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SESYNC in the News
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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SESYNC mourns loss of Dr. Lin Ostrom
Jun 13, 2012

SESYNC joins the broader community in mourning the loss of board member and colleague Dr. Lin Ostrom. SESYNC joins the broader community in mourning the loss of board member and colleague Dr. Lin Ostrom.  You can find a memorial page linked below as well as NPR's coverage of the loss of the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in economics, here.

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Dr. Palmer Interviewed by NYT on North Korea Trip
Mar 30, 2012

SESEYNC director, Dr Margaret Palmer, was interviewed by the New York Times for their Green Blog on her trip to North Korea to speak about her research on ecological restoration and its potential applications to that country.

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Environmental think tank opens in Annapolis
Jan 31, 2012

Environmental think tank opens in Annapolis The Capital By PAMELA WOOD, Staff Writer Published 01/31/12 With enough "thank-you" speeches to rival the Academy Awards, officials celebrated the opening of an environmental think tank in Annapolis Monday afternoon. The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center's goal is to use new approaches to solve environmental problems. The center is led by Margaret Palmer, a Davidsonville resident and University of Maryland scientist. Scholars will spend days and sometimes weeks at the center's Park Place offices. The center doesn't have labs, and there won't be any experiments. Rather, scholars will use computers to re-crunch "existing but underused" data - a form of science called "synthesis research." There also will be a strong focus on bringing together different types of scientists who may not normally work together, including social scientists. Palmer said she's also interested in getting decision-makers involved earlier. Often, scientists give presentations to politicians and regulators who may or may not heed the scientific information. It would be more useful, Palmer said, for scientists to understand early on the questions that politicians and regulators have. The center has hosted workshops and will soon select its first group of scholars, who will come to Annapolis in the spring to study "ecological wealth." Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen sees an economic boon with the center's presence. "That's going to translate into hotel rooms, meals and a positive economic impact," Cohen said. The center will help cement the city's reputation as an environmental leader. Scores of Chesapeake Bay-related government agencies and nonprofit groups have offices in and around Annapolis, and the city's residents have a reputation for environmental awareness, Cohen said. The center - called by its acronym SESYNC, pronounced like "succinct" without the "t" - has drawn high-powered political and academic support. Yesterday's dedication was attended by Gov. Martin O'Malley; House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Annapolis; state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert; U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and top University System of Maryland officials. The center is funded mainly by a five-year, $27.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation that is expected to be renewed for five more years. The state government also has kicked in $150,000 a year.

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