Opening Plenary

Monday, August 2nd

7:00am – 8:00am PDT
10:00am – 11:00am EDT


Portrait image of Brenda Mallory.

Brenda Mallory is the 12th Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) for President Joe Biden. She is the first African American to serve in this position. As Chair, she advises the President on environmental and natural resources policies that improve, preserve, and protect public health and the environment for America’s communities. She is focused particularly on addressing the environmental justice and climate change challenges the nation faces while advancing opportunities for job growth and economic development.

Chair Mallory has a distinguished career in federal service at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and CEQ. She was involved in major Clean Water Act jurisdictional actions. As the ranking career official in EPA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC), Chair Mallory served as the chief operating officer for OGC and led operational efforts focused on Environmental Justice and diversity initiatives.

In Chair Mallory’s first stint at CEQ as the General Counsel, she helped shepherd many of President Obama’s signature environmental and natural resource policy successes to completion.  After serving as General Counsel, Chair Mallory spent four years working in the environmental advocacy community, most recently as the Director of Regulatory Policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center and prior to that as the Executive Director and Senior Counsel for the Conservation Litigation Project, a project supporting the protection of environmental and conservation values on public lands.

Now having returned to CEQ, Chair Mallory seeks to reinvigorate CEQ’s important environmental policy role in service of President Biden’s agenda. She is committed to working with all stakeholders to advance efficient permitting approaches that engage affected communities and that help avoid, minimize, or mitigate the environmental impacts of decisions. Chair Mallory is applying the CEQ’s expertise to address the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to helping communities prepare for the increased flooding, more frequent hurricanes and wildfires, and other impacts of climate change that are already occurring. She works to protect our nation’s natural treasures, and she is dedicated to  ensuring that the voices of low-income and people of color are heard as the federal government  tackles the environmental and public health crises our nation faces.


Scientific Plenary

Tuesday, August 3rd

8:00am – 9:30am PDT
11:00am – 12:30pm EDT


Ecological integrity and solutions under anthropogenic climate change

Emissions of greenhouse gases from cars, power plants, deforestation, and other human sources have raised carbon dioxide to its highest level in the atmosphere in 2 million years, causing anthropogenic climate change. This has increased global mean surface temperature 1.1°C above the pre-industrial period (1850-1900), its highest level in the past 125 000 years. Detection analyses of field observations and attribution analyses of causal factors have found that anthropogenic climate change has increased the area burned by wildfire up to double natural levels, driven drought-induced tree mortality in North America and the African Sahel up to 20%, and caused biome shifts in boreal, temperate, and tropical ecosystems, up to 20 km latitudinally and 300 m upslope. These impacts drive carbon emissions from ecosystems to the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change in self-reinforcing feedbacks. Through increased wildfire, tree mortality, biome shifts, and carbon losses, anthropogenic climate change is damaging key aspects of the integrity of ecosystems and their ability to provide water, food, and other essential services for people. Cutting carbon emissions from human sources is the fundamental solution to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Scientific research indicates that energy efficiency and conservation, renewable energy, public transit, a plant-based diet, halting tropical deforestation, and other currently available practices could limit the global temperature increase to less than 2°C. Vital connections of ecologists to these solutions include applied research that guides natural carbon solutions, fire management, biodiversity conservation, and other actions, providing key scientific information to policymakers, engaging the public, and standing strongly for scientific integrity against any attempted suppression of climate change research and communication. Recent progress on cutting carbon emissions demonstrates how each person can advance meaningful action on climate change to protect nature and human well-being.


Patrick Gonzalez takes a measurement in the field.

Photo Courtesy: Al Golub
Dr. Patrick Gonzalez is a forest ecologist, Principal Climate Change Scientist of the U.S. National Park Service, and Associate Adjunct Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He advances science-based action on human-caused climate change through research on climate change, ecosystems, wildfire, and carbon solutions and assistance to local people and policymakers to conserve biodiversity and protect human well-being. Dr. Gonzalez has conducted field research in Africa, Latin America, and the U.S., published in Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and other journals, and contributed science to policy in positions in Washington, DC. He has also assisted field managers and local people in 25 countries and 269 U.S. national parks. He has stood publicly for scientific integrity and broadened public understanding of climate change in 122 published articles on his research in the New York Times and other media. Dr. Gonzalez has served as a lead author for four reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the science panel awarded a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.


Scientific Interfaces

Wednesday, August 4th

7:00am – 8:30am PDT
10:00am – 11:30am EDT


Scientific interfaces: Making meaningful connections to move ecology forward

Ecologists have long studied how ecosystem function and resilience are impacted by changes in the environment. The more we study and broaden our scope, the more we learn about the socio-ecological impacts of environmental change as they disproportionately affect marginalized communities. While at the same time, the voices, cultural values, and perspectives of these communities have historically been excluded or erased in Western science. Solving such complex environmental challenges will require new partnerships, connections, and collaborations that bring together many forms of knowledge, perspectives, and ways of communicating. We are at a unique moment where we can reimagine how science and scientists connect with society and the environment while re-centering the voices of knowledge holders from marginalized communities. To be trained as a scientist typically means being trained in a narrow process and set of rules. As scientists, educators, and experts, how can we broaden our value system to be more diverse and inclusive as we strive to solve the world’s most pressing ecological problems? Going beyond the peer-review publications and moving to include many forms of writings, knowledge sharing, artwork, and communication will be needed to find community-driven solutions to environmental problems. Respect, reciprocity, creativity, and a willingness to listen will be at the heart of shifting the way we train a new generation of ecologists. 


Profile picture of a smiling Dr. Danielle Ignace.

Dr. Danielle Ignace is an enrolled member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, an ecophysiologist, and science communication enthusiast. She recently started a new faculty position in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia. Prior to this position, she was an Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and the Environmental Science & Policy Program at Smith College for several years and then became a Research Associate at Harvard Forest while serving as Associate Editor for the journal, Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. From desert systems to temperate forests, she studies how climate change, landscape disturbance, and invasions impact ecosystem function and communities of color. Dr. Ignace was recently selected as a Science for Social Equity Fellow (funded by Fair Count) to create community-driven solutions to climate change and pollution in Houston. Always seeking new ways to be an advocate for underrepresented groups in STEM, she joined the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for the American Society of Plant Biology. Fostering distinctive collaborations with faculty and students to understand and communicate pressing global change problems is the hallmark of her research, teaching, YouTube channel, podcast, and ArtSci projects. As an Indigenous woman in STEM, Dr. Ignace is deeply committed to developing Indigenous curriculum and her unique perspective bridges Indigenous communities, people of color, and scientists.


Recent Advances Lecturer

Thursday, August 5th

8:00am – 9:30am PDT
11:00am – 12:30pm EDT


The future of ecology is open, inclusive, and accessible

In the last year, there were many lessons to be learned from the COVID global pandemic and continued push for social justice in the USA and across the world. Many of us came face to face with loss and grief, and gained a new appreciation of friends, family, and self-love. We were also compelled to reevaluate our overdependence on, and definitions of, “success” in our work life and recenter our thoughts on Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Meanwhile – during a global pandemic – our studies, exams, research, training, mentoring, teaching, and outreach never stopped. In my talk, I will highlight the people who lead during the last year – both in our communities and in research. Specifically, I will focus on the women, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ folx whose research and leadership have guided the Ecological Society of America to be more open, inclusive, and accessible.


Profile picture of a smiling Dr. Kelly Ramirez

Photo Courtesy: Dave Vuono
Dr. Kelly S Ramirez (she/her) is an assistant professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. She is a microbial ecologist that researches the influence of global changes on plant-microbe interactions and the soil microbiome. She also has worked to translate these results for global policy with the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative and the UN-FAO. Dr. Ramirez is also an advocate for social justice through her work with 500 Women Scientists.

New Phytologist Foundation Keynote Speaker

Wednesday, August 4th

9:30am – 10:30am PDT
12:30pm – 1:30pm EDT


Vital connections that enhance understanding and engagement about ecological disturbances: a forest canopy perspective

Half a century ago, ecologists first ascended into forest canopies to answer curiosity-driven questions about what was then called “the last biotic frontier.” Researchers have since documented the critical interactions in the forest canopies that maintain biodiversity and enhance ecosystem-level processes. Forest canopies are highly dynamic, subject to both physical and environmental disturbances from natural and human causes. Because canopy-dwelling plant communities are independent from terrestrial soil and their host trees, they can serve as natural “mini-arenas” for ecological studies, as they can be both manipulated and replicated. I describe responses of canopy plant, soil, and associated microbial communities that have begun to inform ecologists about disturbance ecology. Studies from non-ecological disciplines that are concerned with disturbance – including burn trauma, refugee studies, traffic engineering, and neuroscience – have also provided insights into disturbances that affect forested landscapes.
This basic research has led to broader impacts activities about the importance of forests to public groups who might not seek out information about or have access to nature. Ecologists can apply the approach of “intellectual humility” to create vital connections between the ecological values of trees with other societal values of forests — aesthetic, spiritual, and social justice values — which can broaden societal support for nature and the discipline of ecology. Human connections within academia are vital to foster “broader impacts trajectories” for emerging ecologists and others within and outside of academia.


Nalini Nadkarni climbing in a forest from an aerial angle. She stops, suspended in air, to smile for this photo.

Photo courtesy Sybil Gotsch
Dr. Nalini Nadkarni is a biology professor and forest ecologist at the University of Utah. Her research documents the ecological roles that canopy-dwelling biota play in ecosystem processes in tropical and temperate rainforests. She has published over 130 scientific articles and three scholarly books. She also brings science and conservation to non-traditional public audiences such as faith-based groups, urban youth, artists, and incarcerated adults and youth. Dr. Nadkarni is a two-time TED speaker, a National Geographic Society Explorer, and has a “TreeTop Barbie” created by the Mattel Corporation in her image. Her work has been featured in journals ranging from Science and Ecology to Glamour and Playboy. These efforts are supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society. Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Archie Carr Medal for Conservation, the AAAS Award for Public Engagement, the National Science Foundation Public Service Award, and the William Julius Wilson Award for Achievement in Social Justice.