star – for more than two years after various soil [treatments],” the paper states.

Hernandez hypothesizes that soil treatments mimicking catastrophic floods will help reestablish woolly star plants, while taking no action will favor invasive grasses and other exotic plant species. Without intense flood pulses, the soil becomes more stable and supportive of these competing plants. The grass then further stabilizes the soil, creating an inhospitable area for the woolly stars that prefer loose dirt, and the grasses and other invasive plants out compete them for territory.

The treatment that simulated vegetation and soil being scoured away by rushing floodwaters resulted in the highest rate of woolly star survival. The plots treated with this method also had the least amount of competing grasses. As predicted, if plots are not treated in any way, there is very low year-to-year survival of woolly star, covering only 1.2 percent of the ground. The other treatments show responses ranging between these extremes, with treatments simulating sediment deposition from flooding in second place. Scouring or burying the existing soil surface is the most important driver for reestablishment of the woolly star.

As of 2011, over one million dams have been constructed worldwide, degrading, damaging, and destroying downstream habitats. Recovery methods like these soil treatments help sustain populations of native plant species in one such habitat, whose numbers are on the decline since installation of the Seven Oaks dam. Hopefully, these efforts in the Santa Ana River floodplain will lead to a self-sustaining ecosystem with high biodiversity and become a model for managing similarly-challenged ecosystems elsewhere.




Hernandez, Rebecca R., Sandquist, D.R. 2019. “A dam in the drylands: Soil geomorphic treatments facilitate recruitment of the endangered Santa Ana River woolly star.” Ecosphere. DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.2621.



Rebecca R. Hernandez; Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources, University of California; John Muir Institute of the Environment, University of California, Davis

Darren R. Sandquist; Department of Biological Science, California State University, Fullerton


Author Contact:

Rebecca Hernandez                 



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 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at

Conservation Model Benefits Both Ecological and Economic Needs of Great Salt Lake

By Notre Dame

In the United States, the Great Salt Lake in Utah is home to a multimillion dollar brine shrimp industry, which collects and sells the brine shrimp cysts, or eggs, as a food source for prawn farming around the world. However, the GSL and brine shrimp are also a key resource for waterbirds during migration and nesting. To balance the needs of the animals and the industry that rely on brine shrimp cysts, a University of Notre Dame researcher and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) completed a study over 20 years to evaluate and improve management of the GSL.

In the 1990s, concerns emerged about how the harvesting of brine shrimp cysts was affecting the needs of waterbirds that annually utilize the GSL. In 1992, the State of Utah began requiring harvesters to purchase a license to better monitor the industry. Then, just four years later, a formal harvest management system was finally put into place after an emergency closure of the cyst harvest season, which was necessary to protect the lake’s ecological system.

“I began studying the GSL in 1994 with the UDWR before any harvesting limitations had been set,” said Gary Belovsky, Gillen Director of the University of Notre Dame Environmental Research Center and professor of biological sciences. “Due to our timing and expertise, our research team had a unique opportunity to develop a management strategy, see it eventually implemented through policy, and realize the benefits of adaptive management to conservation and industry in real-time.”

Read more here:

Rethinking old-growth forests using lichens as an indicator of conservation value

By Canadian Museum of Nature

Ottawa, Mar. 5, 2019 – Two Canadian biologists, including Dr. Troy McMullin of the Canadian Museum of Nature, are proposing a better way to assess the conservation value of old-growth forests in North America—using lichens, sensitive  bioindicators of environmental change.

McMullin and Dr. Yolanda Wiersma, landscape ecologist at Memorial University of Newfoundland, propose their lichen-focussed system in a paper published online today in the Ecological Society of America journal, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

“We are presenting a paradigm shift for the way we assess forests and manage them,” says McMullin, a lichenologist and research scientist at the museum. “How do we select the forests with highest conservation value? How do we decide what to protect and what to cut? Lichens are part of the answer.”

Old-growth forests, especially those in North America, are perceived to be rich in biodiversity, in addition to capturing aesthetic and spiritual values. These forests are usually defined by the age of the trees, with conservation and management practices developed accordingly. McMullin and Wiersma say this is an over-simplification, as it overlooks the importance of biodiversity in those habitats.

Read more here:

UW Research Provides Insight on Survivability of Rare Wyoming Plant

By University of Wyoming

A rare plant found only at two sites in central Wyoming has persisted, in part, because it can recover from relatively low densities and grows at different rates within each location, according to new research led by a University of Wyoming scientist.

The desert yellowhead, which grows on fewer than 55 acres in the Beaver Rim area of Fremont County, has been listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act since 2002. The new research, published by lead author Reilly Dibner, a postdoctoral researcher formerly at UW’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, provides insights into how the plant has managed to survive in small, stable numbers. But the scientists say its long-term future is difficult to predict because of increasingly variable rainfall patterns and warming.

The research paper appears today in Ecological Monographs, a scientific journal of the Ecological Society of America. Other authors are from the University of Colorado-Boulder and Duke University.

Read more here:

Alien species are primary cause of recent global extinctions

By University College London

Alien species are the main driver of recent extinctions in both animals and plants, according to a new study by UCL researchers.

They found that since 1500, alien species have been solely responsible for 126 extinctions, 13% of the total number studied.

Of 953 global extinctions, 300 happened in some part because of alien species, and of those 300, 42% had alien species alone listed as the cause of their demise.

The study, published today in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, used data from the 2017 IUCN Red List on the total numbers of species that are considered to have gone extinct globally since 1500.

Read more here: