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2010 Webinar

2010 Webinar: The role of species-environmental matching models in conservation

Tuesday, April 27, 2010, 1 – 2:00 pm ET

An overview of the role of species-environmental matching models in conservation.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010, 1 – 2:30 pm ET

Learn and discuss how species-environmental matching models can be used in your classroom.

This webinar was brought to you through a partnership between ESA, the Science and Engineering Alliance (SEA), and NEON Inc. with support from the National Science Foundation.


Join Tom Stohlgren, Ph.D., a research ecologist with the Fort Collins Science Center of the US Geological Survey and Colorado State University faculty member, for this two-session webinar focused on engaging students in modeling species distributions. Species-environmental matching (niche) models integrate field data, remote sensing, and mathematics to make science exciting and accessible to a wide range of audiences. The models are easy to run and provide a great teaching tool in conservation biology. As data from the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) become available over the next five years, students will have access to real-time ecological and environmental data from across the U.S. This webinar will provide both a foundation for teaching students about species distributions and niche requirements as well as an introduction to using a modeling tool. [more..]

About the presenter

Tom Stohlgren is a research ecologist with the Fort Collins Science Center of the US Geological Survey and Science. He works with government and non-government organizations to improve invasive species early detection, rapid assessment, and forecasting. He is also Affiliate Faculty at Colorado State University, and a Senior Scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at CSU. He holds degrees in Forestry (B.S. University of California, Berkeley), Biology (M.A. California State University, Fresno), and Ecology (Ph.D., University of California, Davis). His research interests are quantifying invasive species patterns at landscape to global scales, developing ecological forecasting models for invading plants animals, and diseases. He has over 180 scientific publications including a text book on measuring plant diversity. He writes novels and screenplays in his spare time.

Additional Resources

The presentation is now available to download. Click here (pdf)

Bibliography and relevant reading materials are available. Click here (pdf)

Detailed Description

Every species has specific habitat requirements related to environmental factors such as temperature, precipitation, the physical environment, and associations with other species. For example, mapped locations of the invasive non-native mosquito, Aedes aegypti, which can carry dengue fever, are related to temperature patterns and urban development. The mosquitoes may be affected by climate change and land use change.

Engaging students in developing examples of species-environmental matching models helps them understand the scientific method, species distributions and niche requirements, the importance of mathematics in natural sciences, and conservation biology principles. How can we track the Africanized “Killer” Bees in Texas, or 22-foot-long Burmese pythons in the Everglades in Florida? Can the models inform us about saving the rare Yosemite Toad in California? One strategy is to use existing mathematical models to integrate variables such as climate change, land use change, and remote sensing to predict a range of impacts on species distributions.

During session I of the webinar, Dr. Stohlgren will provide an overview of species and habitat distributions, species-environment relationships, remote sensing, and geographic information systems, including multiple examples that can be used in your courses. He will also introduce the use of maximum entropy modeling of tamarisk (salt cedar) distributions—online and in real time.

During session II of the webinar, participants will discuss ways that they can use this approach in their courses and make this information relevant to their students. Dr. Stohlgren will provide some examples of ways that students can become “Citizen Scientists” by collecting GPS locations of their favorite species in their area, and creating maps of “suitable habitat.” They can ask questions about how climate change may affect a species’ distribution and assess the “drivers” of change at local, regional, and national scales.

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