Plenary Speakers

Opening Plenary

Sunday, August 6, 2017, 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM
Oregon Ballroom, Oregon Convention Center

Mary Ruckelshaus
Managing Director, The Natural Capital Project

Title: “Science and the Dialectic of People and Nature

Brief Biography

Mary Ruckelshaus is the Director of The Natural Capital Project and a consulting professor at Stanford University. Mary previously led the Ecosystem Science Program at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, WA. Prior to that, she was an Assistant Professor of biological sciences at The Florida State University. The main focus of her recent work is on developing ecological models including estimates of the flow of ecosystem services and changes in human wellbeing under different management regimes around the world. Ruckelshaus serves on the Science Council of The Nature Conservancy and is a Trustee on its Washington Board, is a member of the US Ocean Research Advisory Panel–charged with providing independent science advice to the National Ocean Council, and is a past chair of the Science Advisory Board of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). She was Chief Scientist for the Puget Sound Partnership, a public-private institution charged with achieving recovery of the Puget Sound terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. Ruckelshaus has a bachelor’s degree in human biology from Stanford University, a master’s degree in fisheries from the University of Washington, and a doctoral degree in botany, also from Washington.

Scientific Plenary and ESA Awards Session

Monday, August 7, 2017, 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Oregon Ballroom, Oregon Convention Center

The Robert H. MacArthur Award is given biannually to an established ecologist in midcareer for meritorious contributions to ecology, in the expectation of continued outstanding ecological research. The recipient is invited to be the Keynote Speaker at the Scientific Plenary.

Keynote Speaker: Anurag A. Agrawal
Cornell University, Robert H. MacArthur Award Winner

Title: “Trade-offs in Evolutionary Ecology

In this lecture I will pay homage to RH MacArthur as a forerunner of ecology and exceptional integrator of evolutionary principles into ecology. MacArthur had a complex relationship with theory, observation, and experiments. As our science continues to evolve, so too has the popularity (not necessarily the importance) of theory, natural history, and manipulative experimentation. I will reflect on this changing landscape and offer a modern research program in comparative ecology. This program emphasizes the identification of general patterns through the use of evolutionary replication (convergent traits). The general role that organismal traits play in shaping ecological interactions, from population to community and ecosystem effects, can be investigated with comparative experimentation in the field. I will emphasize the cycle of reciprocally informative theory, observations, and experiments using examples from diverse systems.

Brief Biography

Anurag Agrawal received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and PhD from UC Davis (1999). After doing a short postdoc at the University of Amsterdam, he joined the faculty at the University of Toronto’s Department of Botany and moved to Cornell University in 2004, where he is currently professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (joint appointed in Entomology). His research addresses questions on the ecology and evolution of plant-insect interactions, including aspects of herbivory, community ecology, chemical ecology, and coevolution. Integrating natural history, big questions, and interacting with diverse scientists, from students to citizens, is his passion.

New Phytologist Trust Keynote Speaker

Monday, August 7, 2017, 10:15 AM – 11:30 AM
Oregon Ballroom, Oregon Convention Center

Guest Lecturer: Tom Lovejoy
George Mason University

Title: “Look Back Lest you Fail to Mark the Path Ahead

Daniel Pauly first drew attention to “Shifting Baselines” in 1995, formalizing the reality that people tend to consider the state of the world they are born into and grow up in as “normal”. Twenty two years later it is clear that a lot of environmental change is so rapid, to the point of in some cases of even exponential, that identifying appropriate baselines are increasingly challenging. What might that mean for how ecological science can aid in understanding the change and possible policy implications?

Brief Biography

Thomas Lovejoy is a professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University and a senior fellow for science, economics, and the environment at the United Nations Foundation, based in Washington, DC. Lovejoy has served on science and environmental councils under the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations and was also the World Bank’s chief biodiversity advisor and lead specialist for environment for Latin America and the Caribbean. Lovejoy holds a Bachelor of Science and PhD in biology from Yale University.


Recent Advances Lecture

Wednesday, August 9, 2017, 12:15 PM – 1:15 PM
Oregon Convention Center, Room 251

With the rapid expansion of our discipline, it becomes ever more challenging to stay abreast of what’s exciting and current across the field of ecology. No one can track the full primary literature of ecology, yet most of us would like to have some sense of what is current and important in areas outside our own particular expertise. The Recent Advances talks are designed to address this need by providing current, high-level synopses of timely issues, precisely for the broad community of professional ecologists. Topics will be different each year, and speakers will be selected for their capacity to offer a synthetic and up-to-date perspective for their colleagues.

Guest Lecturer: Katharine N. Suding
University of Colorado Boulder

Title: “Digging deeper into the tangled bank: recent advances in biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics

These are exciting times for biodiversity research. Following two decades of work on the importance of species diversity on ecosystem function, we are now forming a deeper understanding of biodiversity, one that embodies multiple dimensions – taxonomic, functional, phylogenetic, and genetic – of variation, as well as one that considers how these dimensions contribute to the dynamic nature of ecosystems across time and space. These advances bridge long-term observations of ecological change with contemporary approaches to quantify mechanisms as coexistence, resilience, and turnover. Specifically, drawing from my work in grassland and tundra as well as from work in other systems, I will argue that biodiversity might provide insights into the amazing variability we are witnessing in ecological sensitivity to environmental change. A range of biodiversity mechanisms that can lead to these differences in sensitivity, including feedbacks driven by select functional groups, networks of interactions driven by a diverse biota, and adaptive capacity driven by historical legacies. Together these advances are enabling rich insights that link population, community, and ecosystem dynamics and form a strong foundation for applications that inform on-the-ground ecological restoration and conservation efforts.

Brief Biography

Katharine N. Suding is a plant community ecologist who focuses on both diverse ecosystems of high conservation value and more degraded ones in need of restoration. She is a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Fellow of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. She directs the Niwot Ridge Long-term Ecological Research Program.

Regional Policy Award and Special Policy Forum ESA Annual Meeting

Monday, August 7, 2017, 7:15 PM – 8:45 PM
Oregon Ballroom, Oregon Convention Center
    • Policy award presented at 7:15 PM
    • Rep Bonamici gives remarks from 7:20-7:35 PM
    • Panel discussion from 7:35-8:30 PM
    • Audience Q&A from 8:30-8:45  PM
Special Policy Forum

Navigating the political landscape for science in the new administration is motivating ecologists to step outside of the lab and into the halls of Congress and beyond. Addressing the administration’s proposed federal budget cuts to scientific research and development, program eliminations, and lack of evidence-based policy are challenging hurdles for ecologists to overcome.


Frank Davis

David Lodge. ESA President

Richard Pouyat

Richard Pouyat, ESA President-Elect

U.S. Science Envoy for the Ocean, Department of State; Past ESA President

The Honorable Dr. Jane Lubchenco

Profile picture of the US representative of the 1st District of Oregon.

The Honorable Suzanne Bonamici


ESA members are grappling with how to balance the need to take a strong stand for independent science without being, or appearing to be, partisan. They are also looking for ways to constructively engage with the administration and Congress for science-based policy decisions.

The distinguished panel of speakers, who are from differing backgrounds, will provide unique perspectives about the national political scene from an ecologist’s point of view. After hearing from our speakers, a Q&A between the audience and speakers will result in some take-away actions for our ESA members.

      • The Honorable Suzanne Bonamici, U. S. Representative 1st District of Oregon
      • Frank Davis, Professor, Bren School of Environment, Science and Management, UC Santa Barbara; Director, Long Term Ecological Research Network Communications Office; ESA Vice-president for Public Affairs
      • David M. Lodge, ESA President and Director of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Cornell University
      • The Honorable Dr. Jane Lubchenco, University Distinguished Professor and Advisor in Marine Studies, Oregon State University; U.S. Science Envoy for the Ocean, Department of State; Past ESA President
      • Richard Pouyat, National Program Lead for Air and Soil Quality Research for Research & Development at the USDA Forest Service; ESA President-elect

Photos, video, and social media may all be used during the plenary by ESA and the audience.