From the Field to the Hill: ESA Graduate Student Policy Award Congressional Visit Day

Left: Caitlin in Peru (photo credit Jess Goldman), Right: Caitlin on the Hill with the Massachusetts-Colorado BESC pack (Left to Right: Paul Tanger, Rebecca Certner, Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie, Jennifer Rood; photo credit Julie Palakovich Carr)

Left: Caitlin in Peru (photo credit Jess Goldman), Right: Caitlin on the Hill with the Massachusetts-Colorado BESC pack (Left to Right: Paul Tanger, Rebecca Certner, Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie, Jennifer Rood; photo credit Julie Palakovich Carr)

By Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie

In April, I had the honor of visiting the Congressional offices of my home state Massachusetts to lobby on behalf of science funding.  I spent Monday morning tromping between snow drifts off the coast of Maine, but by Tuesday evening I was wandering under cherry blossoms along Washington DC’s tidal basin in a T-shirt.  I was a week into my field season monitoring flowering phenology in Acadia National Park, but I had traded my down jacket and LL Bean boots for a pencil skirt and pumps, hopped on a tiny eight-seated Cessna at the Bar Harbor airport, and flown to Washington DC as an Ecological Society of America (ESA) Graduate Student Policy Award recipient. Continue reading

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Science in Action: The Colorado River Basin Study

Sunrise on the Colorado River at Lee's Ferry, Arizona.

Sunrise on the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona. Photo: L. Reynolds

By Lindsay Reynolds

The Colorado River supplies water to people and ecosystems in 9 western states in the US and Mexico, including almost 5.5 million acres of irrigated lands and nearly 40 million people1. The Colorado, with headwaters in the snowy Rocky Mountains and a path through some of the most arid regions in North America, is one of the most intensively managed river systems in the world. For many years now, research scientists have been warning of impending water shortages in the basin2,3. Last week, the non-profit conservation group American Rivers named the Colorado the most endangered river in the nation. Population growth in combination with limited water and the potential effects of a changing climate are leading down a road to a very dry future. Continue reading

How to apply a concept from ant ecology to other disciplines…. or a post about organismal fidelity

The ant: study species of choice. Photo Credit: Alex Wild

The ant: study species of choice. Photo Credit: Alex Wild

By Jane Zelikova

I love it when things come together. This is exactly what happened to me just the other day. To start at the beginning, I took an Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) graduate tropical biology course in 2003. It was a great course, I learned a lot, and I made some great friends. While a lot of my memories from the course are a bit murky (many many late nights working on projects, writing papers, and drinking cervesas has put a fog on the course), looking through the course book has brought some things back into focus. Turns out, my personal claim to fame was extreme organismal fidelity. You know those people who always ask a question related to their study organism, even if the subject being discussed is completely unrelated? For example, the seminar might be about jaw bone development in fish and the person I’m talking about asks about plant secondary chemicals …. and receives a blank stare from the speaker. Ok, apparently, the person asking those annoying and distracting questions was me, and my inquiries always (and I mean always!) came back to ants. At the end of the course, we gave each student an award and I got “The Taxonomic Fidelity Award” for my ability to guide any scientific discussion toward ant seed dispersal. That being said, it is not a huge surprise that my ability to turn things back to the ants has stayed with me, despite my scientific departure from the world of ants. Continue reading

A microbial perspective

By Kelly S Ramirez

This past winter went by in a hurry. Workshops, data analysis and proposals, combined with a few weekend trips resulted in surprise and slight panic when I realized on Monday that it was already April 1st. We all tend to get caught up in work and our daily lives, and I sometimes question if I make enough time to appreciate the science I work on.

Currently, I am working on a project surveying the biodiversity in the soil in Central Park NYC. We are examining all the life- bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes -in the soils of Central Park, and this is one project where I really do appreciate the underlying science. Continue reading