Using tree-fall patterns to calculate tornado wind speed

103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America: 
Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being
5–10 August 2018


June 22, 2018
For Immediate Release

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

Tornadoes, hurricanes, and other extreme windstorm events cause millions of dollars in structural damage and related losses each year. They can also significantly damage ecosystems systems, driving efforts to study resilience in the face of these events. For any resilience study involving severe wind storms, an accurate estimate of wind speed is an essential. The initial damage inflicted on trees (or any ecosystem) changes for different wind speeds. These are difficult to ascertain, both in-situ or by radar measurements, during a severe windstorm event. A promising method using tree-fall patterns (i.e., the falling direction of trees) has been developed to estimate these speeds.

Tornado wind speed can be estimated by simulating a tornado using the Rankine Vortex model. The trees are assumed to fall if the wind speed generated by the tornado is greater than the critical wind speed of tree-fall, which creates distinctive tree-fall pattern. The critical wind speed of the tree-fall correlates with the thickness and height of the trees. Researchers ultimately try to simulate a pattern that closely matches the real life tornado tree-fall pattern.

Daniel M. Rhee, a PhD student at University of Illinois specializing in Structures in Civil Engineering, focuses his research on modeling tornadoes and near-surface wind speeds using tree-fall and damage patterns. With this method, Rhee and his research advisor, Franklin T. Lombardo, estimated the near-surface wind speeds of an actual tornado event in Naplate, IL. Rhee will present this research at the Ecological Society of America’s 2018 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA.

Lombardo (left) and Rhee (right) investigating trees and residential debris after a tornado tore through central Illinois in February 2017. Photo credit: Justin Nevill.

Tornadoes are rated by their intensity and the damage they cause to vegetation and structures. The Enhanced Fujita scale (EF-Scale) is a tornado scale that was originally introduced in 1971 (and later updated) by Tetsuya Fujita and Allen Pearson. Fujita researched windstorm destruction and also used tree-fall patterns to estimate near-surface wind speeds.

In the Naplate event, a number of fallen and standing trees were sampled and their thickness and height were documented. Rhee then estimated a maximum wind speed corresponding to an EF-2 tornado (113-157 mph). The result was compared to wind speed estimated from residential houses and other damaged infrastructure such as street signs. He also applied other methods such as estimating EF rating based on the tree-fallen percentage for comparison. An EF-2 tornado inflicts “major damage” including blowing roofs off homes, damaging small structures, and snapping or uprooting large trees.

Scientists from the Wind Engineering Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois in Ottowa, Illinois, 2017. Photo credit: Justin Nevill.

Rhee has an MS and BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois. Rhee has also applied this tree-fall method to crops damaged in both residential and agricultural areas struck by tornadoes.

Rhee’s talk is part of a session on the Ecological Impacts of Tornados on Eastern Deciduous Forest: Short- and Long-Term Case Studies from the Eastern United States. This session consists of 10 presentations, including the selections below:

OOS 12-1 – Identification and characterization of wind storm events using tree-fall patterns

  • Tuesday, August 7, 2018: 1:30 PM
  • 343, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
  • Daniel Rhee, University of Illinois
  • Presentation abstract


2018 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana

Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being

5–10 August 2018


Ecologists from 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories, and countries around the world will converge on New Orleans, Louisiana this August for the 103nd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Up to 4,000 attendees are expected to gather for thousands of scientific presentations on breaking research and new ecological concepts at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on August 5 – 10, 2018.

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






The Ecological Society of America (ESA), 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 the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at

ESA announces the recipients of the 2017 Student Awards

Awards recognize students for exceptional research and outstanding presentations at the 2017 Annual Meeting

June 19, 2018
For Immediate Release

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

The Ecological Society of America recognizes Michael T. Kohl, Benjamin J. Wilson, and Emily E. Ernst for awards for outstanding student research. The Murray F. Buell and E. Lucy Braun awards are given for exceptional presentations at the 102nd Annual Meeting of the Society in Portland, Oregon in August 2017. The Forest Shreve Research Fund award supports graduate or undergraduate student ecological research in the hot deserts of North America. 


2017 Buell Award winner Michel T. Kohl. Photo courtesy of Kohl.

Murray F. Buell Award: Michel T. Kohl

Murray F. Buell had a long and distinguished record of service and accomplishment in the Ecological Society of America. Among other things, he ascribed great importance to the participation of students in meetings and to excellence in the presentation of papers. To honor his selfless dedication to the younger generation of ecologists, the Murray F. Buell Award for Excellence in Ecology is given to a student for the outstanding oral paper presented at the ESA Annual Meeting.

Award panel members honored Michel T. Kohl with the 2017 Murray F. Buell award. Kohl is now a postdoctoral fellow in the Jack H. Berryman Institute at Utah State University after receiving his PhD this past year. His oral paper investigated whether elk in Yellowstone National park selected their habitat based on the activity schedules and space use of their predators, cougars and wolves. He found that elk frequented open areas at night when wolves were not as active, but selected forested areas in the day when cougars were not as active. Together, this allowed elk to avoid both predators simultaneously while still providing access to high quality forage. Judges were impressed my Michel’s thorough background information, his compelling analyses, and great answers to post-presentation questions.

2017 Buell Honorable Mention Hayley R. Tumas. Photo courtesy of Tumas.

A Buell award honorable mention is awarded to Hayley R. Tumas, who received her PhD last month at the University of Georgia. Tumas used microsatellite markers to investigate genetic diversity and population connectivity in Juncus roemerianus, a dominant foundational plant species in Gulf coast salt marshes. Her results could inform coastal restoration and management to conserve natural levels of diversity in Juncus populations. Judges enjoyed her clear and engaging style, her careful pacing, and her thorough knowledge of the study ecosystem.


Lucy Braun Award: Benjamin J. Wilson

2017 Braun Award winner Benjamin J. Wilson in the wetland field. Photo courtesy of Wilson.

Lucy Braun, an eminent plant ecologist and one of the charter members of the Society, studied and mapped the deciduous forest regions of eastern North America and described them in her classic book, The Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America. To honor her, the E. Lucy Braun Award for Excellence in Ecology is given to a student for the outstanding poster presentation at the ESA Annual Meeting. Papers and posters are judged on the significance of ideas, creativity, quality of methodology, validity of conclusions drawn from results, and clarity of presentation.

The 2017 E. Lucy Braun award was won by Benjamin J. Wilson, a postdoctoral researcher at Florida International University, who recently defended his dissertation entitled, “Drivers and Mechanisms of Peat Collapse in Coastal Wetlands.” Wilson’s poster presented research findings centered around exploring if the negative impacts of saltwater intrusion in the Everglades could be offset by the increase in phosphorus load that accompanies such events. He found that gross and net ecosystem productivity both increased with saltwater influx, possibly due to the associated increases in phosphorus. However, salt negatively impacted root growth and led to an overall decrease in elevation. Judges were impressed by Benjamin’s clear explanations, great visualizations, and careful execution of his experiments.


2017 Forest Shreve Research Award winner Emily E. Ernst. Photo courtesy of Ernst.

Forest Shreve Research Award: Emily E. Ernst

Dr. Shreve was an internationally known American botanist devoted to the study of the distribution of vegetation as determined by soil and climate conditions, with a focus on desert vegetation. The Forest Shreve award supplies $1,000-2,000 to support ecological research by graduate or undergraduate student members of ESA in the hot deserts of North America (Sonora, Mohave, Chihuahua, and Vizcaino). 

ESA awards Emily E. Ernst with the Forest Shreve Research award. Ernst is a PhD candidate studying Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Iowa State University working under the mentorship of Dr. Kirk Moloney. She is studying two problematic exotic grasses of the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, Schismus arabicus and Bromus rubens, and how the microhabitats beneath creosote bush may affect the distributions of these invaders. She is also investigating how their invasion may affect the pathways for potential desert fires to spread. She will use her award to better characterize microhabitat soil nutrient and water availability. 


2018 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana
5–10 August 2018

Ecologists from 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories, and countries around the world will converge on New Orleans, Louisiana this August for the 103nd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Up to 4,000 attendees are expected to gather for thousands of scientific presentations on breaking research and new ecological concepts at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on August 5th through 10th, 2018.

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






The Ecological Society of America (ESA), 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

103rd Annual Meeting: Preview and Highlights

Extreme Events, Ecosystem Resilience and Human Well-being

June 12, 2018
For Immediate Release

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

Extreme events – such as heat waves, droughts, floods, fires and storms – are made worse by human activities. For example, past civilizations, such as the Maya and Mesopotamians, apparently exacerbated the droughts that caused their demise through deforestation and agricultural practices similar to our own. These events challenge populations, communities, and ecosystems, as well as our human health and living conditions. The ability of ecosystems to respond depends on how resilient they are, a characteristic also undermined by land-use practices that increase effects of extreme conditions. Clearly, the sustainability of ecosystem services – the benefits that people derive from nature and natural capital – and human well-being depends on ecosystem resilience to extreme events. The following selected sessions and events at the Annual Meeting delve into this year’s meeting theme.


Organized Oral Sessions

Pastoralism in the 21st Century: Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Adaptations (OOS 4)

Monday, August 6: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM; Room 344

Pastoralism (the practice of raising of livestock) occupies 30% of Earth’s land area and contributes to the livelihoods of 2 billion people. Pastoral systems typically exist on lands characterized by scarce and varying resources– conditions that are likely to be intensified by warmer temperatures and altered precipitation associated with climate change. The session will discuss climate change as the ‘breaking point’ for the pastoral lifestyle, fundamental plant resource responses to climate change, strategies that are being employed to adapt to climate change, and how previous pastoral activities have impacted current and future sustainability.


Ecophysiology of Drought Resilience and Recovery (OOS 16)

Wednesday, August 8: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM; Room 346-347

Drought events present opportunities to study how plants respond to and recover from climate extremes. A key to forecasting these dynamic effects on plant communities is understanding their mechanistic (physical) responses to both sustained and sudden or severe stressors. However, major uncertainties remain in how and when plants may experience reversible versus irreversible shifts in resilience. This session seeks a better understanding of drought constraints on future terrestrial ecosystems. Topics include technology and methods, drought ecophysiology, hydraulic safety, phloem transport, photosynthesis gain versus hydraulic risk, tree-ring based mortality warning signals, and plant water uptake.



Exploring Links between Cities and Surrounding Landscapes: Can Cities Enhance Regional Resilience and Biodiversity in an Era of Climate Change and Extreme Events? (SYMP 6)

Tuesday, August 7: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM; Room 350-351

The ecological and evolutionary dynamics – as well as conservation, planning, and stewardship activities – that occur in cities can influence biodiversity in the surrounding ecosystems. This discussion will address how unique conditions in cities may bolster regional resilience and facilitate recovery from extreme events. It will address five main themes: urban evolutionary dynamics and adaptation, population dynamics, landscape heterogeneity, socio-ecological linkages, and ecological design and planning. Topics include biodiversity and ecological resilience in Silicon Valley, urban green spaces, gene flow in urban infrastructure and socioeconomics, environmental stewardship practices and networks, and modeling extreme event scenarios in US and Latin Cities.


Advancing Coastal Ecological Resilience and Climate Change Adaptation (SYMP 15)

Thursday, August 9: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM; Room 350-351

Coastal areas are increasingly vulnerable to climate change impacts of storm surge flooding, erosion, and sea level rise. There is demand for new strategies for greater climate resilience and coastal process management amidst new urban development in low-lying coastal areas. Advancing the resiliency and stewardship of these areas requires critical involvement from ecologists and extensive research into design and planning. Coastal cities and towns like New Orleans, with their heavily populated, low-lying waterfront settlements, are ideal sites for exploring climate change adaptation strategies that incorporate management for wetland hydrology, deposition, and erosion and other critical functions. This symposium brings together an interdisciplinary group of coastal and wetland ecologists, land planners, and landscape architectsto discuss the strategies and challenges of land development for climate change adaptation of coastal systems.


Field Trips

How is Ecological Understanding Informing Protected Area Management in the Rapidly Subsiding Freshwater Wetland Landscape of the Mississippi Delta? (FT 5)

Sunday, August 5: 8:00 AM-4:30 PM; Lobby E, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center

Expert ecologists will provide an orientation to this New Orleans’ major river delta landscape, its geological and human management history, and the major challenges in protecting and conserving essential ecological and environmental values in these predominantly freshwater coastal wetland ecosystems. Following an introduction at the Barataria Preserve Visitor Center, the trip will visit the estuarine edge of the Preserve via swamp tour boat. Participants may be able to get out onto a floating peat marsh and (later) walk to the edge of a bald cypress swamp. After lunch at a picnic area on the natural levee ridge of the Mississippi River distributary, the trip will explore bottomland hardwood forests growing on higher elevation terrain and bald cypress swamps inhabiting natural levee backslopes. Ecologists with long-term research programs in the park will lead these trail walks. In addition to enjoying these lush wetland ecosystems and their abundant biota, the trip will visit one of the park’s elevation and hydrology dynamics monitoring stations, and will learn about other ongoing research and monitoring programs.


Green Infrastructure and Extreme Events in the New Orleans Urban Ecosystem (FT 6)

Monday, August 6: 8:35 AM-12:30 PM; Lobby E, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center

Since its founding 300 years ago, New Orleans has constantly negotiated its relationship to water through the use of pumps, canals, and levees – grey and blue infrastructure that work to move rain and floodwater out of the city’s unique topography. Since the catastrophic flooding during 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, city officials have slowly begun designing and implementing large-scale green infrastructure projects. These initiatives are intended to capture precipitation during intense rainfall, relieving pressure on the city’s aging and problem-prone municipal drainage system. Retaining water on the landscape may also decrease soil subsidence, a critical problem for a city that is largely below sea level. Further, these interventions are slated for implementation on large tracts of vacant urban land, abandoned in Katrina’s aftermath. Public health concerns over mosquitos, rodents, and invasive vegetation represent serious challenges in the design and maintenance of the projects. This fieldtrip brings ESA members to multiple urban sites where major green infrastructure projects have been implemented or are under construction. Led by local urban ecologists engaged in the design and monitoring of the projects, participants will also meet with city officials and project designers working toward an understanding of the promise and limits of green infrastructure in a city known for its water management dilemmas.


Special Sessions

Two Sides of the Coin: Conversations on Resilience between Planners, Designers, and Ecologists in Louisiana (SS 20)

Monday, August 6: 10:15 AM-11:30 AM; Room 346-347

This Louisiana-centric special session will discuss the difficult questions about how ecosystem services can be delivered at the scales of the region/watershed, the city, and the site of the state’s coasts. Researchers and policy-makers or managers can sometimes talk past one another due to the different goals, timeframes, and terminology across practice and research. This session is designed to straddle these divides and provide a space to compare and contrast experiences working on urban development projects and to discuss potential integration. Examples from coastal Louisiana will not only serve as focal points of conversation but also demonstrate the national relevance of key challenges in this area at regional, city, and site scales.


Inspire Sessions

The Role of Ecologists in Disaster Management (INS 20)

Wednesday, August 8: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM; Room 244

Ecological communities are often structured by the variability and predictability of key environmental drivers. Although disturbance regimes (extreme events that disturb the ecosystem) are key subjects for nearly every ecological sub-discipline, ecologists tend to play an indirect role in the management of natural hazards and disasters. It is unsurprising that ecological study is of secondary priority in the immediate aftermath of life-threatening disasters; yet, failure to learn from exceptional events may subject communities to greater risks from future occurrences. This session explores the current and potential roles of ecological knowledge in response to a diversity of natural disturbances (e.g., flood, fire, drought). Case studies are presented from investigators working in ecologically, geographically, and socio-politically diverse systems to create contrast in the approaches and experiences of disaster management. 


2018 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana
5–10 August 2018

Ecologists from 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories, and countries around the world will converge on New Orleans, Louisiana this August for the 103nd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Up to 4,000 attendees are expected to gather for thousands of scientific presentations on breaking research and new ecological concepts at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center  August 5th – 10th, 2018.

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


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), 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 the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at


ESA tipsheet for June 2018

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment


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

  • New eDNA method to track down sneaky stink bug pioneers before they destroy crops
  • Quantifying the cultural importance of the Great Barrier Reef
  • How to use eco-engineering to make underwater structures more fish-friendly
  • Effects of Canadian oil sands drilling on moose, wolves, lynx, and other mammals

Biologists use eDNA to find insect invaders

Brown marmorated stink bug damages fruits it has fed upon. Photo courtesy of B Blaauw, Rutgers University.

Biologists can use environmental DNA (“eDNA”) found in water samples – from the feces, shed skin, and carcasses of fish, insects, and other aquatic animals  – to detect the presence of species. Until recently, however, this method has mostly been limited to aquatic ecosystems. Now, a group of Rutgers University researchers has developed a way to obtain and analyze eDNA on land. The new method detects the bugs more effectively than other tests such as blacklights or pheromone traps. Since it enables early detection of pests – one of the main keys to eradication – this approach could revolutionize agricultural pest surveillance.

Author Contact: Rafael E Valentin (

  • Valentin RE, Fonseca DM, and Nielsen AL et al. Early detection of invasive exotic insect infestations using eDNA from crop surfaces. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 16: 265–70.

Eco-culture of Great Barrier Reef and other iconic ecosystems

The Great Barrier Reef has great cultural value to local residents as well as domestic and international tourists. In 2013 it was estimated that the GBR received 53.3 million use‐days, with 98% of all use‐days consisting of tourist visitation. Photo courtesy of ©M Curnock.

Coral reef researchers carried out a survey that establishes the cultural importance of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and show how the less tangible values of ecosystems can be incorporated into environmental decision making. One of the challenges for conservation is that the “value” of an area being managed (or affected by human disturbance) encompasses much more than just the ecosystem’s contribution to the economy. Stakeholders also value the traditions, customs, emotional well-being, and sense of identity that ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef can provide. The researchers surveyed tourists, local and indigenous residents, commercial fishers, and other stakeholder groups in Australia to determine the importance of several cultural values provided by the GBR. The authors discuss how such surveys can give environmental managers and policy makers a way to more clearly realize the non-monetary

value of ecosystems.  

Author Contact: Nadine Marshall (

  • Marshall N, Barnes ML, Birtles A, et al. Measuring what matters in the Great Barrier Reef. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 16: 271–77.

Fish-friendly architectural engineering  design for marine infrastructure

Example of marine infrastructure: fish associated with oil rigs that can serve as artificial reefs. Photo courtesy of ©

Underwater structures like marinas, breakwaters, pilings, oil rigs, and offshore wind farms may not be conducive to colonization by fish populations. The prevalence of these structures along coasts undergoing development threaten marine habitats. A group of Australian researchers has devised a way to help managers use principles of ecological engineering to design marine infrastructure that benefits both humans and nature. The authors consider how the physical characteristics like hole size and roughness of both natural and artificial reefs can be incorporated into customized human structures to provide habitat for fishes. For example, the foundations of offshore wind turbines could be specially designed to include holes or structural features that benefit fish abundance in the long term.   

Author Contact: Rebecca L Morris (

  • Morris RL, Porter AG, Figueira WF, et al. 2018. Fish-smart seawalls: a decision tool for adaptive management of marine infrastructure. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 16: 278–87.

Who are the winners and losers and in an oil sands landscape?

Camera traps revealed the relative abundance of ten boreal mammal species, including (a) black bear (Ursus americanus), (b) gray wolf (Canis lupus), (c) white‐tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and (d) moose (Alces alces). Photo courtesy of Jason Fisher, A Cole Burton.

Exploitation of the oil sands in western Canada is transforming the boreal forest landscape in unprecedented ways. Media coverage has often focused on the detrimental effects of open-pit mines, but in-situ drilling and its associated landscape disturbances, which span most of northern Alberta and parts of British Columbia and Saskatchewan, have received less attention. A new study by two Canadian researchers shows how this type of drilling influences populations of gray wolf, white-tailed deer, moose, American black bear, coyote, Canada lynx, fisher, red fox, snowshoe hare, and American red squirrel across the region. A combination of camera-trapping and landscape analysis revealed far-reaching effects on wildlife abundance and distribution. A criss-crossing grid of paths cleared for drilling exploration has opened up new thoroughfares for predators, forests cut down for development have been replaced with new vegetation, and the balance between predators and prey is shifting in the new industrial landscape.

Author Contact: Jason Fisher (

  • Fisher JT and Burton AC. Wildlife winners and losers in an oil sands landscape. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.



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

Bold lizards of all sizes have higher mating success, scientists find, in rare field study of behavior

Thursday, 24 May 2018
For Immediate Release

Contact: Alison Mize, 202-833-8773 ext. 205,


A large male yellow-spotted monitor (Varanus panoptes), also known as a goanna, curls his tail in the grass. Photo courtesy of Georgia Ward-Fear.

Boldness correlates with the mating success, but not body size or sex, of yellow-spotted monitor lizards roaming the remote Oombulgurri floodplains of tropical Western Australia, ecologists report in the Ecological Society of America’s open access journal Ecosphere. But boldness has a cost: bold individuals expose themselves to much higher risk of being eaten by predators during the dangerous wet season. The researchers demonstrated quantifiable behavioral syndromes in the large lizards, with an intriguing relationship to the lizards’ seasonal hunting strategies.

“Personality is kind of interchangeable with the term behavioral syndrome. Some scientists have a weird thing about saying “personality”; they don’t like to think animals have personalities. But they definitely do,” said lead author Georgia Ward-Fear, a researcher at the University of Sydney. Boldness, she and her coauthors found, was not conveyed by imposing stature. “There are bold females as well as bold males, and shy females as well as shy males. Some of the biggest individuals we observed were really shy.”

The yellow-spotted monitors (Varanus panoptes), affectionately known as goannas, are related to Komodo dragons and share many of their larger cousins’ behaviors. Adults can be 1.6 meters long, and some males grow larger. The lizards hunt insects, frogs, and small mammals, and scavenge whatever they can get.

A Black-headed python (Aspidites melanocephalus) with a goanna in its belly. Photo courtesy of Georgia Ward-Fear.

“This boldness syndrome was not only quantifiable, it correlated with a heap of ecological traits that we were monitoring. We we were only able to figure that out because we were radiotracking individuals to assess their home ranges and the characteristics of the habitats that they were choosing to stay in during the two distinct seasons,” Ward-Fear said. “It was based on intuition really, to start with, but we couldn’t have imagined how many correlations we would pull out based on the behavioral differences within individuals.”

Traditionally, behavioral research is conducted in the lab. Standardized measures that can be repeated easily and reliably are difficult to achieve under field conditions. Ward-Fear’s unusual field study of of goanna behavioral syndromes emerged spontaneously out of long term ecological study aimed at goanna conservervation.

Ward-Fear and her colleagues grew curious about goanna personality during field experiments designed to teach predatory lizards that poisonous, invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina) make a poor meal. The large Central and South American toads, introduced to Australia during the 1930s to control agricultural pests, have spread extremely successfully through Oceania, creating havoc in the ecosystems they infiltrate by poisoning native predators that try to eat them.

“Cane toads have caused huge impacts in all the environments that they have invaded. They are still invading across northern Australia,” Ward-Fear said. Researchers are hoping to get ahead of the invasion front, teaching native lizards to avoid the poisonous toads.

With the goal of providing a non-lethal life lesson, the researchers fed the goannas canes toads that were small enough to make them sick without killing them. True toads, like the cane toad, possess potent cardiotoxins. Because Australian has no native toads, Australian reptiles like the yellow spotted monitors have not evolved defenses against the bufotoxins in the toads’ skin and glands.

“Boldness is a really interesting part of the story, because conditioned taste aversion is a behavioral mechanism. We found that shyness is quite correlated with neophobia, fear of new things. You can imagine very shy individuals are probably less likely to eat novel prey that they meet in the field, so they may have more of a resilience to the cane toads naturally. So it was really cool to document this behavior in the context of the cane toad study,” said Ward-Fear.

Researcher and author Georgia Ward-Fear, back-lit by sunset, radiotracks individuals to assess their home ranges and the characteristics of their chosen habitats. Photo courtesy of Miles Bruny.

During the cane toad study, the team made 12 visits to Oombulgurri (15°08’34.0″S 127°52’36.0″E) over 3 years. They measured the body length, weight, and health of the goannas, took genetic samples, and fitted the goannas with radio transmitters. While tracking the animals through their complex lives, the team got to know them as individuals, with what seemed like distinct personalities, Ward Fear said. Consistently brave or shy behavior in approaching strange ecologists, unusual foods, and risky environments, did not seem to be associated with body size or sex. The ecologists were curious.

“Anyone who works with these animals knows that they are amazing. The are renowned for their intelligence, but there has been no formal study of their cognition. They do come across as intelligent lizards. They are quite sneaky, and inquisitive. They are a bit more like a mammal in that sense. They’re fun to work with,” Ward-Fear said.

To assess boldness, Ward-Fear and her colleagues designed stardard response scales for three behaviors. They assessed the goannas’ skittishness in response to the standardized approach of an ecologist.

“They’ll try to take you on if they feel too threatened, or if they’re angry, or during the mating season. They stand up on their hind legs and they inflate their throats,” Ward-Fear said, but the goannas are also curious. “They watch you from a long distance away, and they can let you get quite close to them.”

A second scale quantified response to handling. Some individuals freeze, while other struggle mightily, whipping their tails, hissing, and inflating their throats in warning. A third scale indicated how the goannas reacted to cane toads, a frog-like potential prey that they had never seen before. Some goannas will go for the strange food immediately, others investigated warily, or would not try cane toads at all. The researchers combined the scores into a single measure of boldness.

Bolder individuals had larger home ranges and higher mating success, but a higher rate of death. Ward-Fear says the patterns of habitat use by bolder goanna suprized her the most.

“The coolest thing was the space use, habitat use that we saw,” she said.

When annual monsoons flood the Oombulgurri, the plains burst to life along the rivers. The verdant river edges are prized goanna hunting areas, rich in food, but the thick plant life also hides dangerous predators. During the wet season, large pythons descend from the steep, rocky escarpment at the edge of the plain to patrol the river edges. The pythons, like dingos, raptors, and humans, are big enough to make a meal of yellow-spotted monitors. The food-rich wet season is also the season of highest risk for goannas.

Shy goannas abandon the high-risk riparian zone during the wet season, Ward-Fear discovered. Bold individuals stay close, managing risk by avoiding dense vegetation where snakes lurk. As a consequence, many bold goannas are eaten during the wet season. Shyer lizards stick to sparser plant cover at all times of year. During the dry season, when need for water draws shy goannas back to the rivers, shy individuals experience their highest rate of predation. The different personality types appear to persue complementary life strategies.

Ward-Fear does not yet know if the behavioral syndromes are inherited. She plans to investigate goanna aggression and adventurousness in future field work at Oombulgurri.

Journal Article:

Ward-Fear, G., G. P. Brown, D. J. Pearson, A. West, L. A. Rollins, and R. Shine. (2018) The ecological and life history correlates of boldness in free-ranging lizards. Ecosphere 9(3):e02125. 10.1002/ecs2.2125 Open Access


Author Contact:

Georgia Ward-Fear



Georgia Ward-Fear              School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia

Gregory P. Brown            School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia

David J. Pearson               Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Woodvale, Western Australia 6026, Australia

Andrea West                     School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Waurn Ponds, Victoria 3216, Australia

Lee A. Rollins                     School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Waurn Ponds, Victoria 3216, Australia; School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Kensington, New South Wales 2052, Australia

Richard Shine                     School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia


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 voices concern about proposed changes to EPA’s use of scientific data

Wednesday April 25, 2018
For Immediate Release

Contact: Alison Mize, 202-833-8773 ext. 205,

The Ecological Society of America is concerned with reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a rule that would require all data from scientific studies be made public and be reproducible.

Over the past 50 years the EPA has worked to protect public health and welfare by enforcing the Clean Air Act, and by 2020, it will have prevented 230,000 early deaths. The EPA also enforces the Clean Water Act, authorized in the 1970s to keep pollution out of our water. Many EPA scientific studies, such as those that determine regulations for air and water quality, require that individuals’ data collected remain confidential to safeguard their privacy. The proposed change would jeopardize the ability of the EPA to use the best available science to make decisions affecting the air we breathe and the water we drink.

With respect to reproducibility of research, it is often impossible to repeat an experiment down to the last detail. Some scientific research is collected from real-time data such as the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill and not reproducible. Other scientific studies involve longitudinal studies that are so large and of great duration that they could not realistically be repeated. It is unclear if data from studies like these would be permitted under the proposed rule. As a result, the EPA would be prevented from using the best available science and disseminating public information in a timely fashion.

“Regulations and agency actions need to be informed by the best available science and a rigorous scientific process. Undermining the ability of federal agencies to utilize scientific studies in establishing policies would have long-term negative consequences for public health and the environment,” said ESA President Richard Pouyat.

ESA intends to submit comments in the Federal Register about the proposed rule. The Society stands ready to work with the EPA and other members of the scientific community to evaluate the unintended consequences of this proposed rule.

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

Lizards, mice, bats and other vertebrates are important pollinators too

Study reviews the global importance of vertebrate pollinators for plant reproduction

Wednesday, 4 April 2018
For Immediate Release

Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211,

Pollen dusts the nose of a Namaqua rock mouse (Aethomys namaquensis) as it samples nectar from a pagoda lily (Whiteheadia biflia) on the Sevilla Rock Art Trail in South Africa. The rock mice visit lilies in the night, sipping from, but not eating, the flowers, and carrying pollen from flower to flower. Beyond bats, which pollinate about 528 plant species, flightless mammals like lemurs, possums, squirrels, and marsupials are also known to visit at least 85 plant species. Photo courtesy of Petra Wester.

Bees are not the only animals that carry pollen from flower to flower. Species with backbones, among them bats, birds, mice, and even lizards, also serve as pollinators. Although less familiar as flower visitors than insect pollinators, vertebrate pollinators are more likely to have co-evolved tight relationships of high value to the plants they service, supplying essential reproductive aid for which few or no other species may substitute.

In plants known to receive flower visitations from vertebrates, fruit and seed production drops 63 percent, on average, when the larger animals, but not insects, are experimentally blocked from accessing the plants, ecologists report in the March cover study for the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

A bluetail day gecko (Phelsuma cepediana) dips into the nectar of a male-phase Roussea simplex flower, picking up a crown of pollen that it will transport to another flower. The gecko provides the only means of pollination for the critically endangered R. simplex, an unusual climbing shrub that is the only living species of its family, and, like the gecko, lives only on the island of Mauritius, 900 kilometers east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. A non-native, invasive species to Mauritius, the white-footed ant Technomyrmex albipes also dines on R. simplex nectar and fruit, sometimes blocking the opening of the flower with dirt to create a safe stable for mealybugs, which the ant tends in exchange for a sugary secretion of honeydew. The aggressively competitive ants chase off the geckos, resulting in greatly reduced seed set in ant-infested R. simplex plants. Photo courtesy of Dennis Hansen, Zoological Museum & Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich.

Fabrizia Ratto and colleagues reviewed 126 such animal exclusion experiments to get an idea of how dependent wild plants are on animals with backbones for reproduction. The researchers selected published studies that quantified pollination through the subsequent growth of fruit or seeds.

The exclusion of bat pollinators had a particularly strong effect on their plant consorts, reducing fruit production by 83 percent, on average. Bats pollinate about 528 plant species worldwide, including crops like dragon fruit, African locust beans, and durian, Southeast Asia’s “King of Fruits.” The authors speculate that chiropterophilous, or bat-pollinated, plants are unusually dependent on just a few, related species to carry their pollen.

Many bat species have coevolved intimate interdependencies with the plants that feed them in exchange for pollen transport. Among them, blue agave (Agave tequilana), the source of tequila, depends entirely on the greater (Leptonycteris nivalis) and lesser (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae) long-nosed bats. The cacti open their long, narrow flowers only at night, luring in the bats with the fragrance of rotten fruit. Both bat species are endangered or near threatened.

Face down in a flower of an organ pipe cactus (Stenocereus thurberi), a lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae) extends its long, specialized tongue to dip up nectar, coating its face in pollen. Bats pollinate about 528 plant species worldwide. The loss of bats has a particularly strong effect on the plants these flying mammals pollinate, reducing fruit production by 83 percent, on average. The lesser long-nosed bat subsists on nectar and pollen from agave species, and also enjoys the fruit from several cacti. Each summer, long-nosed bats make a long migration from Central America to southern New Mexico, Arizona, and Sonora, where they provide essential pollination services for the saguaro (Cereus giganteus), the tall, iconic cactus of the southwestern United States. The bat, in turn, depends on the choreographed timing of flowering and fruiting to fuel its migration. Destruction of roosts and shrinking habitat have put the lesser long-nosed bat on the Endangered Species List. Photo courtesy of C. Guzmán.

Loss of pollination by vertebrates had a higher impact in the tropics, where the study found a 71 percent decline in fruit or seed production. This higher impact may reflect the higher degree of customization for specific pollinators, the authors say. Like the agave cacti, specialized plants that rely on a small number of species of animal helpers for their reproductive success are more vulnerable to disruption.

Non-flying mammals are also pollinators, visiting at least 85 plant species worldwide. Ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata) may be the largest pollinators, known to pry open the tough flowers of the traveler’s tree (Ravenala madagascariensis)  for a nectar treat on their native island of Madagascar. The lemurs, which rely on the nectar for many of their calories, leave the flowers intact and carry pollen on their fur. Possums and squirrels also pollinate plants. Because empirical studies have only been conducted with species of mice, Ratto and colleagues’ analysis cannot give a picture of the importance of non-flying mammal species for plant reproduction.

Over 920 bird species pollinate plants, forming the largest contingent of the vertebrate pollinators and pollinating about 5 percent of plant species in most regions. The reliance of plants on birds tends to be higher on islands, where birds typically pollinate 10 percent of the local flora. Perhaps most surprisingly, some lizard species are also pollinators, especially on islands.

The distribution and health of vertebrate pollinators is well documented compared to insect species, allowing, the authors argue, for targeted conservation efforts. As pollinating bird and mammal species fall under increasing pressure from habitat conversion to agriculture needs, fire, hunting, and invasions of non-native species, their plant companions and other species that feed on fruits and seeds are also at risk.

A male ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) approaches a bee balm flower (Monarda didyma) in Lake Placid, New York. Although less familiar than insect pollinators, some species with backbones, among them birds, bats, mice, and even lizards, also carry pollen between plants as they visit flowers for a high energy snack. As vertebrate species decline worldwide under pressure from human development, the plants they serve are also impacted. Over 920 species of birds are pollinators, serving about 5 percent of the plants in most regions.
Photo courtesy of Larry Master

Journal Article:

Fabrizia Ratto et al (2018) Global importance of vertebrate pollinators for plant reproductive success: a meta-analysis. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment doi: 10.1002/fee.1763


Author Contact:

Fabrizia Ratto



Fabrizia Ratto                  University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

Benno I Simmons           University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Rebecca Spake                University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

Veronica Zamora-Gutierrez        University of Southampton, UK; Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Durango, Mexico

Michael A MacDonald   Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Sandy, UK

Jennifer C Merriman      BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK

Constance J Tremlett     University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

Guy M Poppy                   University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

KelvinS-H Peh                  University of Southampton, Southampton, UK; University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Lynn V Dicks                     University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK


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 Selects 2018 Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award Recipients

RELEASE DATE: Wednesday, 21 March 2018
Contact: Alison Mize,, (202) 833-8773 ext. 205



The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA). This award provides graduate students with the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. for policy experience and training. Ten recipients were selected for this year’s award: Aaron W. Baumgardner (California State University, Bakersfield), Stephen R. Elser (Arizona State University), Ann Marie Gawel (Iowa State University), Emily E. Graves (University of California, Davis), Chelsea L. Merriman (Boise State University), Steffanie M. Munguía (Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey), Vera W. Pfeiffer (University of Wisconsin – Madison), Johnny J. Quispe (Rutgers University), Urooj S. Raja (University of Colorado Boulder), and Jenna M. Sullivan (Oregon State University).

These students will travel to D.C. in April to learn about the legislative process and federal science funding, to hear from ecologists working in federal agencies, and to meet with their Members of Congress on Capitol Hill. This Congressional Visits Day, organized and sponsored by ESA, offers GSPA recipients the chance to interact with policymakers and discuss the importance of federal funding for science, in particular the biological and ecological sciences.

“Now more than ever, we need scientists who can meaningfully share their science with policymakers,” said Rich Pouyat, president of ESA. “The Katherine S. McCarter policy award is an exciting opportunity for the next generation of ecologists to explore science policy in our Nation’s capital. It gives them the opportunity to develop the skills that will make them effective communicators of the ecological and environmental sciences and in so doing help lawmakers to make informed, science-based decisions.”  

ESA’s policy award was renamed this year in honor of Katherine McCarter, who served as executive director of the Society for 20 years until her retirement in January of 2018.


2018 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award Recipients 


Aaron W. Baumgardner

Aaron Baumgardner is an M.S. candidate in biology at California State University, Bakersfield. Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, his current research focuses on the climate extremes of drought and their influences on vegetation health in Southern California’s chaparral shrublands. Future plans include pursuing a Ph.D. and expanding his research beyond shrublands to other plant community types. Baumgardner’s interest is in bridging ecological research with the policymaking process to help craft and shape environmental policy. He received a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Akron.


Stephen R. Elser

Stephen Elser is interested in the ecosystem services provided by green infrastructure and how local practitioners use it to strengthen cities’ resilience to extreme weather events. Elser is pursuing a Ph.D. in the environmental life sciences at Arizona State University and is a graduate fellow in the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network. For the past nine months, he has researched the ecosystem services of urban wetlands in Valdivia, Chile. Before beginning his Ph.D. studies, he worked for two years as a research technician in a stream ecology lab at Baylor University to establish the phosphorus threshold in Oklahoma’s scenic rivers to prevent undesirable algal blooms. Elser received a Bachelor of Science in environmental science and a minor in sustainability from the University of Notre Dame.


Ann Marie Gawel

Ann Marie Gawel is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Program at Iowa State University. She studies the roles of non-native species in the novel ecosystems of the island of Guam, where native seed-dispersers (birds) are functionally absent due to predation by the invasive brown tree snake. Her focus is on non-native mammals and how they shape plant communities through seed dispersal, seed predation, and herbivory. How the public perceives the management of these species is also part of her research. Gawel is of Micronesian heritage and has spent most of her life living in the Micronesian islands of Pohnpei and Guam. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago, and a master’s from the University of Guam studying the effects of non-native ungulates in limestone karst forests. While there, she founded the Green Army environmental service organization and served on the University President’s Green Initiative board. She also worked for four years as an endangered species biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Guam and Hawaii. Although an ecologist by training, Gawel is also interested in the human dimensions of conservation and environmental policy, especially in the context of culture and history in the U.S. territories.


Emily E. Graves

Emily Graves is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in ecology at the University of California (UC), Davis. Her research investigates the intersections of movement ecology and conservation physiology to understand the potential role that agricultural pesticides play in the population dynamics of bird species of conservation concern. She is currently utilizing animal tracking technology to discover how differences in tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor) foraging behavior affect colony health and reproductive success in natural and working landscapes, and how these differences are impacted by agricultural pesticides. Graves is a co-founder of Science-Informed Leadership, a graduate student-led effort to promote evidence-based governance and decision-making in the executive branch, and served as National Volunteer Coordinator during their advocacy campaign in 2017. She is currently a co-chair of the Policy Committee in the Society for Conservation Biology – Davis Chapter. Graves holds a Master of Science and Bachelor of Science degree in avian sciences from UC Davis.


Chelsea L. Merriman

Chelsea Merriman is a graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences at Boise State University. Her research focuses on using interdisciplinary methods to understand the larger impacts of landscape and chemical diversity on the reproduction of greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), as well as the impacts on sagebrush in the steppe. Utilizing geospatial, biological, and econometric tools and analyses, she hopes to tell a holistic story about the temporal and physiological trade-offs both plants and animals make to survive and reproduce in a changing environment. Merriman received her Bachelor of Science in environmental science and anthropology from the University of Notre Dame in 2014. A Boise native, she spends every waking moment that she is not working outdoors, hiking, and fishing with her friends, family, and dog Rosie.


Steffanie M. Munguía

Steffanie Munguía is completing her Master of Arts in international environmental policy at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) at Monterey. She is specifically interested in researching the ecological impacts of natural resource management decisions in the human contexts in which they are made. Before coming to MIIS, she received two Bachelor of Science degrees in integrative animal biology and environmental science and policy from the University of South Florida. While there, Munguía conducted ecological research on house sparrow invasion expansion in Africa, native amphibian populations in central Florida, grassland songbird breeding behavior in Kansas, and invasive iguanas in South Florida. She attended an ESA Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Success (SEEDS) workshop in Puerto Rico in April 2017. Munguía is committed to enhancing access to scientific research for diverse communities and believes that government support of science is necessary for resource management and continued growth, discovery, and innovation for generations to come.


Vera W. Pfeiffer

Vera Pfeiffer is a Ph.D. candidate at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Plants and pollinators hold a fascination for her and motivate her to study plant and pollinator diversity, pollinator foraging and plant-pollinator network structure, and resilience from a broader ecological network perspective. Pfeiffer has worked with Long-term Ecological Research scientists in the Oregon Cascades Mountains; landscape ecologists and geneticists at the University of Wisconsin – Madison; and math and physics faculty at the Evolution and Ecology program at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, Austria. She recently returned from Europe, where she spent a year as a visiting ecology Ph.D. student at Mendel University through a U.S. student Fulbright research fellowship. While there, she conducted a project focused on ecological boundaries, specifically bumble bee foraging practices across agricultural-urban and agricultural-forest edge landscapes. Pfeiffer is now finishing her Ph.D. and working to communicate what she has learned about the influence of landscape on our native pollinators and plant-pollinator interactions and hoping to provide a stronger, more informed context for effective and productive policy development.


Johnny J. Quispe

Johnny Quispe is a doctoral student at Rutgers University’s Department of Ecology and Evolution investigating the effects of sea-level rise to coastal wetlands and the vulnerabilities of coastal areas prone to flooding, identifying areas for restoration and flooding mitigation, and quantifying damage from future flooding. He aims to connect and reconnect communities with their shorelines while learning from locals about their coasts’ past; especially in low-income inner cities where communities might not have access to waterfronts and do not have the opportunity to interact with the surrounding waterways. Quispe plans to expand his research into disadvantaged coastal communities by working to preserve cultural identity, fostering sustainable relationships, and inspiring minorities to pursue science careers. His previous work experience encompassed conservation, restoration, and environmental remediation projects in New Jersey in the nonprofit, public, and academic sectors. Quispe earned a Bachelor of Science in international environmental policy, institutions, and behaviors at Rutgers University.


Urooj S. Raja

Urooj Raja is a doctoral student in environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where her dissertation research examines innovative media technologies with a focus on virtual reality and augmented reality mediums to devise innovative solutions to ‘wicked’ problems like climate change. Before this, she worked as a humanitarian adviser at the United Nations and did a stint at the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. Other work experience for Raja is noteworthy. She served as an instructor in Columbia University’s Community Impact initiative, the Harlem Children’s Zone and also as a staffer for a New York State Assembly member. Raja graduated from Princeton University with honors, and she is the recipient of a 2016 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the 2016 Environmental Fellowship from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment. The New York Times and The Washington Post published articles featuring Raja’s research.

Jenna M. Sullivan

Jenna Sullivan is a Ph.D. candidate in Drs. Bruce Menge and Jane Lubchenco’s marine community ecology lab in the Integrative Biology Department at Oregon State University. In her research, she utilizes the diverse, well-studied system of the Oregon coast rocky intertidal to gain insights into how human-induced changes, including ocean acidification and top predator loss, will affect individual species and their interactions. Sullivan’s research focuses on the keystone sea star (Pisaster ochraceus), and she is currently characterizing the community effects of the decline in this top predator as a result of sea star wasting disease. Following Lubchenco’s lead, she delves into the role of science in policy and management and on ways to successfully communicate with and engage diverse audiences. Sullivan received an undergraduate degree in biology from Dartmouth College.



Click here to see a Flickr album with more photos of this year’s award winners.



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

Ecological Society of America announces 2018 award recipients

ESA LogoFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, 16 March 2018
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211,



The Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present the 2018 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 New Orleans, La. The awards ceremony will take place during the Scientific Plenary on Monday, August 6, at 8 AM in the La Nouvelle Orleans Ballroom, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Learn more about ESA awards on our home website.


Eminent Ecologist Award: F. Stuart Chapin III

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

F. Stuart Chapin III, professor emeritus of ecology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, transformed our understanding of terrestrial ecosystems over his 50-year career. He has been an intellectual leader in tackling questions about how humans shape ecosystems and how human well-being depends on those ecosystems, driving projects on sustainability for communities in Alaska, and engaging these communities to seek solutions to declining livelihoods caused by climate change. He has also been an international leader in developing solutions to our many environmental challenges.

His early work linked plant physiology to nutrient limitation and allocation in plants, demonstrating how these processes affect nutrient cycling in ecosystems and shape the types of plant defenses deployed against herbivores. He synthesized diverse ideas into a working model for the feedbacks between ecosystem functioning and plant growth and defense strategies, showing how these physiological processes can drive broad ecosystem processes at both local and global scales. Through a lifetime of study in tundra ecosystems, he broke ground in research into the influence of elevated carbon dioxide on boreal ecosystems, demonstrating critical feedbacks between vegetation changes and climate dynamics. His work on the dynamics of plant succession at Glacier Bay, Alaska, is a classic of the ecological literature.

Chapin has served the scientific community as a past president of the Ecological Society of America and on many editorial boards. He directed the Bonanza Creek Long Term Ecological Research site and the Resilience and Adaptation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program, and served on advisory boards for numerous government and scientific organizations, particularly on issues of climate policy. He has been praised as strong mentor and advisor to students, friends, and colleagues throughout his career—generous with his time, ideas, and encouragement in support of great science.


MacArthur Award: Katharine N. Suding

The Robert H. MacArthur Award honors an established ecologist in mid-career for meritorious contributions to ecology, in the expectation of continued outstanding ecological research. Award winners generally are within 25 years from the completion of their PhD.

Katharine Suding, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, is a leader in community ecology. She applies empirical and theoretical approaches to address fundamental and applied problems faced by ecological communities in today’s changing world. She has impacted the field of ecology not only through her numerous publications, but also through the students and postdocs she has mentored, and through her leadership in interdisciplinary collaborations.

Suding’s work in grassland ecosystems demonstrated how species’ traits affect the persistence and abundance of species in response to environmental stressors, many of which are related to human activities such as nitrogen deposition, grazing, and changes in rainfall. Her work in alpine systems has revealed the mechanisms by which alpine communities respond to climate change, particularly the role of plant-soil feedbacks. Her research focuses on community assembly and response to environmental perturbations, and the implications for restoration and management. She has taken many leadership roles in interdisciplinary collaborations to investigate patterns and processes within and among ecosystems. She addresses both fundamental and applied problems in ecology, using empirical and theoretical approaches to understand how communities work.

Suding received her PhD from the University of Michigan in 1999. She has since mentored many graduate students and postdocs who now have successful careers in academic institutions, and in agencies and NGOs doing practical work in restoration and landscape management. She has contributed to over 120 articles and co-edited two books, and has been an active leader in the National Science Foundation’s-Long Term Ecological Research network. She has spread the curiosity that feeds her own research to students and collaborators, emphasizing the need to combine basic and applied research in our changing world.


Distinguished Service Citation: Scott L. Collins

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.

Scott Collins, distinguished professor of biology at the University of New Mexico, has brought extraordinary vision and leadership to advancing the science of ecology, to developing and communicating the need for long-term and broad-scale research infrastructure that enables advancement of ecological knowledge, to the education of young ecologists, and to the Ecological Society of America. He has long recognized the importance of scientists’ active participation in their professional communities, which is well illustrated by decades of service to the ESA and the broader scientific community.

Collins has served in nearly all possible roles within the Society, including vice president of Public Affairs and ESA president in 2013. He served on the editorial boards of two of the Society’s journals, Ecosphere and Ecology, and has chaired or has been a member of eight committees and sections. During his tenure as chair of the Publications Committee, he led two intensive editor-in-chief reviews. He cares deeply about training the next generation of ecologists and has been very active in ESA’s Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) program for undergraduates.

Scott has served the broader ecological community for more than 25 years as a faculty member, educator and mentor, and leader within the scientific community. He teaches both undergrad and graduate student classes at the University of New Mexico and actively promotes research activities for students through his leadership role in a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program and in SEEDS. While a program officer at the National Science Foundation, he was instrumental in developing and supporting many large-scale ecological initiatives, including the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), the Long Term Ecological Research program, the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), and the Integrated Research Challenges.

As a researcher, Collins helped transform the field of community ecology by identifying the mechanisms that control species diversity in grasslands. The framework he developed to explain the effects of disturbance on plant communities is a significant contribution to ecological theory.

Collins has dedicated significant amounts of time to engaging with national policy makers and federal agency personnel. In his briefings to Congress, he has emphasized the importance of long-term and broad-scale ecological research, long-term data sets, and research infrastructure needs for the biological and environmental sciences.


Eugene P. Odum Award for Excellence in Ecology Education: Diane Ebert-May

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

Diane Ebert-May is a true pioneer in ecology education. For decades, she has encouraged ecologists to develop their teaching based on the principles developed through pedagogical research that reveal the best practices to facilitate student learning of complex ideas in science. Her development program, Faculty Institutes for Reforming Science Teaching (FIRST), introduces young faculty and postdoctoral fellows to evidence-based teaching practices early in their careers, while collecting data on the effectiveness of these practices as they are implemented. This innovative faculty development program has received multiple rounds of funding from the National Science Foundation and trained hundreds of today’s ecology faculty. Many of the techniques promoted by FIRST are now routine in ecological classrooms.

Ebert-May’s substantial body of published work on teaching and assessment methods helped legitimize educational research as a valid pursuit in the discipline of ecology. She has inspired ecological educators through her publications on science pedagogy, her leadership of the Education Section of the ESA, and her energetic and passionate presentations. Ebert-May practices what she preaches, teaching with engaging, inquiry-based, active-learning techniques that inspire students to think, ask questions of the material, form hypotheses, make connections, and become scientists.


Commitment to Human Diversity in Ecology Award: Zakiya Holmes Leggett

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.

Zakiya Holmes Leggett, assistant professor of forestry and environment at North Carolina State University, has been proactive throughout her career in mentoring and recruiting students from diverse ethnic backgrounds into the field of ecology. As a vanguard for African American women in soil and forest ecology and sustainability studies, she is a notable mentor for student populations that are significantly underrepresented in the field.

Leggett participated in one of the first cohorts of ESA’s SEEDS program as a student at Tuskegee University. She has remained actively involved with SEEDS as a mentor and member of the Advisory Board, helping to grow this diversity program at ESA in the last 16 years, and is active on the Advisory Board of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Tuskegee.

She serves as NCSU’s campus director for the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars (DDCS) Program,  which trains undergraduate students that are interested in research experiences in conservation issues as well as encouraging human diversity in those fields. She has been equally as involved in helping career development programs for minority students in the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) professional society. In a short time, her ability to recruit minority students into the workforce, in non-academic research positions and for academic graduate programs, has made an impact in enhancing human diversity of ecologists throughout the United States.

During her decade as a sustainability scientist at the Weyerhaeuser Company, she involved students from diverse ethnic backgrounds in her work designing and executing multidisciplinary research studies to address environmental sustainability for a global forest products company. She continues this mentoring work as an invited speaker at schools, national conferences, and universities, sharing her passion for environmental education and stewardship.


Robert H. Whittaker Distinguished Ecologist Award: David B. Lindenmayer

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.

David Lindenmayer, Australian Research Council Laureate Professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, is a world leader in landscape-scale conservation ecology, contributing significantly to the understanding of biodiversity both within Australia and around the world. He specializes in establishing large-scale, long-term research programs that are underpinned by rigorous experimental design, detailed sampling, and innovative statistical analyses. He is a prodigious author of more than 650 scientific, peer-reviewed publications, 111 book chapters, and 44 scholarly books, including 5 well-known textbooks. His work has been influential in developing ways to conserve biodiversity across a range of wild and urban landscapes, including reserves, national parks, wood production forests, and farmland.


W.S. Cooper Award: Jonas J. Lembrechts, Aníbal Pauchard, Jonathan Lenoir, Martin A. Nuñez, Charly Géron, Arne Ven, Pablo Bravo-Monasterio, Ernesto Teneb, Ivan  Nijs, and Ann Milbau.

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 landforms.

Cold places are notable for their comparative lack of non-native plants. But figuring out why this is the case is difficult given that high-elevation and high-latitude habitats tend to be not only cold, but also relatively undisturbed, remote, and nutrient-poor. In an ambitious set of experiments, Jonas Lembrechts and colleagues experimentally manipulated disturbance, nutrients, and seed input along elevational gradients in southern South America and northern Scandinavia. They found that disturbance had the strongest effect at all sites, allowing non-native species to establish well above their current elevational limits. The results have clear implications for the future of cold-climate ecosystems affected by warming and increased rates of disturbance.


George Mercer Award: Rachel M. Germain, Sharon Y. Strauss and Benjamin Gilbert

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

Rachel Germain, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia, and colleagues evaluated how dispersal limitation and environmental filtering influence local-scale diversity across a range of spatial scales. Using a clever experimental approach adopted from restoration ecology, they vacuumed seeds off field plots and used the collected seeds to create homogenous propagule pools across a range of scales. They found a striking effect of dispersal limitation: local communities harbored roughly half as many species as they could in the absence of dispersal limitation. Their findings advance the understanding of a fundamental ecological problem and give insight into how to better manage biodiversity in a global biodiversity hotspot.


Sustainability Science Award: Seema Jayachandran, Joost de Laat, Eric F. Lambin, Charlotte Y. Stanton, Robin Audy, Nancy E. Thomas

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.

Many international programs seek to motivate landowners to change their behavior and take up practices that would reduce land degradation and offset carbon emissions. The award-winning study by Seema Jayachandran and colleagues is notable for its methodology, which avoided several of the pitfalls that have limited the reliability of prior efforts to assess the value of payments for ecosystem services (PES) to motivate landowners.

The authors applied the ‘gold standard’ of experimental research to sustainability science by randomly assigning 121 Ugandan villages to groups that did or did not receive PES to motivate changing forestry practice. They monitored results using high-quality remote sensing data, and demonstrated that PES groups reduced deforestation to half that of the control group. The research demonstrates the value of interdisciplinary collaboration in evaluating questions in sustainability science. It relies on the expertise of economists, remote sensing specialists, and a local NGO, which led the project. The government of Uganda and international organizations also played important roles in identifying participating villages and assuring compliance. The study represents a major step forward in the evaluation of PES for global conservation interventions.

  • Jayachandran, S., J. de Laat, E. Lambin, C. Stanton, R. Audy and N. Thomas. Cash for Carbon: A randomized trial of payments for ecosystem services to reduce deforestation. Science 357: 267-273.


Innovation in Sustainability Science Award: Laura E. Dee, Michel De Lara, Christopher Costello, Steven D. Gaines

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.

Many conservation organizations have shifted their stated objectives from preserving biodiversity to protecting nature for the benefits it provides to society—known as ecosystem services. Laura Dee and colleagues addressed the question, if conservation decisions were based solely on optimizing ecosystem services, how much protection of biodiversity could arise? Although biodiversity contributes to ecosystem services, the details of which species are critical, and whether they will be lost in the future, are fraught with uncertainty. Explicitly considering this uncertainty, they integrated ecology and economics to develop a new theoretical framework that addresses this question. They found that protecting more species than are presumed critical is optimal due to uncertainty, and define conditions when the optimal protection strategy is to protect all species, no species, and cases in between. Their analysis provides criteria to evaluate when managing for particular ecosystem services could warrant protecting all species, given uncertainty. Evaluating this criterion with empirical estimates from different ecosystems suggests that optimizing some services will be more likely to protect most species than others. Therefore, these results also define when managing for ecosystem services alone could leave significant biodiversity unprotected, and other strategies will be needed to also preserve biodiversity.


Learn more about the August 7–12, 2017 ESA Annual Meeting on the meeting website:


ESA welcomes attendance from members of the press and waives registration fees for reporters and public information officers. To apply, please contact ESA Communications Officer Liza Lester directly at


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), 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

Ecological Society of America announces 2018 Fellows

ESA LogoRELEASE DATE: Thursday, 1 March 2018
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211,


WASHINGTON, DC – The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is pleased to announce its 2018 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 8 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 2018 in recognition of their contributions to the science of ecology:

Fredrick R. Adler,  Professor, Mathematics and Biology, University of Utah
Elected for his theoretical contributions to the areas of physiological, disease, evolutionary, population, community, behavioral and most recently urban ecology. His work exemplifies the power of theoretical thinking to simultaneously clarify specific questions and link across disparate fields of ecology.

Craig D. Allen, Research Ecologist & Station Leader, New Mexico Landscapes Field Station, U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center
Elected for advancing core understanding of forest disturbance ecology, particularly through leadership that uncovered emerging patterns of forest die-off around the globe in response to drought and heat with associated pests and pathogens, and associated patterns in wildfire, demonstrating the value of place-based ecology in a global perspective.

Emily S. Bernhardt,  Professor, Biology, Duke University
Elected for excellent contributions to watershed biogeochemistry and the impacts of global environmental change and human activities on aquatic ecosystems, as well as the applications of ecology to management and policy.

James E. (Jeb) Byers,  Josiah Meigs Professor of Ecology, Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia
Elected for major contributions to invasion biology, ecosystem engineering, ecological parasitology, and the biogeography of range boundaries, along with excellence in educating and mentoring students and in service to the national and international ecological community.

Zoe G. Cardon,  Senior Scientist, The Ecosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratory
Elected for outstanding research contributions in ecosystem science, understanding of the rhizosphere as the nexus of commodity exchange in the terrestrial biosphere, for engineering developments in microbio-sensing, and for broad and fearless exploration of connections in ecology, from stomata to soil to hydrology to nutrients to microbiomes to biodiversity.

Cory C. Cleveland,  Professor, Department  of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences, University of Montana
Elected for substantial contributions to our understanding of carbon and nutrient cycling across multiple scales in terrestrial ecosystems.

Phyllis D. Coley,  Distinguished Professor, Department of Biology, University of Utah
Elected for advancing our fundamental ecological knowledge of plant-animal
interactions and of tropical ecology, as well as a lifetime commitment to training generations of students from Central and South America.

Jana E. Compton,  Ecologist, Western Ecology Division, US Environmental Protection Agency
Elected for her innovative and tireless efforts to better understand and develop societal solutions to the problem of nitrogen pollution. Her assessments of the social and environmental costs of excess nitrogen, her outstanding mentorship of students, and her applications of ecology to management and policy make her an inspiration to us all.

Todd E. Dawson, Professor, Integrative Biology, University of California – Berkeley
Elected for pioneering research on sources and pathways of plant water uptake with fundamental contributions at the interface among geosphere, biosphere and atmosphere.

Jeffrey S. Dukes,  Professor, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, and Director, Purdue Climate Change Research Center
Elected for insightful and creative research highlighting important interactions among plant communities, ecosystem processes, and global environmental change and for impressive leadership in synthesis and research coordination in global change ecology. 

Brian J. Enquist,  Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona
Elected for seminal discoveries on the origin and diversity of organismal form and function, the natural constraints controlling the organization of ecological systems, and the application of ecological scaling laws to ecosystem function.

Nelson G. Hairston Jr.,  Frank H.T. Rhodes Professor of Environmental Science, Department of Ecology ane Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University
Elected for influential experimental, conceptual, methodological, and synthetic contributions to our understanding of the interplay between ecological and evolutionary processes, for penetrating studies of freshwater populations and communities, and for pioneering “resurrection ecology” by using zooplankton diapausing eggs to reconstruct evolutionary history.

Stephen C. Hart,  Professor of Ecology, Life and Environmental Sciences & Sierra Nevada Research Institute, University of California Merced
Elected for groundbreaking contributions in terrestrial ecosystem ecology and forest management. His pioneering use of stable isotopes transformed understanding of forest nitrogen cycling and soil microbial structure and function.

Janneke Hille Ris Lambers,  Professor, Biology Department, University of Washington, Seattle
Elected for research linking models and data to test theories of community assembly and hypotheses about the role of climate and competition in setting species range limits, and for outstanding public outreach through an innovative citizen science program in Mt. Ranier National Park.

Nancy J. Huntly,  Professor, Biology Department and Director, Ecology Center, Utah State University
Elected for foundational research on herbivory, coexistence, and human ecology, and for commitment to and innovation in both science communication and the application of ecological principles to the management of natural resources.

Douglas J. Levey,  Program Officer, Division of Environmental Biology, National Science Foundation
Elected for his pioneering research on landscape corridors, seed dispersal, avian ecology, and evolutionary ecology of chilies; excellence in mentoring; commitment to broadening participation; and service to the field as an NSF Program

Jianguo (Jack) Liu,  Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and University Distinguished Professor, Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University
Elected for outstanding contributions to the integration of ecology with social sciences and policy, for understanding and promoting ecological sustainability, and for his exceptional contributions to mentorship and capacity-building in the area of sustainability.

Yiqi Luo, Professor,  Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University
Elected for his fundamental contributions to our understanding of ecosystem dynamics in response to global change, theory development in terrestrial carbon and nitrogen cycles, and his pioneering approaches and applications of data assimilation techniques in ecological research.

Michael G. Neubert,  Senior Scientist, Biology Department and Marine Policy Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Elected for fundamental contributions to theoretical ecology, biological oceanography, and resource management through his outstanding ability to formulate the mathematical structures that capture the essentials of the ecological problem, and avoid the inessential.

Amy Daum Rosemond,  Professor, Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia
Elected for creative and influential experimental research on the food web, microbial, and biogeochemical dynamics of aquatic ecosystems.

Nathan J. Sanders,  Professor and Director of the Environmental Program, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont
Elected for increasing understanding about causes and consequences of biodiversity change in terrestrial ecosystems by linking community, ecosystem, and macroecological approaches using observations and experiments from local to global scales.

Mark W. Schwartz,  Professor, Environmental Science & Policy, University of California, Davis
Elected for influential research on responses to climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem function, and translational ecology, as well development of innovative ecology-in-practice graduate curricula. 

Eric W. Seabloom,  Professor, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota
Elected for major contributions to theoretical understanding of biological invasions, leadership in global network science, interdisciplinary collaboration, and mentorship of junior scientists.

Emily H. Stanley,  Professor, Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin
Elected for the quality and importance of her contributions to ecology, for her ability to identify and lead new ecological frontiers, and for making connections across boundaries that continue to push our field forward.

Michael J. Vanni,  Professor, Biology, Miami University
Elected for outstanding experimental work that has created new insights into the roles of nutrients and fish in controlling primary productivity and trophic interactions in pelagic ecosystems in freshwater reservoirs.

Kirk O. Winemiller,  Regents Professor, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences & Program of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Texas A&M University
Elected for his outstanding research on rivers, estuaries and fish ecology and evolution, involving field sites throughout the Americas, Africa and Asia and for his advice to agencies on freshwater resource science and policy.

Erika Zavaleta,  Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz
Elected for high impact research in basic plant community ecology, the interface of community dynamics and ecosystem function, comprehensive analyses of major conservation challenges for islands and boreal ecosystems, and integration of sociological factors into assessments of agricultural ecosystems. 

Jizhong Zhou,  Chaired Professor, School of Microbiology and Plant Biology, and Director, Institute for Environmental Genomics, University of Oklahoma
Elected for substantial contributions to the advancement and maturation of microbial ecology in the United States and China, including developing the interface between theoretical ecology and microbiology.


Early Career Fellows (2018 – 2022) elected for advancing the science of ecology and showing promise for continuing contributions:

William Anderegg,  Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, University of Utah
Elected for advancing our fundamental ecological knowledge of how trees respond to drought and how we might expect the interactions of water stress and climate change to impact our nation’s forests.

Sarah E. Diamond,  George B. Mayer Assistant Professor of Urban and Environmental Studies, Department of Biology, Case Western Reserve University
Elected for far-reaching contributions in the areas of urban ecology, climate change impacts, and introduced species using ecophysiology, macroecology, and evolutionary ecology, and statistical modeling.

Tyler Kartzinel,  Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown University
Elected for outstanding contributions at the interface of ecology and molecular biology, and for his pioneering use of DNA metabarcoding to elucidate the structure of complex terrestrial food webs.

Douglas McCauley,  Assistant Professor, Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California Santa Barbara
Elected for helping advance understanding of the complex ecological functions of large vertebrates in marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and for furthering the use of this information in conservation and environmental policy.

Allison K. Shaw,  Assistant Professor, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota
Elected for innovative contributions to the fields of ecology, evolution, and behavior through the development of cutting-edge modeling approaches to answer general questions about dispersal, animal migration, disease ecology, conservation, and invasion biology.

Marjorie G. Weber,  Assistant Professor, Plant Biology Department and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior Program, Michigan State University
Elected for outstanding research linking the ecology and macroevolution of plant-arthropod interactions, integrating diverse tools from comparative phylogenetics, community and chemical ecology, and manipulative field experiments.

Wendy H. Yang,  Assistant Professor, Plant Biology and Geology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Elected for outstanding contributions to research, teaching, and outreach in the fields of biogeochemistry and global change biology.

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