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

If a fish could write your water bill

Would these fish approve your water bill? Photo of Rio Grande chub (Gila pandora) courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

By Lauren Kuehne

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post Why the mayor wants you to have a green lawn: The dark side of water conservation where I “exposed” the open secret of declining support for water conservation programs. Water districts and utilities end up with a big problem when conservation – to put it bluntly – starts cutting into revenues generated by water consumption, forcing a rise in rates for the same water. This leads to bewildered and betrayed consumers and increasingly strapped public utilities who literally can’t afford conservation. At the end of that article, I promised a follow-up post on water rate structures (aka, what you see on your monthly bill) that utilities can use which promote conservation and meet revenue-for-infrastructure needs. It’s taken me a while to follow up, partly because every time I started researching and writing about water rate structures I found myself inexplicably dozing off. Luckily, once I sat down to it, the breakdown isn’t that complicated, so I am hopeful that it’s possible to stay awake for the exciting conclusion (yes, there is one!). Continue reading

Trees on the Move? Debating Assisted Migration in Climate Change Mitigation

Tree Crossing. Borrowed from Clint Peters.

Tree Crossing. Borrowed from Clint Peters.

By Sarah Bisbing

Trees on the move?! I know you’re thinking, “Come on, Sarah. Trees can’t move.” And, generally, you would be correct in that statement. Tree species are now, however, in a position where movement may be necessary for survival under changing climatic conditions. How trees will move is under debate within the ecological community, but why trees will move is accepted as a survival strategy related to the adaptation of species. Continue reading

Forty years after “The Limits to Growth”: A focus on global food production

Satellite images by Earth Observatory (2006); composition by WK Smith (2012).

By Bill Smith

“Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio.  Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio.  A slight acquaintance with numbers will show the immensity of the first power in comparison of the second.” 

Thomas Robert Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, (1798)

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the seminal book The Limits to Growth, which details the first, global-scale computer model (developed by researchers at MIT) to analyze the potential future outcomes of unchecked economic and population growth in a world of limited resources.  The main factors considered by the analysis included world population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion.  The take-home conclusion of the analysis was simple: if we control growth and resource consumption, a “stabilized world” is achievable (Figure 1a); if growth and consumption continues unchecked, “overshoot and collapse” is the only system response (Figure 1b).  So how has humanity responded since the publication of this thought-provoking, anxiety-inducing analysis …

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Politics aside, can climate change and science policy be successful?

By Kelly Ramirez

This past week my fellow ECEcol contributors have posted on climate change science, public perceptions, and the need for action. With election results in and Barack Obama the clear winner, what does this mean for the climate change and environmental policies of the US, and the world?

How will the Obama Administration move forward with climate change policy? Photo credit: Kelly Ramirez, 2012

While there was a collective sigh of relief across the country by democrats, the scientific community is still holding its breath. How will President Obama’s environmental policy evolve over the next four years? Continue reading

Climate Change Series– It’s a wrap!

By Kristin Marshall, Sarah Bisbing, and Mike SanClements

A quick review and wrap-up on our climate change series.  We hope we’ve provided you all with some new information and resources and convinced at least a few of you to put global climate change on your radar. In case you missed one of the posts, here are the links to all of them:

Part 1 – Climate Change for Beginners: the Uninformed, the Skeptics, and the Deniers

Part 2 – Climate Change Silence: Is Ignorance Really Bliss?

Part 3 – Winning Over the Climate Change Skeptics

Part 4 – Unconvinced that climate change action demands immediate action? Think again!
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