In the News

SESYNC in the News
UI Professor to do Water Research Down Under
Jan 09, 2015

MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho College of Law Professor Barbara Cosens has been selected as a visiting professor with the ANZSOG—Goyder Institute Visiting Professors Program in association with Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia, for part of the 2015 spring semester.

The competitive selection process required Cosens’ proposal for research in Australia to focus on “addressing the public policy challenges of how finite resource use can effectively be managed through cooperation, with a priority focus on water policy and management."

University of Idaho Vice President of Research, Jack McIver, says “Since it is rare for legal scholars to achieve funding through a National Science Foundation synthesis center, this award signifies both the stature of the investigator and the importance of her work.”

Cosens’ proposal to the ANZSOG-Goyder Institute built on a project she co-chairs with Lance Gunderson of Emory University, Social-Ecological System Resilience, Climate Change and Adaptive Water Governance, part of a series of workshops from the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center at the University of Maryland–an NSF-funded synthesis center.

The synthesis project is focused on six North American water basins and explores the role of law in presenting both challenges and opportunities for adaptive water governance in the era of climate change.

During her time at the ANZSOG-Goyder Institute, Cosens will apply the concepts from the synthesis project to the legal and policy setting of Australian water management. Her focus will be on the Lake Eyre Basin, an internally drained basin covering a large portion of South Australia, Queensland, Northern Territories and a portion of New South Wales, and linked to the Great Artesian Basin.

“International collaboration is just one example of how truly outstanding our College of Law faculty are and the opportunities afforded to students who interact with them,” said UI College of Law Dean Mark L. Adams.

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Conserving Tigers Could Hurt Leopards
Dec 11, 2014

There's a pecking order in the animal kingdom, even among alpha predators: Tigers trump leopards every time. If a tiger decides to take up residence in a leopard's neighborhood, the leopard will move to a different part of the forest, just to avoid the tiger.

These natural dynamics are creating an unexpected predicament in Nepal, where tiger populations—as in the rest of the world—  have been decimated over the past decades, SESYNC reports. But Nepal is committed to doubling its tiger population by 2022, and if all goes according to plan, the country will be home to a lot more tigers, relatively soon. While that's good news for conservationists, it is problematic for leopards—especially when humans are also part of that equation.

Both tigers and leopards hate being around humans. But when a tiger arrives in the forest, leopards must move to the fringes of the habitat, where humans are much more abundant, new research from Michigan State University shows. Just to avoid encounters with man, the displaced leopards shift their normal daytime hunting patterns to night, the researchers found.

That change might have implications on their ability to survive (though more research is needed to test that hypothesis). These new habitation patterns also mean that livestock, pets and perhaps even people might be at greater risk of a leopard attack, SESYNC writes. If the number of leopard attacks rises, leopards—a threatened species—might suffer from retaliatory killings.

"We want to see increased tiger numbers—that’s a great outcome from a conservation perspective," lead author Neil Carter told SESYNC. "But we also need to anticipate reverberations throughout other parts of the coupled human and natural systems in which tigers are moving into."

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Tiger Conservation Forces Leopards into Human Territory
Dec 10, 2014

There are a mere 3,000 tigers left in the entire world, but while conservationists scramble to save this endangered animal, they are leaving leopards to fend for themselves, forcing them into human territory where they are more at risk, according to new research.

With tiger farming  and poaching being major issues - which involve the killing of tigers for their bones and pelts - conservationists have dedicated their efforts to protecting the iconic species and restoring their numbers by the year 2022.

But as tiger populations - and the territories they occupy - grow, leopards are increasingly likely to be pushed to the wayside, specifically, into areas where people live. Leopards, now fighting a battle on two fronts, have to adapt to both tigers and humans by changing their activity patterns.

According to the study, recently published in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation, these cats avoid people by become night prowlers, shifting their activity to when it's darkest.

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The next water cycle
Oct 29, 2014

Something is drying up the Pangani River. Maybe it is the Tanzania Electric Supply Company, which manages three hydropower plants located on the river, providing up to 17% of the country's electricity. Maybe it is the thousands of farmers and herders, whose traditional furrow irrigation methods deplete the river. Or maybe, as scientists say, drought is to blame for the recent problems. Under climate change and changes in population dynamics, this problem of unpredictable fresh water will only get worse in the Pangani Basin, because more people are depending on the water, and the water sources for the Pangani River — rainfall and glacial meltwater flowing from Mounts Meru, Pare and Kilimanjaro — are rapidly diminishing.

Climate change is affecting the global water cycle like never before. The changing pace of precipitation, droughts and extremes of the two is altering the way farmers, pastoralists and Tanzania's energy company, for example, manage water — with implications for agricultural irrigation and hydropower energy that affect the people they feed and supply energy to. But it's not just the developing world that is adjusting to new uncertainties around freshwater management. All around the world, water managers are finding new ways to work towards adaptation. New techniques and planning for an uncertain future means that both urban and rural development plans are moving away from large, static projects that were once pillars of engineering to solve water problems.

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Q&A: when a theoretical article is misinterpreted
Apr 15, 2014

Recently, a research paper was written about in the media before it was published. The coverage spread around the world with some misinterpreting the article's findings as a doomsday prediction of the collapse of society.

The paper—"Human and nature dynamics (HANDY): Modeling inequality and use of resources in the collapse or sustainability of societies"—was published this month in the journal Ecological Economics.

The authors—Safa Motesharrei, Jorge Rivas, and Dr. Eugenia Kalnay—have described their study as "a thought experiment," explaining that it is not intended to make specific predictions about a particular current society. They build upon an existing model: the predator-prey model. A similar approach was taken in the 1998 article by Drs. James A. Brander and M. Scott Taylor for The American Economics Review, "The Simple Economics of Easter Island," which attempts to solve for the equilibrium of renewable resources and population, indicating that once off balance, a society may collapse.

However, for this new paper, the authors introduce inequality and accumulated wealth into the equations to signal how unequal wealth distribution could lead to different outcomes, running the model to reflect different situations.

To put their research in perspective, we emailed the authors questions. Here they are with the authors' written response.

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A Human Factor: Conservation Requires More Than Just Parks
Nov 07, 2013

Dr. Neil Carter, Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), is quoted in a Yale Environment 360 story about community-managed areas and conservation of habitats and species. The story discusses his article recently published in Ecosphere, "Assessing spatiotemporal changes in tiger habitat across different land management regimes," which "suggest[s] that community-managed areas, or areas managed by communities in collaboration with parks, can sometimes do better than traditional parks alone at protecting habitats and species."

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Battle lines form as EPA hints at revised regulatory plan
Sep 24, 2013

Dr. Margaret Palmer, Executive Director of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), is quoted in an article about a major new U.S. EPA report that synthesizes more than 1,000 studies about connections among streams, wetlands, rivers, and lakes, in advance of a rule proposal by the Obama administration aimed at clarifying what water resources fall under the regulatory jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

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Google Earth Tours: Monarch Butterflies Migration
May 09, 2013

As a part their ongoing collaboration with Encyclopedia of Life and a Google Outreach Developer Grant, Atlantic Public Media has produced four Google Earth presentations for their series One Species At A Time: Stories of Bio-Diversity on the Move.

SESYNC researcher Leslie Ries contributed to the Google Earth Tour on monarch butterfly migration. Every year, monarch butterflies begin a journey north from their wintering grounds in Mexican forests. Watch the video below:

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Inside North Korea’s Environmental Collapse
Mar 06, 2013

SESYNC Director Margaret Palmer and Dutch soil scientist Joris van der Kamp were part of an international delegation of scientists invited by the government of North Korea and funded by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to attend a recent conference on ecological restoration in the long-isolated country. Through site visits and presentations by North Korean scientists they witnessed a barren landscape that is teetering on collapse, ravaged by decades of environmental degradation.

Read the full story from PBS NOVA Next:

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North Korea from the Ground Up
Feb 01, 2013

Listen to Dr. Margaret Palmer discuss her trip to North Korea in American Public Media's The Story.

 "The dictatorship has left people desperate for resources, trees have been slashed and landscapes are barren from years of extreme conditions."

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