NCEAS’ collaboration with the Henry Luce Foundation  offers additional opportunities to graduate students. The Luce Environmental Science to Solutions Fellowship Program  allows selected Ph.D. scholars to carry out multi-disciplinary research on environmental issues under the guidance of experienced scientist mentors at NCEAS and UCSB. Student-driven working groups hosted at NCEAS are a component of the program.
Current Research Projects
The following groups will convene at NCEAS in 2011:
What makes reintroductions work? Developing a comprehensive framework to evaluate and guide reintroduction efforts
Summary: Species reintroductions are an increasingly common conservation tool being used worldwide to stem or even reverse biodiversity loss. However, reintroduction attempts commonly face an array of challenges. In addition to ecological obstacles, cultural and economic barriers to reintroductions often exist. As a result of these diverse challenges, overall results from reintroductions have varied. Adding to the problem, different definitions for reintroduction success exist within and among stakeholder groups impacted by reintroductions, making it difficult to actually evaluate reintroduction success and designate best practices for planning, executing, or monitoring reintroductions. A comprehensive framework that could be used to evaluate and guide reintroduction efforts would therefore be of use to a variety of groups including scientists, resource managers, and policy makers. Our goal is to develop this framework. Working with various stakeholders and experts, we aim to create an interdisciplinary definition of reintroduction success and identify ecological, cultural, and economic factors that most contribute to reaching that point. We will first use the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone as a case study, followed by a synthesis of results from other reintroductions in order to identify trends in reintroduction outcomes.
Contacts: Stephen Gosnell, Stephanie Diaz, Keely Roth
Marine Phenology Working Group
Summary: Phenology is a multidisciplinary, integrative science focused on quantifying the timing of biological systems on a seasonal time scale. Phenological studies provide insight into many diverse areas of science, management, and education, including ecosystem dynamics, natural hazards, agricultural productivity, conservation, ecotourism, recreation, and human health (Miller‐Rushing & Weltzin 2009). Several recent literature reviews and meta‐analyses of long-term phenological records have consistently revealed that the phenology of plants and animals is among the most sensitive indicators of environmental variation and the biological response to climate change (e.g., Parmesan 2006; IPCC 2007). Although our detection of this “fingerprint of climate change” on natural systems is achieving higher resolution every year, the vast majority of these studies are focused on terrestrial systems. Marine data – particularly seasonal fisheries data – are among the oldest and longest-running biological data sets in the U.S. and abroad, however strikingly few syntheses have been conducted on the phenology of marine systems compared to the number conducted on terrestrial systems. As a result, our understanding of marine systems, their responses to environmental variation, and the seasonal productivity of marine resources are limited. This working group is focused on adapting a tried‐and‐true terrestrial phenology approach to marine data in order to better understand the impacts of climate change on marine resources.
Contact(s): Brian Haggerty, Emily Rivest
Malaria and Climate Change
Summary: How will changes in temperature and precipitation affect malaria transmission? This question has been at the forefront of climate change research for the last decade, yet predictions are still remarkably variable and uncertain. This working group aims to assess the current state of climate-driven malaria research and to combine statistical and biological modeling approaches in novel ways. Our goal is to synthesize data from laboratory and field studies with a malaria transmission model, and to use this model to predict when changes in rainfall or temperature will promote infection.
Contact(s): Erin Mordecai
Can eco-labeling drive conservation and sustainable harvesting of marine fisheries?
Summary: Overfishing has been a pressing environmental issue for decades, with various proposed solutions ranging from quotas and moratoriums to marine protected areas and no-take zones. Recently, eco-labeling sustainably harvested seafood has opened up conservation and resource management to market forces via consumer demand and price-premiums. The leading eco-label certification, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), has certified over 80 fisheries with 125 others in review. However, whether MSC certification has had a measurable impact on stock yield or health, or whether the currently certified stocks were already sustainable prior to certification, is not clearly determined. What is clear is that demand for certified fish already outpaces supply, and that that demand is increasing. Whether there is enough sustainable fish in the sea to meet the increasing demand will likely depend on whether MSC certification has a positive effect on stock health, whether pending certified and prospective certified stocks are able to become and remain sustainable, and whether MSC certification and the associated benefits will outweigh the costs of certification for fisheries.
Contact(s): Sarah Teck
Other group members: Sarah Valencia, Ashley Larsen, Seeta Sistla, Nick Williams, Jorge Cornejo, Christine Henzler
The science, media reporting, and politics of California air quality: Content, context, and voting patterns of Proposition 23
Summary: California Proposition 23 was a ballot measure to overturn the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. This measure, which explicitly tied the enforcement of environmental regulations to the state unemployment rate, was defeated by a large margin in the November 2, 2010 election. We use Proposition 23 as a proxy to explore the broader issue of the communication of scientific research to public media outlets and how such communication may correlate with media audience decision making.
We develop a database of both media reports and scientific articles about the potential air quality and economic impacts related to Proposition 23. Using this database we analyze the content of both media reports and scientific articles about the potential air quality and economic impacts related to Proposition 23, providing context to the convergence of socioeconomics, media, science, and politics that the vote on this proposition represents.
The results of our content analysis will be used towards two ends. First, the development of a discrete choice model of voting on Proposition 23, in which we consider relevant demographic and environmental variables per county as well as the results of our media content analysis. Second, an analysis of content disparities between media reporting and scientific literature on air pollution to asses media bias. Combined, this analysis explicitly links media content, scientific reporting, and voting patterns of an important conservation issue, thus contributes to the emergent body of research on the flow of conservation information from scientists through media to the public.
Contact(s): Micah L Brachman, Idse Heemskerk, Lindsay Vogt
Reefs, food, people - Coral reef fisheries and food security
Summary: Coral reefs are a food source for millions of people worldwide. These ecosystems are under increasing stress from multiple anthropogenic threats including pollution, climate change, and overfishing. While many studies have examined the impact of these threats on coral reef ecosystems and the fisheries they support, we know relatively little about the subsequent food security implications for people who rely on coral reef systems.
The purpose of our research is to better understand (1) the conditions under which coral reef fisheries influence a countrys food security, (2) the mechanisms involved in this influence, and (3) how well prepared countries are to adapt to changes in coral reef ecosystems. To do so we are targeting thirty-nine tropical and sub-tropical island nations and have collected data on a range of variables: fish catch, protein consumption, malnutrition, fish trade, disasters, demographics, and management strategies.
Contact(s): Lisa Max, James Watson
Investigating the impact of integrating social variables into water quality research: A review and meta-analysis
Summary: An increasing number of environmental scientists consider the integration of social and ecological data sets to be an urgent priority. Because water quality is influenced by social and biophysical factors, studies of water quality provide an excellent opportunity to assess how this type of integration can improve our understanding of coupled social and natural systems. We will review studies that investigate both social (e.g., demographic and economic) variables and biophysical variables and assess the potential for using meta-analysis to determine the degree to which including both social and biophysical variables accounts for more variation in measures of water quality than either type of variable alone, our working group proposes to review the water quality literature where social and ecological variables are measured simultaneously. We will summarize the biophysical and social variables examined in these studies, analyze how data are defined, gathered, and reported from different disciplinary perspectives, and describe any geographic, temporal or variable-specific trends that we observe. This analysis will be used to assess the feasibility of conducting a meta-analysis.
Contact(s): Alisa Hove
Identifying successful management strategies for rebuilding collapsed fisheries
Summary: Costello et al (2008) recently demonstrated that how a fishery is managed can significantly influence its probability of collapse. However, the impact of management regime on the recovery prospects of fisheries that have already collapsed or been severely depleted is unknown. Successful recovery requires first that fisheries managers have the capacity to enact an effective rebuilding plan, and secondly, that the rebuilding plan incorporates the tools that have proven most successful at rebuilding ecologically similar stocks in the past. We propose (1) to evaluate rates of recovery under common rebuilding tactics and their covariance with key ecological parameters and (2) to quantify the effects of management regime on the likelihood that an effective rebuilding plan is developed.
Contact(s): Reginald Archer, Elizabeth Hogalund, Margaret Lynch, Lisa Needles, Steve Sadro