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

Conservation photography as more than just a hobby: Part 1

By Guest Bloggers Jerod and Bethann Merkle

An Introduction to our Guest Bloggers:

Jerod is a wildlife research biologist who hails from Arizona and Montana and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Université Laval (Québec, Canada).  His wife, Bethann, is a communications consultant, author, artist, and educator who hails from Montana.  They became interested in writing for our blog, as they were “intrigued by the premise of the Early Career Ecologists blog because we are both under 30 years of age, work actively in ecology and scientific communication, and often discuss how important it is to communicate about this work across disciplines and beyond academia.”  Jerod and Bethann enjoy collaborating on personal and professional projects, including this article about one aspect of Jerod’s current research project.

Conservation Photography

Facial recognition in humans is important for identifying and monitoring criminal behavior.  For ecological conservation, identifying individuals is important for estimating and monitoring ecological parameters such as survival, reproduction, and habitat selection.  Ultimately, recognizing individual humans and wild animals offers social and conservation benefits. 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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Unconvinced that climate change demands immediate action? Think again!

Climate Change for Beginners: Convincing the Deniers (Part 4 of 4 )

By Mike SanClements

Over the last day or so, Sarah and Kristin have done a wonderful job discussing the science behind climate change and arguments for winning over climate skeptics. And if we’re doing our job well, maybe we’ve convinced you of the science. But perhaps you’re still unconvinced that climate change is a big enough problem to require any action.

These days, most of us have become extremely disconnected from our climate. And even though I think about climate change on a daily basis at work, it only takes a minute of reflection to see how easily it might fall from your mind if you didn’t. We all have our daily lives to live, work to do, and problems to deal with, making the idea of upending our comfy status quo seem unthinkable (or at least like some abstract future thing).

When society does seem to voice worry about our climate it’s often met with the argument that addressing climate change will destroy the economy. A silly argument, because the economy exists within the environment and is already feeling the effects of climate change. Continue reading

Winning over the climate change skeptics

Climate Change for Beginners: Winning Over the Skeptics (Part 3 of 4 )

By Kristin Marshall

Now that we’ve given some basic facts and evidence for global climate change (thanks to Sarah), it’s time to turn to the skeptics.  By skeptics, I mean people who have seen the evidence but still aren’t convinced.

Being skeptical is nothing new to the scientific community. In fact, we are trained to be inherently skeptical. The scientific method relies on constructing hypotheses, collecting data, and then determining whether the data support or refute the hypothesis. Repeating this process many times and submitting our work to journals (where research is subjected to anonymous review by our peers) is how we move science forward.  Sometimes, we even agree.  Even though the peer review system isn’t perfect, all of these steps mean that reaching consensus in the scientific literature is no trivial task.  This is one reason why when 97 percent of practicing climate scientists agree that climate change is real and human-caused, the broader scientific community takes notice. Continue reading

Climate Change Silence: Is Ignorance Really Bliss?

Sperry Glacier (Glacier National Park, Motana) repeat photography shows the glacier’s recession between 1913 (credit: W.C. Alden) and 2012 (credit: Lisa McKeon). Photos are part of the USGS Repeat Photography Project (

Climate Change for Beginners: Addressing the Uninformed (Part 2 of 4 )

By Sarah Bisbing

Despite ample evidence supporting the occurrence of global climate change, the consequences and risks associated with this change are seldom the topic of dialogue in classrooms, amongst communities, or even between those determining the fate of scientific policy (ahem, presidential candidates). This incredibly relevant, world-altering topic thus remains poorly understood and seemingly irrelevant in day-to-day life.

Americans, nevertheless, stand firm on their position in the divisive battle over the existence of climate change – a topic so infrequently on our radar that we actually lack the knowledge required to take a educated stance (or make an informed decision). A Yale University climate change literacy assessment concluded that over 50% of the American public would receive an ‘F’ (an F !!!) for their climate literacy, while only 1% has knowledge equivalent to an ‘A.’

Ummm, does anyone else see this as a problem?

Continue reading

Climate change for beginners: the uniformed, the skeptics, and the deniers — part 1 of 4

By Kristin Marshall

A few weeks ago, in response to my first post on this blog, I received the following message from an old high school friend (printed with permission):

 I saw your post about your ecological blog. Curious, what is your thought on global warming. I’ve never asked anybody, so this is really just a random question. I’ve not done any research on my own. Are we (humans) really slowly making the earth’s temperature increase, and is this a bad thing?

I had two simultaneous responses after reading this. First: wow, it’s awesome that people are reading this blog!  Second: Groan. It’s time to have “the talk”… AGAIN.  I think I might loathe the climate change talk almost as much as parents loathe the sex talk—you know you have to do it, but you really don’t want to.  And, YOU certainly don’t want to bring it up, but you want your kid to know that it’s ok for them to bring it up whenever they want.  Super awkward.

This is how I often feel when talking about science with non-scientists.  Don’t get me wrong; I think communicating outside of the scientific community is really important.  But I still need more practice, and it isn’t always comfortable. First, I feel like I have to walk a fine line—yes, I’m a scientist, but that doesn’t mean I’m an expert on all things science, and I don’t want to present myself as something I’m not. Second, I don’t want to bore people with details they don’t care about.  But, I also want them to care about the things that I care about, so there is a certain amount of persuasion to be done. Continue reading