About Sarah Bisbing

Forest ecologist & Assistant Prof @ Cal Poly. Otherwise, tree-lover, cyclist, yogi, runner, & dog mom

Bi-coastal support for California faculty in the #CSUStrike

Photo courtesy of the California Faculty Association

Photo courtesy of the California Faculty Association

Any time a individual or organization take a stand, there is bound to be disagreement. We all have opinions based on our own world view and lifelong cultural, social, and political influences. Despite what the recent Presidential debates may have you believing about the strength of arguments, the most persuasive statements come from those who take the time to thoroughly review all available information, critically evaluate the evidence at hand, and make decisions based on this synthesis and evaluation. In advance of the impending #CSUStrike across the California State University system, Professor @JacquelynGill of the University of Maine has done just that. In her most recent blog, she provides a comprehensive look at the current issues faced by faculty nationwide and details some of the arguments in support of our movement for fair wages and our hope that our state (and Nation) will once again value our public university system. On behalf of the CSU faculty, thank you, Professor @JacquelynGill.

Changing with the times: The Future of Forestry Degrees?

IMG_2324Our forestry program at Cal Poly, along with many other programs nationwide, is looking to the future and working to identify programatic changes that will support the ever-evolving industry while also engaging the students these industries will be dependent upon in the future. Forestry programs have seen diminishing enrollments over the last few decades despite the ample job opportunities available to graduates. So, what gives? Well, cultural, social, and political drivers along with an increased understanding of ecosystem dynamics is challenging forestry programs to be innovative and to alter the structure of the curriculum.

At Cal Poly, we are working to identify the drivers of student interest and hoping to make changes based on these interests. Please help us make progress and positive change by participating in this survey:


Reposted from: sarahbisbing.com

Lessons learned as a first-year faculty member

By Sarah Bisbing


One of my ecology students showed her gratitude with a succulent terrarium. Awesome.

As I prepare to start my second year as an Assistant Professor, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the highs and lows of my first year, the successful changes I made over that year, and my strategies for success going forward. I’ve shared some of the lessons I learned as a first-year faculty member over at Small Pond Science. Some of them are pretty common cries from new faculty, but these are a few things I wish I had known (or accepted) before starting my first year. Check out the post here.

The “tug of war” facing urban wildlife: When to forage on human foods?

An urban squirrel feasting on its bird feeder treasures.

An urban squirrel feasting on its bird feeder treasures.

By Jerod A. Merkle

Human dominated landscapes can provide a food haven for certain species. Think squirrels and pigeons, animals many of us see almost every day. These species have adapted so well to human infrastructure and its seemingly endless bounty, that they can live their entire lives within cities with millions of people.

Of course, there are other species that also capitalize on foods available in urban areas.  But they do so with much less visibility.  In fact, they spend much of their time in more natural areas, only venturing into urban areas to feed.  In this case, think of animals such as raccoons, coyotes, and bears. Although the act of moving from wildlands into urban areas is for the most part driven by food, our understanding of how animals make these decisions is still not complete.  Understanding how and why these behaviors develop can help direct efforts to minimize human-wildlife conflicts.

Continue reading

ScienceNOW Coverage of Ecosystem Dynamics in Yellowstone NP

Dr. Kristin Marshall measuring willow stems in Yellowstone National Park.

Dr. Kristin Marshall measuring willow stems in Yellowstone National Park.

Our very own Dr. Kristin Marshall is getting quite a bit of press these days. This past week, she published an article in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences on the dynamics of riparian ecosystems following wolf re-introduction in Yellowstone National Park. This 10-year study concludes that the story of species interactions within the Park is not as simple as we once thought. Turns out, the beaver plays a crucial role in both willow growth and ecosystem functioning! Check out the ScienceNOW coverage of the story, and read Kristin’s own communication of her research right here.

Orcas iced in: a hot topic in the frozen North

Photo credit: Jaime Ramos, National Science Foundation Ross Sea Killer Whale breaches in the Antarctic region.

Villagers watch as a killer whale surfaces for air near Inukjuak, Quebec last week. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Marina Lacasse)

By Guest Blogger Bethann G. Merkle

Last week, while the world watched with bated breath, a pod of orcas (Orcinus orca) swam in an ever-shrinking zone of open water. Each time they came up for air, frigid water sloshed onto the surrounding ice and froze, compounding the problem little by little. Much farther north than normal for this time of year, the killer whales were clearly out of their element. Continue reading