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.

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


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

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

Model-based assessment to inform ecology education & communication [Wed. June 8]

As children, we often make sense of nature and the world around us by relying on naive mental models, and all too often, these naive mental models are never corrected, exhibiting themselves as persistent scientific misconceptions: animals adapt to their surroundings so they can survive; plants get their food from the soil; removing a species from a food web affects only the species immediately above and below it in the web; humans have caused the majority of extinctions on Earth.

Science educators who recognize student misconceptions about fundamental scientific concepts can lead students to greater educational gains; science communicators who understand public misconceptions can lead their audience to deeper understanding of scientific issues.  Physics education research has long leveraged the Force Concept Inventory (FCI), a model-based assessment of student understanding of classical Newtonian mechanics.  The FCI has become a valuable tool for physics education, providing researchers with data to improve physics pedagogy and curricula.  Since the development of the FCI two decades ago, other concept inventories have been designed to inform chemistry, physical science, and biology curricula as well.

In this talk, I propose the development of a Ecosystem Concept Inventory to examine how students, and the general public, understand fundamental models of ecology.  I will make an argument for model-centered ecology education and how an Ecosystem Concept Inventory is a critical first step.  I will lay out a series of simple models that I believe provide the fundamental structure for a scientifically literate understanding of ecology, and ask the audience for input and insights into developing a model-based assessment to inform ecology education and communication.


Casey O’Hara
Project Scientist, Ocean Health Index
National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis
735 State Street, Suite 300, Santa Barbara  CA  93101


Challenges of scale when examining plant-interactions in arid ecosystems: micro, local, & regional [Wed. May 18]

In high stress environments, such as deserts, positive interactions among plants maintain biodiversity and productivity.  However, the role and mechanism of these positive interactions changes depending on the context of spatial scale.
I will discuss how positive plant-interactions in deserts change at the micro, local, and regional scale.  I also discuss the challenges associated with examining plant interactions at different spatial scales as a researcher, such as sampling techniques, community structure, and interacting factors.
Typically studies examining positive plant-interactions focus on local gradients, thereby neglecting micro or regional scales.  All spatial scales share similarities in that each have gradients that modifies the mechanism, magnitude, and direction of plant interactions.  Drawing parallels among different spatial scales and considering all three simultaneously as a response surface can provide a better understanding of positive interactions.  This can assist conservation biologist and restoration ecologists make better informed decisions when managing desert ecosystems in support of global biodiversity.

Alex Filazzola
PhD Student
York University
Toronto, Canada


Industrial Ecology: Material flows at the nature-industry boundary [Wed. May 11]

Achieving a sustainable industrial economic system is the defining challenge of our age, one that requires understanding both of human-made systems that generate stresses on the environment and of the natural systems that absorb them.   Industrial ecology (IE) is a synthesis field that seeks to understand the sustainability implications of decisions made in the context of human systems (businesses, households, public agencies).  The main organizing principle in IE research is the boundary that separates the natural environment from the domain of human activity (aka the “technosphere”).  Though natural systems are necessarily spatial, human systems are often more readily thought of as graphs, where different activities happen at distinct points in order to satisfy demand for products and services in the economy.

I will introduce the core methodologies of IE, material flow analysis and life cycle assessment, describe data collection and analysis in comparison to the natural sciences, and discuss how the operational concerns of businesses influence how IE investigations are designed and how knowledge is shared.




Brandon Kuczenski, Ph.D.
Assistant Researcher
University of California at Santa Barbara
Institute for Social, Behavioral, and Environmental Research
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5131




Mapping the evidence for conservation’s impact on human well-being [Wed. April 6]

Global policy initiatives and international conservation organizations are increasingly emphasizing the link between the conservation of natural ecosystems and human development. However, despite heavy investment of time, funds, and research in these linkages, the strength of evidence supporting the impacts of conservation on human well-being, is still scattered, inconsistent and inaccessible. Rigorous and comprehensive evidence is necessary to inform effective decisions and investment in achieving improved well-being of nature and people in conservation. This presentation will discuss the efforts of the SNAP working group on evidence-based conservation to take on a synthetic approach to evaluate the existing evidence for conservation’s impact on human well-being and provide coherent and useful frameworks and tools to increase the use of evidence in conservation decision-making. I will present a systematic map of over 1000+ relevant studies linking conservation interventions to human well-being. I will discuss the value of the systematic map as a decision support tool for rapidly locating data on policy impacts and targeting knowledge gaps to guide future research efforts.
Samantha H. Cheng, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
SNAP Evidence-Based Conservation Group
National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), UCSB
Santa Barbara, CA
Senior Research Fellow
Center for Tropical Research, UCLA
Los Angeles, CA

Salmon management and responses to water quality changes in Alaska [Wed. March 23]

This week’s Roundtable features two talks about salmon ecology and management in Alaska by Drs Milo Adkison and Anne Beaudreau, both of whom are members of the Gulf of Alaska Portfolio Effects working group.

Why is salmon management so hard?

Dr. Milo Adkison

Managers of Alaskan salmon fisheries open and close fisheries on short notice, with the objectives of maximizing catch and achieving their goal for spawners escaping the fishery. Uncertain run strength has long been recognized as an impediment to their success. I’ll show that uncertain run timing is just as big of a problem. Finally, I’ll examine a constant fishing schedule as an alternative to the current management approach.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
235 O’Neill
Fairbanks, AK 99775

Long-term community responses to nutrient additions and water quality changes in Afognak Lake, Alaska

Dr. Anne Beaudreau

The Afognak Lake sockeye salmon run historically supported one of the largest subsistence fisheries in the Kodiak Archipelago, Alaska. Declining abundance during the 1980s led to a decade of lake fertilization (i.e., additions of phosphorus and nitrogen) and intermittent stocking. The central goal of this study was to characterize changes in prey and habitat quality for lake-rearing juvenile sockeye salmon in Afognak Lake since the late-1980s. We synthesized long-term data collected by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to address two questions: (1) What environmental and ecological factors explain patterns of production for zooplankton and juvenile sockeye salmon in Afognak Lake? (2) Are patterns of production consistent with the expected community response to fertilization? We found that total phosphorous concentration was an important predictor of variation in density and size of dominant zooplankton species. Primary and secondary production showed a response to lake nutrient additions, but there was no discernable effect of fertilization on juvenile sockeye size and condition. Additionally, there was little support for the hypothesis that larger size at outmigration led to enhanced survival in the ocean. As a whole, our results suggest that nutrient additions are unlikely to result in increased population productivity of Afognak sockeye and that the ecological role of insects, which compose a large proportion of sockeye fry diets in Afognak Lake, deserves greater attention.

Beaudreau halibut_photo
University of Alaska Fairbanks
17101 Point Lena Loop Road
Juneau, AK 99801


Environmental and trait variability constrain community structure and the biodiversity-productivity relationship [Wed. March 9th]

tidal flats

Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning (BEF) has been a major topic in ecology for years. Nevertheless, there is still considerable debate about which mechanisms drive the relationship. Although most scientists agree on the existence of two underlying mechanisms, complementarity and selection, experimental studies keep producing contrasting results on the relative contributions of the two effects.  My colleagues and I implemented a spatially explicit resource competition model to investigate how the strength of these effects and underlying mechanisms are influenced by trait and environmental variability, resource distribution, and species pool size. I will mainly present the model outcomes and then show a couple of BEF related projects I have been working on recently.


Dorothee Hodapp
Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg
Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM)
AG Planktology
Schleusenstr.  1
26382 Wilhelmshaven