Bachelor students studying ecology collect data on a field course with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. (Image credit: Caitlin Mandeville, CC BY 2.0)
The first time I remember really thinking that I could be an ecologist was during a three-day trip to a field station in northern Wisconsin as part of my college limnology course. Sure, I already loved my ecology classes and learning about nature. But actually being a scientist? Real scientists, I thought, were people like my professors and graduate teaching assistants, who peppered their lectures with captivating tales of their own research.
Last year, 1650 students from across the US exchanged letters back and forth throughout the school year with professional scientists from around the world as part of the Letters to a Pre-Scientist program. Through the friendships formed between students and their scientist penpals, Letters to a Pre-Scientist helps kids see scientists as real people and empowers them to see themselves as future scientists.
Volunteers collect data as part of the Centennial Saguaro Survey in Arizona, USA. (Image credit: US National Park Service, CC0, Image Cropped)
When it comes to making conservation decisions, science is just the first step. Putting scientific research to work addressing conservation challenges requires collaboration between researchers, stakeholders, and the public. And increasingly, researchers point to citizen science as a way to engage the public in conservation.
April 2020 is Global Citizen Science Month. (Image credit: Citizen Science Association. CC-BY 4.0, Image Cropped)
What does citizen science mean to you? If you asked fifty people this question, you’d probably get fifty different answers. Citizen science—or, as it is sometimes called, community science—is increasingly common in scientific research, revolutionizing the way that many types of data are collected, but at the same time it can feel distinctly personal to those that participate in it.
Snapping a photo of a backyard tree each day to document the change in seasons … collecting a water quality sample from your neighborhood stream and sending it to a local lab for analysis … swiping through photos of outer space on your smartphone and identifying patterns among formations of stars—the experience of citizen science looks different for each person who participates in it.
Ecological restoration (pictured here, sand dune restoration conducted by NH Sea Grant in New Hampshire, USA) is a form of solution science. (Image Credit: Caitlin Mandeville., CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)
Shining a Brighter Light on Solution Science in Ecology (2020) Doubleday & Connell, One Earth, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oneear.2019.12.009
These days, it can feel hard to go even a day without thinking about the many environmental challenges facing the world. Climate change, habitat degradation, species extinctions… it can all feel a bit overwhelming sometimes. In fact, many of us ecologists chose careers in this field because we hope to contribute to solving these problems. There is no doubt that many of the questions investigated by ecologists have direct relevance to our ability to live more sustainably on earth. But how often do ecologists make the leap from basic ecological knowledge to the ways that this knowledge can be used to make a positive difference in the world?
In a January 2020 publication, authors Doubleday and Connell calculated the percentage of articles published in top ecology journals that have a clear focus on solving environmental problems and found that only 14% of top ecology articles focus on what they call “solution science”.
This fox has tracked down his next meal by listening for sounds in the subnivium. Image Credit: Yellowstone National Park, Public Domain Mark 1.0, Image Cropped.
Sometimes the hardest places to access are the most interesting places to study. Take the subnivium, a temporary ecosystem that forms each winter in the small space between the snowpack and the ground.
It was easy to feel inspired about ecology with this view from the conference hotel.
It’s been two weeks since the 2019 Ecological Society of America conference and I’m still collecting all my thoughts about the meeting. My experience at ESA was, as they say, a little like drinking from a firehose: there was an enormous number of exciting talks, sessions, workshops, and networking opportunities, and I inevitably had time to experience only a fraction of them.
Image Credit: AntTree, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
Can you help ease the global biodiversity crisis through the choices you make at your local fish market? A recent report by US-based nonprofit Eating with the Ecosystem suggests that the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
Image Credit: US National Park Service, Public Domain Mark 1.0, Image Cropped
Ice has become (pardon the pun) something of a hot topic lately.
Professional and amateur scientists alike have studied the timing of seasonal ice formation on lakes and rivers for hundreds of years, and the patterns that have emerged from these studies provide a window into the progression of climate change. Overwhelmingly, the data show that lakes and rivers are freezing up later in the winter and their ice cover is melting earlier in the spring than in the past.
Image Credit: NPS Photo, CC BY-SA 2.0, Image Cropped
A collection of biodiversity researchers from across Europe came together in Brussels for a unique kind of meeting last week. We were connected by two common threads: first, we are all supported by BiodivERsA, a large network of European biodiversity research projects funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program. And second, most importantly, we are all interested in connecting our biodiversity research with citizen science in one form or another.