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.

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.

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.
As usual, Roundtable will take place in the NCEAS lounge at 735 State Street, Suite 300.
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Plant Community Responses to Global Change Drivers

Global change will alter resources, which are predicted to change the composition and functioning of plant communities. Here, I present the results of several projects studying plant community changes in response to resource manipulations. First, I present data from an experiment at Konza Prairie Biological Station in Manhattan Kansas. In this experiment, nutrient additions (nitrogen and phosphorus) turned the tallgrass prairie from being dominate by C4 grasses to C3 forbs. Next, I detail plant community responses to resource manipulations across ~100 experiments world-wide. This data synthesis found that when 5 factors are simultaneously manipulated, there are drastic changes in the plant community. Additionally, the greater number of factors that are manipulated, the greater the change in productivity. Lastly, I review my current postdoctoral work, focused on developing new ways to study patterns of community change using rank abundance curves.


Photo of the phosphorus plots experiment at Konza Prairie Biological Station. Photo Credit: Melinda Smith

Carbon Neutrality at University California: The TomKat Project


In 2013, University of California President Janet Napolitano announced the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative, which declares that all ten campuses in the University of California will have zero net emissions by the year 2025. Through a generous donation from the TomKat Foundation and supplemental funding from the University of California Office of the President, two groups of researchers have assembled to help address different facets of this multidimensional initiative. These two teams of the TomKat Project are hosted by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and supported by the Institute for Energy Efficiency at UCSB.

The Exit Strategies for Natural Gas working group is focusing on the challenge of eliminating natural gas emissions from the ten UC campuses and their medical centers. This is made difficult by the lock-in situation that exists at six campuses which rely on cogeneration power plants for heating and power. The Net-Zero Comm Strategy working group will work to develop and test best communication techniques for the University of California to achieve zero net emissions by 2025. This process will involve performing audience research on key stakeholders at the University of California, testing messages, and analyzing barriers to gaining support for the Carbon Neutrality Initiative.



Celine Mol is an undergraduate student at UC Santa Barbara, where she is graduating this coming June with a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics and Applied Probability. In her future, Celine would like to be able to use her strengths in data science to find solutions that demand a more sustainable future. Through the Net-Zero Comm Strategy Working Group, Celine is excited to focus on approaches to leveraging influencers and developing outreach and engagement strategies to implement a successful carbon neutrality model at the UC.

Charlie Diamond is a second year MESM student at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. He has an undergraduate degree in environmental economics, and is specializing in water resources management at the Bren School. Charlie is interested in water and climate policy in California, and feels lucky to be part of an exciting research effort to evaluate decarbonization strategies at the University of California as a TomKat intern.

Evan Ritzinger is serving as an Intern for the TomKat Project on strategies for natural gas removal. He is a Master’s candidate of Environmental Science and Management at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara, where he is pursuing a dual specialization in Conservation Planning and Energy & Climate. His research interests include energy efficiency and climate change mitigation. Previously, Evan worked for roughly two years as a Home Energy Advisor for a Boston based energy efficiency firm, where he was certified as a Building Analyst under the Building Performance Institute and performed hundreds of energy audits. Evan received his B.A. in Environmental Science with a minor in Economics from Boston University.

Jay McConagha is a second year MESM student at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. He is specializing in Energy & Climate while completing a focus in Strategic Environmental Communication & Media. As an intern with the Net-Zero Comm Strategy working group, Jay is interested in identifying and overcoming barriers to the goals of the Carbon Neutrality Initiative, and fostering support through strategic communication.


TomKat Foundation
Established in 2009 by Tom Steyer and Kathryn Taylor, the TomKat Foundation partners with innovative organizations that envision a world with climate stability, a healthy and just food system, and broad prosperity. The Foundation embraces the inherent interconnectedness of these complex systems. Working at every level, the TomKat Foundation is committed to supporting organizations and initiatives across the country that will take bold action on climate change.

The Day After: Bird Conservation in [Insert President-elect’s name]’s America! [Wed. Nov. 9th]

Come take your mind off the aftermath of the 2016 election by talking about birds, citizen science, and habitat restoration instead. I will present on the work done by the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO), which is a nonprofit that works on bird conservation science and educational outreach projects. Although we work on many projects, I will primarily discuss our work with the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, a new urban biodiversity project with Google, burrowing owls conservation, and our citizen science projects. SFBBO and many of its partners are always looking for collaborators and new projects so I look forward to any ideas for partnerships and gaps in knowledge.


I welcome discussion during roundtable and the following are some of my thoughts, although I welcome other ideas!
  • How to promote more linkages among academics and non-profits (i.e., applied ecology and conservation research!)
  • Working with citizen science derived data and how to get our data into the hands of more people
  • Ways to reach more diverse audiences with indoor and outdoor activities
  • Increasing corporate participation in urban ecology as well as the conservation value of urban greening and restoration


Dr. Yiwei Wang
Executive Director
San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory


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

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