Dominic Mullen

Redefining drought could lead to better preparation

Definitions of drought have tended to focus primarily on its effects as a meteorological condition and through a human-centric lens – for example, reduced water levels, crop stress or failure, and socioeconomic impacts. What these definitions ignore are the high costs of drought on nature and how those costs, in turn, affect human communities.

Recently, a team of researchers from the NCEAS collaborative initiative Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) developed a new definition, dubbed ecological drought, that provides a more holistic view. By integrating drought’s ecological, climatic, hydrological, socioeconomic and cultural dimensions, this conceptual framework may help decision-makers better prevent and respond to drought impacts.

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An unusual partnership for nature and people

Amid growing interest in leveraging nature-based solutions to mitigate the intensities of climate change, an alliance of ecologists, engineers and insurance experts has endeavored to determine the true (dollar) value of coastal habitats as natural defenses and to translate that value into risk-reduction incentives for conservation or restoration efforts.

By linking the unique knowledge and resources of these otherwise disconnected sectors, they are creating a win-win-win for insurance companies, communities and nature.

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Thomas Thelen

Understanding our Planetary Boundaries means accounting for oceans too

The idea of Planetary Boundaries has had remarkable influence on how scientists and policymakers think about the earth’s capacity to support humanity. Yet, the framework largely ignores something that covers two-thirds of the planet – our oceans. 

According to a new paper, published October 24th in Nature Ecology and Evolution, the near absence of oceans from the framework, which focuses primarily on land-based systems, is a major oversight that limits our understanding of the planet’s actual boundaries and the framework’s usefulness for policy.

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NCEAS Portraits: Skylar Hopkins, parasite ecologist, blogger and caver

Like many early career scientists who come to NCEAS, Skylar Hopkins began her scientific journey as a “muddy boots ecologist.” Unlike many others, her initial career aspirations were not in science, but in history and elementary education.

An avid caver, an experience she likens to being an astronaut, and blogger about parasites, Hopkins is one of the newer faces at NCEAS who brings a perspective that surely adds to the diversity of people who make up our community. 

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Figure for thought: Conservation aquaculture, a tale of redemption

A recent paper published in Biological Conservation provides a conceptual framework for how aquaculture could be leveraged to help conserve species and ecosystems, underscoring its potentially significant role in achieving conservation objectives across the globe.

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LTER: Soil Synthesis

Principal Investigator(s): 

Will Wieder and Kate Lajtha
wieder

Soil organic matter is a massive storehouse for carbon, as well as a key regulator of nutrient cycling and soil quality in terrestrial ecosystems, yet ecology lacks a full understanding of the controls on stabilization and breakdown of soil organic matter. This group’s goal is to refine and evaluate different soil organic matter stabilization theories and to produce a dataset that encompasses the impact of experimental manipulations on soil organic matter at different sites.

Remembering Henry Gholz

Henry L. Gholz, of Fort Collins, CO, died rock climbing in Colorado on September 30, 2017.

Henry Gholz’s passing is a tragic loss for ecology. Henry was a prominent ecosystem scientist who also had a stellar career in research administration and leadership. As a National Science Foundation (NSF) Program Director in Ecosystems Studies, he helped to shape ecological science in lasting ways. His visionary and outstanding guidance of interdisciplinary teams in NSF’s Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program became an international model for ecological research. His oversight of NCEAS, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, allowed ecological research to flourish in new ways, helping to make NCEAS an exemplar for ecological synthesis all over the world.

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The future of data is open

NCEAS has been on the frontlines of the open data movement, supporting the creation of tools to enable researchers, practitioners and decision-makers to locate, analyze and repeat.

Here’s a brief look at tools that have emerged from our work - and from the challenges of working with big data, as experienced by our own researchers.

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