A year in the lives of early career ecologists

Sorry we’ve been MIA for a while, but it turns out we actually have been in action – and plenty of it. An update on what’s been happening with ECE is overdue, but we thought it was also a good opportunity to ask: “What ARE early career ecologists doing when they aren’t blogging about their research?”. Since we are scientists, a graph was in order (Fig. 1), so you can examine the data yourself. Continue reading

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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

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

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas…

In the interests of treading (and blogging) a little lighter this week, a couple of ECE writers polled ourselves for eco-friendly holidays traditions to share. Think of these as a present to the planet, and who knows, maybe someday they won’t be “eco-friendly traditions” anymore, but just “traditions”!

** A lot of them also aren’t bad gift ideas for that impossible-to-shop-for person, and recession friendly as well. So happy last-minute hunting – and safe travels!

Vegetables: It's what's for (Christmas) dinner! Photo: K. Pete

Vegetables: It’s what’s for (Christmas) dinner! Photo by K. Pete

Eat lower on the food chain: (Lauren) “I married into a largely vegetarian family a few years ago, and thought the holidays might be a challenge. But not only is it pretty easy to come up with alternatives, it’s less expensive and also lightens the environmental account (see Bill Smith’s post on biofuel production)”

Buy local: (Lindsay) ”Already very popular in the enviro movement, keeping your dollars in your city limits is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Even if you are eventually spending some carbon to send the gift elsewhere, it still saves fossil fuels to have the gift originate in your home town instead of in a factory overseas. Many cities have websites advertising local businesses and locally-made products, you’ll be surprised what you can find! Adding a “from my home town” quality to your gift also makes it more special.”

(Recycled) brown paper packages tied up with string...Photo by Chiot's Run

(Recycled) brown paper packages tied up with string…Photo by Chiot’s Run

Wrap presents in alternative wrapping paper: (Lindsay) “Don’t you hate the pile of wrapping paper after present-opening has happened? Get creative this year to reduce all that paper waste! You could re-use saved paper from last year or wrap with a canvas tote bag that becomes part of the present. I’ve also been known to use brown paper grocery bags from the pile in our kitchen. You can turn them inside out, wrap, and then spice it up rubber stamps or something else festive!”

LED holiday lights: (Lindsay)These tend to be expensive, but they can save a ton of energy and money in your electric bill, too! I have some friends who are buying one new strand each year and slowly replacing all of their old, energy-sucking lights.”

Think outside of the box - or bin...for a grand gesture, how about a rain barrel? Photo by Elaine Faith.

Think outside of the box (or bin). For a grand gesture, how about a rain barrel? Photo by Elaine Faith.

Function over form: (Lauren)”My parents don’t need anything from me – really! But every Christmas I try and find them a new eco-friendly product that they might like to try and start using. It’s completely dorky, but I’ve actually introduced them to biodegradable dog waste bags and LED lights for their home.This year it’s a compost bin for their countertop…”

 

Give an experience (Kristen): “Want to give a present without adding to someone’s ever-growing pile of stuff? Give a service or an experience that they’ll cherish. How about tickets to a concert, movie passes, a nice dinner, a ski tune, or reservations for a weekend away? My all-time favorite gifts have been a massage, yoga passes, an annual state park pass that helped keep me outside all year long.”

Edible presents (Lindsay): “Think about gifting some tasty treats this year. These can be homemade or store bought creations that nourish and won’t eventually take up space in a landfill. There are a lot of small businesses that make delicious products with locally-grown produce, so you could even double up and combine “buy local” with “edible presents!” (Lauren) “In case you need ideas: local wine or chocolate are often easy to find.

Organic, fair-trade chocolate....'nuff said.

Organic, fair-trade chocolate….’nuff said.

And organic and fair-trade coffee and tea are easy ways to splurge a little for the person that you don’t know what to get.”

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