Species interactions as biotic filters of global change [Wed. Oct. 12]

The study of species interactions has greatly improved our appreciation of the importance of network structure for ecological community stability, sensitivity to invasion, and extinction. Because species interactions reflect past evolutionary constraints and niche partitioning within a particular local context, they constitute the underlying fabric of ecosystem dynamics, driving biomass and body size distributions, and ecosystem level processes. Here I propose that beyond being a simple witness of global change, species interactions can actually mediate their effects on population and ecosystem dynamics either locally via bottom-up or top-down mechanisms or regionally via spatial cascade processes. I will present case studies for each scenario and conclude with a discussion of future perspectives and challenges for the use of ecological networks in conservation biology.



Eric Harvey, PhD
Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
University of Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland

Discussion on credit and collaboration in science today [Wed. Oct 5]

This week’s Roundtable will be a community discussion on credit and collaboration in science today, motivated by this recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Changing-Face-of/237451/

Here are a few questions we’ll use to structure the discussion:

Do you agree with the author’s assertion that the drive to apportion credit is hurting the spirit of collaboration in science?

Even if you disagree with the author’s argument, can you see any ways in which more precise accounting for credit in scientific collaboration might impact the spirit of collaboration?

What approaches could be used to help someone on the other side of this issue see and appreciate your point of view?

Please read the article and come to discuss evidence and experience you might have on this interesting and very relevant topic.  Hope you can join us!


NCEAS Community Discussion on career pathways [Wed. Sept. 28]

NOTE: This discussion may be most relevant to NCEAS residents, but others are still welcome to attend.

In the Early Career Researcher (ECR) discussion group, we’ve been talking about paths, directions, and reasons for considering doctoral programs (among other choices). Within the NCEAS community, there are lots of people who are thinking about their next steps. We know that there are many folks with sage advice, comments, and insights—and so we’re opening the discussion up on Wednesday, September 28th. Please join us during the usual NCEAS roundtable time at 12:15 in the lounge to offer your thoughts, and hear those of others!

The community discussion will be generally framed by these questions:

-What are some of the affordances that you believe the PhD has given you, or gives to others, generally?

-For you, what were some of the opportunity costs of going for the PhD?

-What are the top one or two pieces of advice that you would share with someone who wants a career in science/research/data, but doesn’t necessarily know if they want to pursue the PhD?

Hope you can join the open discussion Wednesday!



Interactive Tradeoffs to Support Anticipatory Marine Spatial Planning [Wed. Sept.14]

Human use of the oceans is increasingly in conflict with conservation of endangered species. Evaluation of environmental impacts have historically been post hoc; the time and place of human activity is often already proposed before assessment. I describe anticipatory spatial decision support frameworks that highlight tradeoffs between industry and conservation with interactively synchronized map and tradeoff plots for two spatially distinct problems: siting for offshore wind energy development (OWED) and routing for ships to avoid striking whales.

Offshore wind energy development suffers from a lengthy environmental compliance process, estimated to incur a 7 to 10 year permitting timeline in the US. To responsibly and expeditiously evaluate environmental impacts we differentially assess sensitivity of wildlife above the water line in space, and below the water line in time. During long-term OWED operation, birds can collide and be displaced by active turbines. During episodic pre-operation phases, cetaceans are most heavily impacted acoustically by seismic airgun surveys and pile driving. The framework highlights sites in space that are most profitable and least sensitive to birds. For a given site, pre-operation activities are advised by cetacean sensitivity across months of the year that minimize impacts on migratory cetaceans, particularly those of highest conservation concern such as the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena Glacialis) in the case of the US Mid-Atlantic study area.

For routing ships to avoid whale strikes, British Columbia is evaluated in light of potential new oil tanker traffic to Port Kitimat where an oil pipeline terminal is under consideration. Marine mammal species distributions are aggregated to a single map layer, weighted by species conservation concern. This map layer of risk to species acts as the resistance surface by which least-cost routing is implemented. Transformations are applied to this surface before the routing algorithm for providing a series of routes offering a range of tradeoffs between conservation and industry. Preemptive avoidance of whale hotspots by ships could theoretically become as commonplace in the oceans as traffic avoidance by cars with Google Maps.
The web-based interfaces are built using the open-source, cross-platform R package shiny. Future developments and broader applications will be discussed.


Ben Best is an environmental data scientist with a strong background in marine spatial ecology. He offers consulting services, current clients of which include the Ocean Health Index and Marine Biodiversity Observation Network. He has lectured at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management for several courses (GIS, Advanced GIS, Landscape Ecology, Environmental Informatics) as well as Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment (Marine GIS). He was previously employed as a senior analyst for the Ocean Health Index and research associate for development of the OBIS-SEAMAP marine animal observation geoportal. He recently completed a PhD at Duke University’s Nicholas School from the Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab and obtained an MS in Environmental Sciences from Duke, and from UCSB a BS in Aquatic Biology and BA in Geography.



Ben Best, Ph.D.

Greening Games [Wed. Sept. 7]

This talk will examine the potential affinities between ecology and environmental science and digital interactive games. Although video games and the platforms that run them seem woefully remote from the concerns of the outside world, contemporary games may offer quantitatively and qualitatively distinctive opportunities for the representation of pressing environmental problems. Touching on both commercial titles like Spore and No Man’s Sky and academically developed games like Future Delta and AirQuest, I will argue that games not only meld the computational advantages of programming-driven processes with the aesthetic range of literature and cinema, but more importantly render environmental outcomes and ethics into powerfully playable scenarios.

Professor Chang is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Film and Media Studies at UC Santa Barbara (Ph.D. Rhetoric, UC Berkeley). With a multidisciplinary background in biology, literature, and film, she combines ecocritical theory with the analysis of contemporary media. Her current project, Playing Nature, offers an ecological perspective on computer and video games. She also maintains the Growing Games blog, a resource for scholars in game and ecomedia studies and the environmental humanities.



Alenda Y. Chang
Assistant Professor
Department of Film and Media Studies
2018 Social Sciences and Media Studies Building
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-4010

This, That, and The Other: Three Remarks on the Sociology of Creativity [Wed. July 20]

This talk will review some of my current research on creativity in science and art:

1. Sociometric sensors promise to measure social interactions quantitatively, precisely, and unobtrusively. I’ll discuss a few findings from a pilot study of small group collaborations at two synthesis centers.

2. Path-breaking groups of artists and scientists that launch major artistic and intellectual movements share much in common, but also differ markedly along some social dimensions due to key differences between the fields of art and science. I’ll discuss some of these similarities and differences in relation to the specific character of these fields.

3. How theory groups die: I’ll discuss the social forces that cause the small groups that create new scientific paradigms to disintegrate, socially and creatively.


Dr. John N. Parker
Barrett, The Honors College
Arizona State University
john.parker at asu.edu

Fostering Sci. Community at NCEAS: Welcome Site for Newcomers [Wed. July 13]

NCEAS is a central hub for a diverse array of scientists and research. New researchers, including visiting and early career researchers (ECRs), are constantly coming in and out at various frequencies. However, larger cohorts of scientists stationed at NCEAS are no longer entering at one time, making it more difficult to track the exciting research and possible collaborations within the center. As part of addressing this new dynamic, the resident ECRs are proposing a simple, advice-based website that provides basic and clear information concerning everything from housing to setting up access to the NCEAS servers. It simply provides the fundamentals of what an incoming scientist will need/can do before moving to Santa Barbara and within the first couple weeks here. The ECRs will maintain most of the site, allowing us to modify the information quickly when new issues or ideas arise. The beta-version of the site will be discussed and feedback is most welcome!

Looking forward to the discussion!

Halley E. Froehlich
Rachael Blake
Jamie Afflerbach
Casey O’Hara
Heather Soyka
Colette Ward
Claire Runge

Catering for wildlife in fire-prone Australian mallee habitats: it’s not rocket science, it’s more complex than that! [Wed. July 6]

Inappropriate fire regimes are recognized as a key threatening process to bird conservation globally, but particularly in Australia. Fire management often aims to maintain a “mosaic” of patches of differing fire history (pyrodiversity); assuming this will cater for the greatest variety of species. We tested this assumption across a 104,000 km2 area of the Murray Mallee region of southern Australia. We compared avian diversity in 28 ‘whole’ landscapes, representing different fire-driven mosaics.

Using a novel technique to age and map vegetation we demonstrated that fire influences mallee vegetation for over a century, particularly key habitat resources (e.g. tree hollows). We found little evidence that bird diversity was related to the diversity of fire age classes in a landscape. Similarly, there was little evidence of the importance of pyrodiversity for individual species. Instead, a key driver for all groups was the spatial extent of ecologically important fire age classes; in particular, the spatial extent of long-unburned mallee vegetation.

We used models of species distributions to evaluate the consequences for threatened bird species of alternative management scenarios for fire for the next twenty years. We evaluated the likely effect of planned burning programs that burnt 1%, 3% or 5% of public land annually. The outcomes of this work have provided an assessment of the relative risk of extinction for these species. This research has transformed understanding of how fire affects these threatened species in the region and has been embraced by fire managers and contributed to significant change in fire management policy.

Prof. Mike Clarke
Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution
La Trobe University, Australia

Ecological drought in the 21st century [Wed. June 29]

Drought is often defined in meteorological, agricultural, hydrological, and socioeconomic terms, but recent hot, dry conditions worldwide and associated impacts to ecosystems, call for expanded consideration and a clear definition of ecological drought. The need to define ecological drought and include it in drought planning and mitigation efforts is a pressing concern because hotter ‘global change-type droughts’, multi-decadal ‘mega-droughts’, and human alterations of climatological, hydrological, and ecological processes increase ecosystem vulnerabilities and threaten human communities that depend on healthy, functioning ecosystems for critical services. Our working group is attempting to establish this much needed definition of ecological drought offer a “call to action” to operationalize ecological drought in the 21st century.
Shelley Crausbay
Post-doctoral Researcher, SNAPP Ecological Drought Working Group
North Central Climate Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
Fort Collins, CO
Aaron Ramirez
Post-doctoral Researcher, SNAPP Ecological Drought Working Group
Northwest Climate Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
Corvallis, OR

Journalists’ insights into Science Communication with the Media [Wed. June 22]

Worried about getting on the phone with a journalist to talk about your research? Or–worse–that nobody will care enough to call? We’ll set you straight! In this talk, an editor and a writer offer insider tips on how to communicate science to the media. We’ll cover what makes research interesting to the media, how to prepare for an interview with a journalist, and how to best ensure your interviewer understands and writes about your research accurately. We’ll also talk about how to get your research in front of reporters’ eyes and how to maintain relationships with reporters. Anything else you’ve been dying to ask a journalist? We love questions, so there will be plenty of time for a Q&A.

Pacific Standard is a national magazine and website (psmag.com) based in Santa Barbara. (We’re right on Garden and De La Guerra!) We cover research-based solutions to issues of social, environmental, economic, and educational justice. Nick Jackson is Pacific Standard’s editor-in-chief. He previously worked as the digital editorial director at Outside magazine and as an associate editor at the Atlantic, where he launched theatlantic.com‘s health and technology channel. Francie Diep is a staff writer with Pacific Standard. She has a master’s in science journalism and previously worked as a contributing writer with Popular Science.

You can join remotely from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

Or dial in using your phone.
United States : +1 (408) 650-3123

Access Code: 653-578-053


Nick Jackson (left)
njackson@psmag.com or @nbj914 on Twitter

Francie Diep (right)
fcdiep@gmail.com or @franciediep on Twitter