Communications

Seminar: Conservation Behavior: A Synthesis of Knowledge

The resolution of environmental issues depends on many things—scientific knowledge, technological developments, economic incentives, etc.—but perhaps most importantly, it depends on the public’s awareness, interest, and capacity to act.

Of Mosquitoes & Men

October 22, 2013

They may be small, but their bites can be mighty.

Mosquitoes are the insects we love to hate—most species consume blood from living vertebrates, including humans, and in the process may transmit harmful, sometimes fatal diseases such as West Nile virus, malaria, and dengue and yellow fever. (Not to mention those itchy red bites that ruin your summer nights.) Surely, someone has argued that the noblest of professions is the scientist who studies the management of mosquito populations.

Which brings us to Dr. Paul Leisnham, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland. Dr. Leisnham’s research seeks to understand where mosquitoes breed and how they spread diseases—an understanding that wouldn’t be possible, he says, without simultaneously studying the behavior of humans.

Want to know more about the socio-ecological connection between mosquitoes and people? Read more about Dr. Leisnham’s research here.

Further Reading

A member of the SESYNC extended family, Dr. Leisnham mentored one of our 2013 summer interns, Sophie Jin. Read her blog about her internship here.

About SESYNC

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) is a national research center funded through a National Science Foundation grant to the University of Maryland.

Located in Annapolis, MD, SESYNC is dedicated to solving society’s most challenging and complex environmental problems. Socio-environmental synthesis is a research approach that accelerates the production of knowledge about the complex interactions between human and natural systems. It may result in new data products—particularly ones that address questions in new spatial or temporal contexts or scales—but may also involve evaluating textual or oral arguments, interpreting evidence, developing new applications or models, or identifying novel areas of study.

Above photo: Calgary Reviews, Creative Commons/Flickr

What We're Reading

October 18, 2013

“We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn.”
                                                   ― Mary Catherine Bateson, anthropologist

Here's what we've been sticking our noses in lately (click the titles for links to the resources):

  
The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability

Authors: Camilo Mora, Abby G. Frazier, Ryan J. Longman, et al.
Source: Nature
Who’s reading it: Margaret Palmer, Executive Director

  
Interviewing for an interdisciplinary job: principled goals, pragmatic outcomes, and finding the right fit in academia

Authors: Susan G. Clark and Toddi A. Steelman
Source: Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences
Who’s reading it: Margaret Palmer, Executive Director

  
The origins and conceptualizations of 'triple-loop' learning: A critical review

Authors: Paul Tosey, Max Visser, and Mark NK Saunders
Source: Management Learning
Who’s reading it: Jonathan Kramer, Director for Interdisciplinary Science

  
Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?

Author: Eileen Pollack
Source: The New York Times Magazine
Who’s reading it: Amanda Grimes, Director of Administration and External Affairs

  
Marx's Theory of Metabolic Rift: Classical Foundations for Environmental Sociology

Author: John Bellamy Foster
Source: American Journal of Sociology
Who’s reading it: Harish Padmanabha, Postdoctoral Fellow

  
Benefits, costs, and livelihood implications of a regional payment for ecosystem service program

Authors: Hua Zheng, Brian E. Robinson, Yi-Cheng Liang, et al.
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
Who's reading it: William Burnside, Postdoctoral Fellow

  
Moose Die-Off Alarms Scientists

Author: Jim Robbins
Source: The New York Times
Who's reading it: Drew Gerkey, Postdoctoral Fellow

  
The Elusive Pursuit of Interdisciplinarity at the Human–Environment Interface

Authors: Eric D. Roy, Anita T. Morzillo, Francisco Seijo, et al.
Source: BioScience
Who’s reading it: Cynthia Wei, Assistant Director of Education and Outreach

  
The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood

Author: James Gleick
Publisher: Vintage
Who’s reading it: Mike Smorul, Assistant Director of Computer Services

  
Windows 8.1 Review: Little Changes Make a Big Difference

Author: Eric Limer
Source: Gizmodo
Who’s reading it: Travis Burrell, Systems Administrator

  
The Fossil Fuels War

Author: John Bellamy Foster
Source: Monthly Review
Who's reading it: Jessica Marx, Research Program Manager

  
How Much Compensation is Enough? A Framework for Incorporating Uncertainty and Time Discounting When Calculating Offset Ratios for Impacted Habitat

Authors: Atte Moilanen, Astrid J. A. van Teeffelen, Yakov Ben-Haim, and Simon Ferrier
Source: Restoration Ecology
Who’s reading it: Kelly Hondula, Research Assistant

  
Comparing the Extent and Permanence of Headwater Streams From Two Field Surveys to Values From Hydrographic Databases and Maps

Authors: Ken M. Fritz, Elisabeth Hagenbuch, Ellen D’Amico, et al.
Source: JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association
Who’s reading it: Steve Epting, Graduate Research Assistant

  
The Geology of Media

Author: Jussi Parikka
Source: The Atlantic
Who’s reading it: Melissa Andreychek, Communications Coordinator

  
Photo: Alex E. Proimos, Flickr/Creative Commons

What We're Reading archive:
9-24-2013

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 

What We're Reading

September 24, 2013

We don’t always have our noses in journals, but when we do, we like to tell you about it. Here are some of things we’ve recently enjoyed reading.
  

Framing Sustainability in a Telecoupled World

Authors: Jianguo Liu, Vanessa Hull, Mateus Batistella, et al.
Source: Ecology and Society
Who’s reading it: Julio Postigo, Postdoctoral Fellow
  

Challenges and opportunities in mapping land use intensity globally

Authors: Tobias Kuemmerle, Karlheinz Erb, Patrick Meyfroidt, et al.
Source: Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
Who’s reading it: Nicholas Magliocca, Research Associate
  

Increased River Alkalinization in the Eastern U.S.

Authors: Sujay S. Kaushal, Gene E. Likens, Ryan M. Utz, et al.
Source: Environmental Science and Technology
Who’s reading it: Kelly Hondula, Research Assistant
  

Dietary Report Card Disappoints 

Author: Jane E. Brody
Source: The New York Times
Who’s reading it: William Burnside, Postdoctoral Fellow 
   

An ontological crisis? A review of large felid conservation in India 

Authors: Sunetro Ghosal, Vidya R. Athreya, John D. C. Linnell, and Pal Olav Vedeld
Source: Biodiversity and Conservation
Who’s reading it: Neil Carter, Postdoctoral Fellow
   

Drawing to Learn in Science

Authors: Shaaron Ainsworth, Vaughan Prain, and Russell Tytler
Source: Science
Who’s reading it: Cynthia Wei, Assistant Director, Education and Outreach
  

Biggest Polluters In U.S. Ranked By Greenhouse Gas Emissions In New Report 

Author: Kate Sheppard
Source: Huffington Post
Who’s reading it: Mary Collins, Postdoctoral Fellow 
   

The evolutionary and ecological roots of human social organization 

Authors: Hillard S. Kaplan, Paul L. Hooper, and Michael Gurven
Source: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B
Who’s reading it: Harish Padmanabha, Postdoctoral Fellow
   

Introducing data–model assimilation to students of ecology

Authors: N. Thompson Hobbs and Kiona Ogle
Source: Ecological Applications
Who’s reading it: Mary Shelley, Assistant Director for Computational Synthesis 
   

How to Eat a Triceratops

Author: Matt Kaplan
Source: Nature
Who’s reading it: Melissa Andreychek, Communications Coordinator 
  

Photo: Anna Creech, Creative Commons

SESYNC Word on the Street: Wicked Problems

September 23, 2013

Are you a scientist preparing for a conference presentation? Writing a blog post? Giving a media interview? David Dobbs, a science writer and blogger of Neuron Culture, has some advice for you: “Hunt down jargon and kill it.” [1]

Scientists sometimes take specialized terminology, core to the research that they do, for granted. While the use of such “trade language” can make communication between issue specialists more efficient, it can make communication with audiences outside of those niches—including scientists in other specializations—less clear and less productive.

We wanted to pull back the veil from some scientific terms that we use at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). So today, we took to the streets to see how many people know what “wicked problems” means.

Watch the video below:

Word on the Street archive:
Epistemology

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 

SESYNC Feedbacks: News from the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center

September 19, 2013

Welcome, friends and colleagues! We're excited to share our inaugural e-newsletter with you and hope you find it a useful source of information that you share with your contacts.

We want to ensure we provide you with content you find engaging and relevant. Please take a moment to complete this survey about your e-newsletter preferences.

Socio-environmental Synthesis? Yeah, We’ve Got an RFP for That

Great ideas need support—SESYNC honors this need by offering a variety of integrated, socio-environmental synthesis programs. The structure of these programs allows us to make advances in areas of national and international priority while still accommodating the need for innovation and knowledge generation around emerging problems or opportunities. Each program also encourages links to policy and actionable outcomes.

So, you want RFPs? We’ve got three:

  • For scholars interested in critical questions at the interface of biodiversity and ecosystem services, funding is available for up to six collaborative synthesis projects that bring together data, ideas, theories, or models that investigate a pressing environmental issue involving complex human-nature interactions and global change. Proposals are due October 9, 2013.
      
  • For graduate students interested in the complex interactions between human and natural systems, we will be hosting a Socio-Environmental Synthesis Research Proposal Writing Workshop that will provide participants with:
    • introductions to SESYNC, socio-environmental synthesis research, team science, and actionable science;
    • networking opportunities to build professional relationships with other students, particularly those from different disciplines; and
    • training sessions on the methods, challenges, and strategies associated with writing successful proposals, especially those related to the type of work SESYNC supports.
      Applications are due October 11, 2013.
  • For University of Maryland faculty, funding is available for innovative interdisciplinary workshops that bring together scholars from diverse disciplines to inspire novel research that focuses on topics related to the interdependency between humans and the natural environment. Proposals are due November 1, 2013.

Food for Thought

This fall, we’ve invited leading scholars in the fields of wildlife biology, applied mathematics, social anthropology, and beyond to SESYNC for our brown bag seminar series. Bring a lunch and an open mind and join us at our Annapolis facilities for these unique science conversations.

Click here for a listing of our seminars, which begin at 12:30 p.m. and are free and open to the public.


Image: Ana Luisa Ahern, Creative Commons

Is a Fish Saved a Forest Lost?

What are the unintended consequences of closing off large marine areas to fishing? It’s a question leading SESYNC scholars have a lot to say about. We interviewed Drs. Ray Hilborn, Taylor Ricketts, and Brendan Fisher about the global implications of marine protected areas (MPAs)—you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Have a response you want to share with us? Email it to news@sesync.org

Epistem ... what?

Earlier this year, Alan Alda—an award-winning film and television star, as well as a founder and visiting professor of journalism at the Stony Brook University Center for Communicating Science—told participants at a workshop hosted at Cornell University to ease up on the jargon when communicating science to the public. Scientists sometimes take specialized terminology, core to the research that they do, for granted. While the use of such “trade language” can make communication between issue specialists more efficient, it can make communication with audiences outside of those niches—including scientists in other specializations—less clear and less productive.

We wanted to pull back the veil from some scientific terms that we use at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). So today, we took to the streets to see how many people know what “epistemology” means.

Watch the video below:

Don’t Miss a Thing

Sign up for emails from SESYNC at www.sesync.org/contact-us

Conservation Trade-offs: A Continued Conversation with SESYNC Scholars

September 16, 2013

by MELISSA ANDREYCHEK
Communications Coordinator

The following is the second in a two-part conversation facilitated between leading scholars affiliated with the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). To read part one, click here.

Dr. Ray Hilborn: he’s kind of a big deal. People know him. So when we read his shrewdly-written opinion piece published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), we knew it would generate much interest amongst SESYNC scholars and those concerned with the complex interactions between humans and the ecosystems in which they live. (We were right.)

SESYNC-funded scientists Dr. Taylor Ricketts and Dr. Brendan Fisher recently offered a few responses to Dr. Hilborn’s insights into the “Environmental cost of conservation victories”—among them:

  • the notions that the implications of any conservation action are global, not just local, and that the linkages between terrestrial and marine systems in relation to food security aren’t often thought of in marine research are right on the ball; but
  • possible shocks to the world’s fisheries as a result of marine protected area (MPA) governance efforts are not actually as worrying as the opinion piece suggests.

I asked Dr. Hilborn for some closing thoughts on the global implications of MPAs, as well as on my dialogue with Drs. Ricketts and Fisher. Below are excerpts from that conversation.

Melissa: Dr. Hilborn, thanks so much for taking the time to read over and respond to Taylor and Brendan’s feedback. Do you have any general comments?

Dr. Hilborn: Well, we’re in basic agreement that the marine conservation realm needs to widen its scope when assessing MPAs. Historically, studies have evaluated impacts on purely ecological elements such as biodiversity. But the interaction between MPAs and impacts elsewhere is not considered when the benefits of large marine closures are praised. What I’m saying with this paper is that in addition to biodiversity, and protections for marine landscapes, there are other, equally significant issues at stake—among them, food production.

Melissa: Taylor and Brendan raise two major questions in response to your opinion piece: one of them is spillover, or the capability of a community to “make up” for lost fishery yield by harvesting from the boundaries of an MPA. Would you say this is a fair point?

Dr. Hilborn: I’ll agree that the occurrence of MPA spillover does allow for stability in some local seafood production. But I’m talking specifically about large marine closures, and the concept of viable spillover is effectively limited to MPAs that are comparatively small, or to communities located on the perimeter of those regions. What about MPAs that are 2–8 times the size of California? My paper mentions Australia’s no-take area of 3.1 million square kilometers in the Coral Sea—that size is significant. That size does not lend itself to convenient mediation by boundary fishing for all affected communities. That’s the size that is most likely to result in the issues of alternative food production I’m describing.

The other important issue here is that many of these large MPAs are obviously in parts of the world where fisheries are well managed. When we do see a resultant reliance on surrogate sources of fish, those sources will almost always be from parts of the world where fisheries are poorly managed, such as Thailand, China, and Vietnam, and from aquaculture. It’s sort of a contagion effect: efforts to provide ecological protection in one area may actually give rise to intensified ecological degradation elsewhere.

Melissa: The other question Taylor and Brendan raise is related to social cost-benefit: that when we evaluate MPAs, we have to look at the “big picture,” not just one qualifier—in the case of your opinion piece, food production.

Dr. Hilborn: Again, the assertion here is quite reasonable and not dissimilar from what I’m saying in my paper. I’d emphasize that one piece of the puzzle, and a hugely important one, is an assessment of an MPA’s implications for food supplies. As I’ve written, the information on trade and environmental consequences of alternative food production is now available to calculate these trade-offs, but it’s just not currently being done. We can’t argue that comprehensive cost-benefit analyses are being conducted if we’re not taking a close look at the effect closing large portions of the ocean has on actions such as forest clear-cutting, pesticide application, water scarcity as a result of increased irrigation, and other agriculturally-related practices. We cannot afford to ignore the consequences of MPAs on our food production activities.

Melissa: For those interested in this subject, where should they go to learn more?

Dr. Hilborn: The new book The Perfect Protein gets into some of this conversation. They could also look into some of my lectures on YouTube. (Editor's note: One example is embedded below.)

That said, due to a lack of research on the subject, I’d encourage scholars to look at centers like SESYNC and NCEAS for opportunities to pursue this type of transdisciplinary synthesis study on marine conservation and food-based systems. These are questions worth answering.

Dr. Ray Hilborn is a former member of SESYNC’s External Advisory Board and a Professor of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington.

Top photo: Brian Hoffman, Flickr/Creative Commons

Seminar: The Human Ecology of Infectious Disease

Dr. James Holland Jones is a biological anthropologist with interests in biodemography, life history theory, and the human ecology of infectious disease. Biological anthropology is the study of the origins and maintenance of human diversity; the axis of diversity that defines his research interests is the stunning variation across populations and through time in the fundamental quantities of demography: age-specific mortality and fertility rates.

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