In the News

SESYNC in the News
Heading Off Negative Impacts of Dam Projects
Dec 08, 2015

Hydroelectric dams grace bank notes in developing countries, from Mozambique to Laos, Kyrgyzstan to Sri Lanka, a place of honor reflecting their reputation as harbingers of prosperity.

That esteem, now enhanced by hydropower’s presumed low-carbon profile, continues to overrule concerns about environmental consequences and displaced people, as evidenced by a surge in dam-building in the developing world.

Continue reading at The New York Times.

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Thinking Across Disciplines to Drive Science and Policy
May 22, 2015

Right after meeting with post-doctoral students to discuss river hydrology, Dr. Margaret Palmer welcomed me into her office to discuss science, communication and the work of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) in Annapolis, Maryland.

Founded in 2011, the National Science Foundation awarded funds to create SESYNC. It is the newest in a series of synthesis centers that coalesces research from a range of disciplines, especially the natural and social sciences.

Continue reading at The Huffington Post.

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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.

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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.

Continue reading at Nature World News.

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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.

Continue reading at Nature Climate Change.

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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.

Continue reading at Elsevier Connect.

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People or Parks: The Human Factor in Protecting Wildlife
Nov 07, 2013

When the United Nations put out its Protected Planet Report in 2012, it touted the news that national governments have designated more than 177,000 protected areas around the world for the long-term conservation of nature, covering an impressive 12.7 percent of the earth’s land surface. Just since 1990, the acreage under protection has increased by 48 percent.

But this encouraging news also masks a significant defect. Setting aside the question of how well officially protected areas actually protect anything, poor planning means these areas often completely omit critical habitats and key species. When a 2004 study in BioSciences looked at a representative sampling of wildlife from around the world, it found that protected areas included little or no habitat for about 90 percent of the threatened or endangered species in the sample. The list of outcasts included 276 mammal species, 940 amphibians, 23 turtles, and 244 birds. Even in parks specifically designed to accommodate certain species, moreover, climate change could make conditions far less accommodating in 50 or 100 years.

Continue reading at Yale Environment 360.

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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.

Continue reading/watching at Atlantic Public Media.

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Collaborating on Policy and Research
Sep 14, 2011

Typically, environmental scientists conduct their studies, publish their results, and expect policymakers to act upon them. But it rarely works out that way.

“There’s often a big gap between what scientists do and what policymakers and regulators need,” says Margaret A. Palmer, professor of entomology at the University of Maryland. “Sometimes policymakers aren’t even aware that the information is out there, or the scientific results are not particularly relevant to them.”

Continue reading at U.S. News & World Report.

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