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

Taking time to learn

Growing exotic and native riparian trees

By Lindsay Reynolds, PhD

Blogging is a powerful avenue our society has developed as a way to communicate ideas, but 15 years ago the word didn’t even exist. And now, some people are already asking, has blogging hit its peak? The first Blackberry smartphone was introduced in 2002, and for a long time the only people I knew with smartphones were my friends in med school. Then, the iPhone emerged in 2007, and now smartphones are ubiquitous. None of us need to be reminded how much technology has changed our world and the breathtaking pace at which it continues to change. Not only is it changing our social world and the way we communicate, but it has changed how we do science. How do we keep up as scientists and how do we figure out when and where to allocate time to learning new tools?

This is a question every scientist has to ask themselves. Its not a new problem, either. It’s as old as science itself. In the end, it is an issue that is less to do with learning the shiniest new technology and more to do with maintaining a mindset as a constant learner in your career. Continue reading

Early Career Ecologist Profile: Meet Lindsay Reynolds

Hiking out of Canyon de Chelly, Arizona. A small orchard and riparian forest visible in the background.

I’ve always enjoyed being outside, and despite growing up in the big city, I knew I wanted a job someday that involved working outside. In high school, the most “outdoorsy” job I could find was working at a plant nursery, watering acres of petunias and giving advice on what customers should plant in their gardens. Little did I know that 15+ years later I’d be launching a career studying plants! Continue reading

Dam good science? Searching for the human dimension in ecology

Chinle Wash, AZ

Chinle Wash, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Reynolds, 2005

By Lindsay Reynolds, PhD

The first seminar I took in grad school was taught by a senior ecologist and the topic of the seminar was very broad, something like “issues in ecology.” During one of our (no doubt) invigorating discussions, the professor commented that when he started out as an ecologist (thirty plus years ago), if you had any kind of human dimension to your research or studied human impacts on natural systems you were considered a hack. These days, you’re considered a hack if you don’t incorporate the human dimension, on some level, in your research.

Whether your study systems are influenced by recent changes in atmospheric carbon or annual cattle grazing, incorporating the human factor can be very challenging! And yet, it is absolutely essential in order for our ecology to be relevant. Continue reading