Master Naturalist Volunteers Participate in Climate and Stream Resiliency Engaged Learning Weekend

group pic

Kristi Sullivan led a group of Master Naturalist volunteers from across the state on a 3-day, engaged learning trip to   the northern Catskills. The goal of the event was to engage volunteers in a meaningful, climate -focused project that  would improve climate change awareness and response. Topics highlighted during the event included current and  future climate change predictions, potential impacts to ecosystems and water resources, and adaptive strategies for   addressing stream and community impacts. The program was a successful collaboration with the outstanding staff  from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene, several of whom are part of the Hudson River Estuary  Stream Resiliency Project, a project designed to address the challenges of flooding,  stream and watershed  management, and climate change.

stream picVolunteers visited several sites in the Catskill Creek Watershed and saw first-hand the devastation brought about by Hurricanes Irene and Lee. They learned that some common practices targeted at stream and water management, such as placing boulders and stones along the stream banks, lead to channelization which can increase water velocity and potential erosion downstream. Local educators demonstrated the benefits of having riparian tree and shrub plantings for bank stabilization, as well as the importance of maintaining undeveloped floodplains and wetlands to slow stream flow and protect downstream communities during heavy rain events. Joining forces with the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Trees for Tributaries Program, participants worked together at three separate sites in the Catskill Creek Watershed to weed around planted tree seedlings and shrubs, stabilize tree tubes, and take other actions to maintain recent streamside plantings. Local partners noted “They are a great bunch of folks and it is energizing to be with such engaged and interested people” and “Thank you. It is so important to the future stability and function of the Catskill Creek to maintain the riparian buffers.”

Participants also discovered the world of aquatic insects, explored their use as indicators of stream health and learned about the Department of Conservation’s Water Assessment Volunteer Evaluation (WAVE) program. Volunteers are now able to take the knowledge and skills they acquired during the engaged learning weekend back to their own communities where they will apply them locally and educate other community members, leading to more resilient communities statewide.

grass picThe New York Master Naturalist Volunteer Program develops natural  resource stewards and empowers them to  educate others in their  communities, monitor for environmental change, and participate in on-  the-ground  conservation projects.

Each year, volunteers contribute over 1,500 hours of work to vital  projects such as wildlife monitoring, invasive  species control, and  habitat restoration. The service-learning weekend in the Catskill  Watershed resulted in  significant benefits to local riparian buffer restoration and monitoring efforts, and volunteers were exposed to a  myriad of different learning opportunities and management techniques. While building climate science and stream  ecology skills, Master Naturalist volunteers learned about the impact of heavy rain events on local biodiversity and the importance of stream resilience, especially in a new era of higher magnitude weather events. The volunteers summed up the weekend’s expedition, saying “This training gave me first-hand knowledge of the potential of severe weather events and the impact they can have on our streams and waterways.  It was interesting to learn of the simple act of planting the right trees and shrubs and the impact they can have on stream bank stability.” and “I loved being part of the community of volunteers! Great group and for me a real sense of trying to do something worthwhile.  I left really motivated to go find other ways to get involved with stream and wetlands work.”

Brandon Kraft selected DNR Outstanding TA

Brandon and receives award

Brandon Kraft (right) with Donald Viands

Congratulations to DNR graduate student, Brandon Kraft, who was selected as this year’s CALS Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Department of Natural Resources.  Teaching Assistants have a very important role in the University’s instructional program, and this award is a great opportunity to recognize Brandon’s performance in this role. And congratulations, as well, go to former DNR Outstanding Graduate TA, Liz Craig, who has been recognized with this year’s award from the Core Biology Program.

Liz Craig receives award

Liz Craig (right)

In addition to lunch at the event on Thursday, May 7th, the attendees were each presented with a certificate signed by their department chair, Donald Viands – associate dean and director of academic programs for CALS – and CALS Dean Kathryn Boor. The award also came with an inscribed golden apple, which Viands playfully warned was heavier than it looks (but not real gold). Lastly, the selected TAs each received a $100 award, the announcement of which drew spontaneous applause and cheers from the winners in the room.

“TAs definitely make a significant contribution to our teaching mission in the college, and we want to recognize that. You make a huge impact on the students you interact with,” said Viands. “We’re here to celebrate the positive things that you all have done.” Before calling upon faculty members to praise their TAs as Viands presented the awards, he shared a quote from American historian Henry Brook Adams: “A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops”

DNR Ph.D. Candidate Laura Jane Martin Named as a 2015 Harvard University Environmental Fellow

Department of Natural Resources Ph.D. candidate Laura Jane Martin has been named one of seven 2015 Harvard University Environmental Fellows. This fall she will join the Harvard University Environmental Center and the Harvard Department of the History of Science for a two year postdoc.

“The Harvard University Center for the Environment extends a warm welcome to the newest class of Environmental Fellows: Sebastian D. Eastham, Evan Herrnstadt, Melissa E. Kemp, Brian Lander, Daniel Madigan, Laura Martin and Gillian Osborne. These fellows will join a group of remarkable scholars who will be beginning the second year of their fellowships. Together, the Environmental Fellows at Harvard will form a community of researchers with diverse backgrounds united by intellectual curiosity, top-quality scholarship, and a drive to understand some of the most important environmental challenges facing society.”

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(Above: Laura Martin, one of seven 2015 Harvard University Environmental Fellows)

“Civic Ecology: Integrating Social and Environmental Sciences”

Dr. Marianne Krasny recently contributed to the NOVA Science Education Series in the form of an “Earth Day” blog post. In her post, she discusses the ways in which people unite to help steward and protect their local environments. She explores the ways in which civic ecology practices encourage both environmental stewardship and socio-ecological resilience in communities and neighborhoods. The combination of these two concepts creates stronger community bonds and fosters environmental consciousness.

Dr. Krasny writes, “When students learn about the environment, it’s almost always bad news. We teach our students how humans have contaminated our waterways, carved up rainforests, greedily extracted mineral resources, and introduced foreign insects that kill off native trees. Sadly, all of this and more is true.

But scientists at Cornell University’s Civic Ecology Lab are offering a counter perspective to viewing humans solely as destroyers of the environment. We are examining how humans in cities and elsewhere are caring for—restoring and stewarding—local nature. We study how people come together to create community gardens, reintroduce oysters to the New York City estuary, and clean up local parks and cemeteries.”

Read Dr. Krasny’s full article here:“Civic Ecology: Integrating Social and Environmental Sciences”

CBFS and DNR scientists work with Global Lake Temperature Collaboration

Cornell Biological Field Station and Department of Natural Resources scientists are part of the Global Lake Temperature Collaboration (GLTC), an international group assembled to provide increased access to global lake temperature records including Oneida Lake. The GLTC group recently published an article summarizing a new lake temperature database in the journal Scientific Data, which is published by Nature (http://www.nature.com/sdata/). The GLTC project has recognized that a new global database of lake surface temperatures was needed, including not only satellite data, but also “on the ground” measurements from in situ data collection programs. Since its inception in 2010, the GLTC initiative has grown to a database of 291 lakes and reservoirs worldwide, providing summer-mean lake surface temperatures from 1985-2009, and roughly doubling the amount of data previously available from satellites alone. This new dataset represents the first publicly available global compilation of in situ and satellite-based lake surface temperature data. The GLTC database also provides information on climatic drivers (air temperature, solar radiation, cloud cover), as well as geomorphometric characteristics that may affect lake temperature (latitude, longitude, elevation, lake surface area, maximum depth, mean depth, volume). This unique, global dataset will offer an invaluable baseline perspective on lake thermal conditions for ongoing and future studies of environmental change

gltc

It is now widely recognized that global and regional climate change has important implications for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Recently published studies, for example, have revealed significant warming of lakes and reservoirs throughout the world. This has been evident not only in studies of individual lakes at specific sites (i.e., from “in situ” datasets), but especially in broader, satellite-based studies of lake surface temperature trends. Remarkably, these previous studies have also found that the observed rate of lake warming is sometimes greater than that of ambient air temperature. These rapid, unprecedented changes in lake temperature have profound implications for lake mixing, hydrology, productivity, and biotic communities.

Given the results of these previous studies and the observed rapid warming of lakes – as well as the important ecological and hydrologic implications – there has been a significant need to assemble and synthesize global records of lake temperature from both in situ and remotely sensed data sources. In response to this, the Global Lake Temperature Collaboration (GLTC; http://www.laketemperature.org/), which began in late 2010, brought together an international group of investigators with interest in and access to global lake temperature records. Since the initiation of this effort, which started as a small group of 10 people from three countries, the GLTC project has now grown to over 70 investigators from 20 countries worldwide.

Throughout the development of the GLTC project, it has been recognized that a truly global database of lake surface temperatures needed to go beyond just the satellite records and include a diverse array of “on the ground” measurements from in situ data collection programs, such as those coordinated through the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON). The inclusion of both in situ and satellite-based records in the GLTC effort was, in fact, deemed essential – due to the value that each source of data brings to the table. On the one hand, remotely sensed measurements of lake surface temperature provide good geographic coverage of many of the world’s largest lakes, with most data going back to 1985. In situ data, on the other hand, fill some of the gaps left by the satellite record by providing temperature data for lakes that are too small to be “visible” by satellite. Many of the in situ records also go further back in time, and a few even provide information on vertical temperature profiles.

The GLTC initiative has now assembled a database of summer-mean lake surface temperature for 291 lakes and reservoirs around the world, roughly doubling the amount of data previously available from satellite alone. This initial GLTC database – now published in Scientific Data – focuses on the period 1985-2009 due to the abundance of both satellite and in situ data. It represents the first global compilation of in situ and satellite-based lake surface temperature data and is publicly available to the broader community for analysis and interpretation. In addition to lake surface temperature, the GLTC database also provides information on climatic drivers at each lake site (air temperature, solar radiation, and cloud cover), as well as geomorphometric characteristics that may influence lake temperature (latitude, longitude, elevation, lake surface area, maximum depth, mean depth, and volume). Future iterations of the GLTC database are anticipated to include additional lakes, longer time periods, and vertical temperature profile data. This unique, global dataset will offer an invaluable, baseline perspective on lake thermal conditions in our ever-changing global climate.

Cornell team works to develop ecological corridors in the Andes

ecuador team

 

From left, Rich Bernstein, Chris Wood, Santiago Molina, Carla Gomes, Angela Fuller, Andy Royle, Jeff Mecham, Greg Poe visit a cloud forest in Ecuador. (Photo and caption from this article)

 

 

A Cornell team is working in the Andes Mountain range in Ecuador to help create a socio-ecological corridor that will aid in protecting a variety of species, including the Andean bear. The team is led by Angela Fuller, assistant professor for the Department of Natural Resources and leader of the New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Cornell.

Ecuador’s mountains host an enormous range of animal and plant species and are important biodiversity hotspots. Unfortunately, many threatened and endangered species such as the Andean bear are being displaced due to deforestation and forest fragmentation from the spread of cattle ranching and agriculture. At-risk species including jaguars, pumas, margays, ocelots, endemic bird and amphibian species, and even a rare type of orchid.

The team’s goal is to study the bears’ movements and resource-use patterns to help identify the best location for an ecological corridor. Since the bears’ habitat overlaps with many other threatened Ecuadorian species, the corridors will benefit the entire ecosystem.

The team is also working closely with local stakeholders to minimize any potential economic or social effects from the placement of the corridor.

“Local communities still need to engage in activities that provide income,” Fuller said. “So there are many creative ways we can think about activities that are compatible with conservation, while still providing income.”

Check out the full article on the project here!

Marianne Krasny becomes a blog contributor for the Huffington Post

Congratulations to Dr. Marianne Krasny for becoming a contributor to the Huffington Post blog. Krasny is a Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Director of the Civic Ecology Lab at Cornell. She received this blogging position as a result of the Public Voices Fellowship.

Krasny’s first Op-Ed piece, 7 People Who Care for Nature and Community, was published early this week. In her post, she discusses seven influential people who have made positive environmental changes in their communities.

Read the full blog post here and stay tuned for more articles from Dr. Krasny in the near future!