March 15 – Non-climate processes and ‘species on the move’

Evidence from the past several decades shows that species distributions are shifting in response to climate change. However, even the most robust studies attribute less than half of observed changes in species distributions to local climate factors. Foundational ecology considers climate as just one of many drivers that determine species distributions. I will review five prevalent mechanisms that may explain some of the high variance around the relationship between species range shifts and climate velocity, and describe how they might affect a species’ climate tracking: (1) biogeographic boundaries, (2) habitat gaps and fragmentation, (3) biotic interactions such as competition, predation, and mutualism, (4) other abiotic constraints including light and trace elements, and (5) life history traits that determine dispersal capacity. This work supports conservation initiatives for threatened species by highlighting several processes that may limit their potential redistribution, and can inform analyses of observational data and species distribution models that seek to incorporate multiple processes rather than climate alone.


Alexa Fredston-Hermann

Alexa is a third-year PhD student at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UCSB. Her research focuses on biogeographic processes that may prevent species from tracking climate change, particularly in the oceans. She has also studied human impacts to coastal marine ecosystems, and participated in the Ridges to Reef Fisheries SNAPP Working Group. Before entering graduate school, she worked for the Environmental Defense Fund on management of the West Coast groundfish fishery, and graduated from Princeton University in 2012 with a B.A. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

March 8th – GRNmap and GRNsight: Open Source Software for Dynamical Systems Modeling and Visualization of Medium-Scale Gene Regulatory Networks

A gene regulatory network (GRN) consists of genes, transcription factors, and the regulatory connections between them that govern the level of expression of mRNA and proteins from those genes. Over a period of several years, our group has developed a MATLAB software package, called GRNmap, that uses ordinary differential equations to model the dynamics of medium-scale GRNs. The program uses a penalized least squares approach to estimate production rates, expression thresholds, and regulatory weights for each transcription factor in the network based on gene expression data, and then performs a forward simulation of the dynamics of the network using a sigmoidal or Michaelis-Menten production function. GRNsight is an open source web application for visualizing such models of gene regulatory networks. GRNsight accepts GRNmap- or user-generated Excel workbooks containing an adjacency matrix representation of the GRN, SIF, or GraphML files and automatically lays out the graph of the GRN model. GRNsight’s diagrams are based on D3.js’s force graph layout algorithm, which was then extensively customized. GRNsight uses pointed and blunt arrowheads, and colors the edges and adjusts their thicknesses based on the sign (activation or repression) and magnitude of the GRNmap weight parameter. Visualizations can be modified through manual node dragging and sliders that adjust the force graph parameters. In addition to discussing how these efforts have contributed to our understanding of the gene regulatory network controlling the response to the environmental stress of cold shock in budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, I will put them in the context of an Open Science Ecosystem, in which the process and products of science are open and accesible to all. Together, the life cycle of these two programs illustrate the differences between the cultures of biology, mathematics, and computing, the challenges and benefits of bringing an existing code base up to open development standards (GRNmap), and the advantages of starting a project using best practices from the beginning (GRNsight). Our goal is to facilitate reproducible research.

Seaver College of Science and Engineering Faculty Staff Headshots

Dr. Kam Dahlquist is an Associate Professor of Biology and Affiliate Faculty of the Bioethics Institute at Loyola Marymount University. Dr. Dahlquist earned a B.A. in Biology from Pomona College and a Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Dr. Dahlquist performed postdoctoral research at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease at the University of California, San Francisco, and taught for two years at Vassar College before joining the LMU faculty in 2005. In her research, Dr. Dahlquist follows an interdisciplinary approach to understanding gene regulatory networks that involves cutting-edge techniques in genomics, mathematical, and computational biology. This research crosses over into her teaching in such courses as Molecular Biology of the Genome, Biomathematical Modeling, Biological Databases, and Bioinformatics Laboratory. She believes that her research and teaching must be informed by and contribute to a broader social context. She has worked with various groups such as the UCSF Science and Health Education partnership and the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) to improve science education for all and to increase the numbers of women and minorities in science. She believes strongly in training her students to apply ethical standards to the conduct of scientific research. Finally, she promotes an Open Science Ecosystem in which the process and products of science are open and accessible to all.

March 1: Observing carbon cycle climate feedbacks from space

Carbon cycle climate feedbacks remain one of the most uncertain and complex aspects of the Earth System. Considerable theory exists, but in situ observations are sparse and using them to test alternative hypotheses and to quantify the strength of feedbacks has proved challenging. Satellite observations of XCO2 provide greater coverage spatially, particularly in some crucial but undersampled regions and have the potential to complement more accurate in situ CO2 and more process-relevant local flux observations. We report early analyses of OCO-2 and GOSAT data showing evidence for satellite constraints on both positive and negative feedback mechanisms in the carbon-climate system. Satellite CO2, by providing greater resolution on land in over the oceans, in the tropics, allows linking both growth, and drought-related emissions from ecosystems to be better quantified, allows better linkage of fluxes to mechanisms of disturbance and CO2 fertilization, and provides a new and complementary constraint to others currently used. We show that the tropical continents differ in their responses and explore why they may differ, based on their prior disturbance, soil and functional diversity. Extratropical feedbacks may also now be becoming evident in observations, and we discuss the role of satellite CO2 in constraining positive and negative feedbacks to climate in the extratropics.

Speaker: David Schimel, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Dr. David Schimel is currently a Senior Research Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Lab, leading research focused on carbon-cycle climate interactions, combining models and observations.  For the previous five years, Schimel led the National Ecological Observatory Network project, was responsible for the top-level science design, site selection and observing system simulations.  From 2001-2007, Schimel was at the National Center for Atmospheric Research as a senior scientist, with research focused on assimilation of carbon cycle data in land and atmospheric models. From 1998-2001, Schimel served as founding Co-Director and Managing Director of the Max Planck Insitute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany.  From 1990-1998, Schimel was at NCAR.  Schimel served as convening Lead Author for the first IPCC assessment of the carbon cycle, and has served as an IPCC CLA four times, and as a Lead Author twice. From 1988-1989, Schimel was an NRC Fellow at NASA Ames. Dr. Schimel obtained his PhD in 1982 from Colorado State University, studying atmosphere-ecosystem exchange of nitrous oxide and ammonia.

Feb 22nd – Biocultural approaches to indicator development and use from local to global

Pacific Island communities are facing unprecedented challenges in conserving natural resources and maintaining human well-being. In these place-based communities, biocultural connections, or the integrated social, economic, cultural and environmental linkages between people and nature are widely believed to play a critical role in improving and maintaining the resilience of both human and ecological communities. However, indicators of human or ecological well-being rarely reflect the integrated nature of these systems.

We synthesized information from visioning exercises across multiple Pacific Island archipelagoes (Hawaiʻi, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands) to better understand the perspectives of Pacific Islanders on characteristics of vibrant biocultural landscapes and seascapes. Based on this and a review of the literature, we identified key elements that describe a resilient biocultural state for Pacific Island communities. We are using these elements to identify if and how international sustainability goals capture local perspectives and values. We are also using these key elements to develop a community self-assessment guide. Finally, we are in the process of comparing indicators of biocultural resilience and their drivers across the Pacific Islands. We expect the results of our work will guide practices on sustainability and well-being that better resonate with communities and better reflect important connections between people and nature.

Eleanor Sterling
Chief Conservation Scientist
Center for Biodiversity and Conservation
American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024


Stacy Jupiter
Wildlife Conservation Society
Associate Conservation Scientist
Fiji Country Program Director


Rachel Dacks
University of Hawaii

Feb. 15: Evidence for competition among salmon at sea

Pink salmon

Salmon scientists frequently focus research on the link between salmon production and oceanographic conditions, but there is growing evidence that intraspecific and interspecific competition are also important. Pink salmon represent nearly 70% of all adult salmon returning from the North Pacific Ocean (~670 million fish in 2009) and their abundance has doubled since the mid-1970s ocean regime shift. The fixed two-year life cycle of pink salmon and their strong alternating-year pattern of abundance provides a unique opportunity to test hypotheses about competition at sea. In this presentation, I review evidence for competition, including its effects on salmon growth, age-at- maturation, and survival. Much of the evidence involves sockeye salmon, which typically spend two or three winters at sea and have high diet overlap with pink salmon. There is also evidence that pink salmon impact the growth, age, and survival of other species, such as Chinook salmon. Finally, I conclude that this evidence has important implications for large-scale hatcheries, which may contribute to a Tragedy of the Commons.

Dr. Greg Ruggerone
Natural Resources Consultants, Inc.

Dr. Greg Ruggerone has investigated population dynamics, ecology, and management of Pacific salmon in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest since 1979. Much of his earlier experience stems from activities as Project Leader of the Alaska Salmon Program, University of Washington. His research typically involves factors affecting growth, age at maturation, and survival of salmon in freshwater and marine habitats. Lately, this research has focused on species interactions in the ocean, especially competition between pink salmon and other salmon. He is past Chair of the Columbia River Independent Scientific Advisory Board and past Chair of the Independent Scientific Review Panel, and he currently serves as an independent science reviewer for the California WaterFix Project.

Feb. 8 [Wed] – Obstacles to Groundwater Treatment at Santa Susana Field Laboratory: Assessing Water Management Options and Ecosystem Questions

The RocketOutfall team is working in collaboration with Boeing to advance the groundwater treatment process at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory. This project analyzes five methods Boeing could use to discharge this water, and investigates what impacts the most viable option (discharging treated water to a dry streambed) might have on the arid landscape. Boeing has previously pursued this option, but the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has asked them to consider the impacts on the receiving creek’s vegetation before a final permit is granted. Boeing is partnering with the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management to answer CDFW’s questions, and consider alternative discharge options.

Presenters are members of the RocketOutfall team – a group of 4 graduate students from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management specializing in Pollution Prevention and Remediation and Conservation Planning.

Feb 1, 2017 – Aligning coastal restoration with ecological and societal needs

Coastal habitats play critical ecological and societal roles in nearshore and estuarine systems.  Yet despite their importance, reefs, marshes and coastal forests around the world have been highly degraded and reduced to a small fraction of their historic extent.  In the United States and elsewhere, billions of dollars are being invested in coastal habitat restoration.  New policies emphasize planning processes that work across sectors and jurisdictions to fund projects that provide the greatest returns for people and nature.  As a result, state, county and local government agencies, non-governmental organizations and industry are facing hard questions about where to invest and how to set targets to meet these dual goals.  We have formed a multi-agency and NGO partner working group aimed at increasing understanding agency needs for decision-making, assessing past restoration projects, and developing achievable metrics and approaches for aligning ecological and social goals in future efforts.

Jonathan Grabowski, Ph.D.


 My research interests span issues in ecology, fisheries and conservation biology, social-ecological coupling, environmental policy, and ecological economics. I have used a variety of estuarine (oyster reef, seagrass, salt marsh, mud bottom) and marine (kelp bed, cobble-ledge) systems to examine how resource availability, habitat heterogeneity and predation risk affect population dynamics, community structure, and ecosystem functioning. Much of this work focuses on economically important species such as lobsters, cod, herring, monkfish, and oysters, and consequently is relevant for fisheries and ecosystem management. My lab also focuses on how habitat degradation and restoration influence benthic community structure, population structure, and the transfer of energy to higher trophic levels. In addition, we are interested in how fisheries management initiatives such as the design of closed areas, delineation of stock boundaries, fishing gear modifications, and quota setting impact fish population structure and fisheries productivity, essential fish habitat protection, community structure, and the social capital of stakeholders.


My lab’s research involves highly coupled social-ecological systems and integrates social and natural science approaches. For instance, we are examining the ecological consequences of shoreline hardening on ecosystem service provisioning while also investigating how the environmental connectedness of coastal residents influences their decision-making around this issue. We are also examining factors that influence coastal fishing communities’ perceptions of and trust in management to help improve their buy in and identify potential barriers. Finally, we are determining how factors such as urbanization and resource specialization influence the perceptions and values of coastal residents so that we can design more effective environmental policies around issues such as climate hazard preparedness and coastal habitat and resource management.

Wed. Jan. 25 – Summer fog patterns of Santa Barbara County

Sunrise 3-15-13

During the dry summer months, coastal shrubs in California receive little to no rain. However, shrub-dominated plant communities can be inundated by periodic fog events. I will be sharing my dissertation work examining the patterns of summer fog deposition, chemical make-up of fog and plant uptake of fog water. Come on by and let’s talk fog while reminiscing about those sunny summer months.

Nate Emery
Doctoral candidate
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology
University of California, Santa Barbara

Wed. Jan. 11 – Alaska’s salmon and people in the (rapidly changing) 21st century

Elmendorf Salmon Viewing Platform

This talk is an informal sketch of the emergent State of Alaska’s Salmon and People (SASAP) initiative, jointly told by many of the project’s leads. In addition to providing listeners with an understanding of the SASAP process, we aim to provide insights into our own motivations for joining the work, sketches of work in our laboratories, and a general sense of the importance of salmon to the overall health of Alaska.

Presenters: Peter Westley, Jessica Black, Courtney Carothers, and Tobias Schwoerer

Peter Westley
Assistant Professor
College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences
University of Alaska Fairbanks

Measuring the status of fisheries and factors leading to success

This talk will summarize the results to date of our SNAPP group of the same title.  We will summarize the data we have available on the status of fish stocks,  and how they are managed.
We now have reliable data from national and international scientific institutions on stocks constituting over 50% of global fish catch, with Asia south of Japan the major area that is not covered.  We also have less reliable estimates from  statistical models of most fisheries not covered by scientific assessments.  We have also collected data on how fisheries are managed in major fishing countries and international fisheries.  Our best estimates are that globally fish stock abundance has been stable for the last several decades,  but increasing in places were good scientific data are available and likely decreasing where such data is not available.  Our preliminary results suggest that there is not a strong relationship between the intensity of fisheries management and stock status because intensive management seems to result from poor stock status.  If we focus on stocks that are overfished then a clear relationship between intensity of management and stock recovery emerges.
At our current meeting we are asking two key questions.  (1) what factors have led to recovery of overexploited species and (2) Does science advice improve fisheries outcomes.
Ray Hilborn
Mike Melnychuk
Maite Pons
Ray Hilborn

Ray Hilborn

Ray Hilborn is a Professor in the School of  Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington specializing in natural resource management and conservation. He  teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in food sustainability, conservation and quantitative population dynamics.  He authored several books including “Overfishing: what everyone needs to know” (with Ulrike Hilborn) in 2012,  “Quantitative fisheries stock assessment” with Carl Walters in 1992, and “The Ecological Detective: confronting models with data” with Marc Mangel, in 1997 and has published over 300 peer reviewed articles.  He has served on the Editorial Boards of numerous journals including  7 years on the Board of Reviewing Editors of Science Magazine.    He has received the Volvo Environmental Prize, the American Fisheries Societies Award of Excellence, The Ecological Society of America’s Sustainability Science Award,  and the International Fisheries Science Prize.    He is a Fellow of the American Fisheries Society, the Washington State Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of Canada and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Mike Melnychuk is a Research Scientist at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, working with Ray Hilborn. His research focuses on characterizing the variability in fisheries management systems around the world and assessing the consequences of that variability for fish stocks and fisheries. In previous lives, Mike completed his PhD at UBC with Carl Walters and Villy Christensen, studying migration and mortality patterns of juvenile salmon, and then completed a post-doctoral fellowship at UW with Tim Essington, quantifying ecological impacts of catch share fisheries.
Maite Pons is a PhD. student working with Ray Hilborn in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington. She is originally from Uruguay where she completed her undergrad in biology and masters in ecology. Her research focuses in stock assessment and management of large pelagic species such as tunas and billfishes. She is interested not only in the performance of different assessment models but also in how different management measures impact current stock status.
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