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!

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!

Department of Natural Resources Associate Professor Amanda Rodewald recently had a guest column published in The Hill, an insider Washington, D.C. newspaper. Rodewald is also director of conservation science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, faculty fellow at Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, and a Robert F. Schumann Faculty Fellow. Her column, “National and environmental security, two sides of the same coin”, discusses the complex relationship between climate change and national security. Rodewald argues that “One of the most important things we can do to meet our national security objectives and advance political stability, human health, economic development and peace around the world is to recognize — and act in ways reflecting this — that a healthy planet is a critical part of the policy equation.”

Read Rodewald’s full article here!

Congratulations to Mary Fisher for receiving the School for Field Studies Distinguished Student Researcher Award!

Mary Fisher is a Natural Resources major with a minor in Marine Biology. She is currently working on her honors research with Dr. Matthew Hare and is looking forward to attending graduate school this coming fall.

“I have always wanted to contribute to research for conservation and management, and became convinced that I wanted to do so in marine ecosystems after my experiences at Cornell’s Shoals Marine Lab and at SFS,” said Fisher.

Fisher was selected for the School for Field Studies (SFS) Distinguished Student Researcher award based on her research project Ecological Knowledge in a Data-Deficient Fishery: Using FEK to Explore and Quantify Long Term Changes in the Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) and Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus) Fisheries of South Caicos, the Turks and Caicos Islands. Her work plays a key role in the SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies’ Five-Year Research Plan by addressing one of their key research questions: “What is the present status of commercially and ecologically important marine organism stocks?” Fisher’s research suggests that some inshore fisheries may be more heavily exploited than previously thought, which has profound implications for TCI fisheries management.

For her research, Fisher conducted interviews with fishermen on South Caicos, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, in order to collect local ecological knowledge (LEK) on the Caribbean spiny lobster and queen conch fisheries. These are two of the largest fisheries in the Turks and Caicos, yet there are gaps in historical fisheries data and many challenges facing current fisheries management. Through these interviews, Fisher was able to record fishing effort and landings data from the 1950s – 2014 and to construct a map of intensive use harvest areas for each species throughout that time period. The fishermen not only proved to be a valuable source of qualitative and quantitative information indicative of the past and present states of the South Caicos fishery, but also provided well-informed opinions on major causes of depletion and potential future directions for management.

Fisher’s SFS DR advisor Dr. Edd Hind says that her work is “the first semi-quantitative fishers’ knowledge study of its kind in a developing world context and has a large chance of making an impact.”

Biographical information, research summary, and photo courtesy of and written by Mary Fisher. Additional information obtained from the SFS website

(Mary Fisher, below)

Over the course of the past year Cornell University initiated four Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs are different than typical online courses because they are open to public access and are not limited in the amount of students they can reach.

Dr. Marianne Krasny, Professor and Director of the Civic Ecology Lab in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University, has been involved with the growing MOOC program at Cornell and is teaching the course Civic Ecology: Reclaiming Broken Places, which will cover human interaction with ecological systems and provide service learning opportunities.

“If you look at them as ways that people who are motivated can learn at their own pace and what they’re interested in, I think they’re effective and serve a role there,” Krasny says. The excitement expressed by Krasny is shared by professors from various other institutions as well. Many hope that the MOOCs will provide lots of new opportunities to students who might not have otherwise been able to take traditional courses.

To learn more about Dr. Marianne Krasny’s work with MOOCs, check out this article.

This weekend marked the 127th Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Annual Meeting. This year, the APLU awarded two national winners, six regional honorees, and two new teacher honorees. These awards are presented to honor the awardees for their “scholarship, exemplary pedagogy and personal dedication” as well as their “innovative teaching methods and service to students.” The teaching awards are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and APLU. The awards provide stipends of $5,000 for the national winners and $2,000 for regional and new teacher honorees to assist the awardees in improving teaching at their universities.

Dr. James P. “Jim” Lassoie, International Professor of Conservation and member of the Cornell University Department of Natural Resources, was one of the six individuals to receive the 2014 Regional Teacher award as part of the Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards For Food and Agricultural Sciences. In addition to the excellence demonstrated by Dr. Lassoie in the aforementioned areas, he was specifically selected for his work with the “design and development of 13 different interdisciplinary courses covering a variety of subjects including agroforestry, conservation, eco-agriculture, environmental sciences, and sustainable development.”

Congratulations, Dr. Lassoie, for this incredible achievement!

For more information about Dr. Jim Lassoie’s accomplishments and the award, please check out the links below.
CALS article
APLU article

Dr. Tom Gavin, Professor Emeritus, just returned from Taiwan, where he spent two weeks teaching at National Taiwan University (NTU) at the invitation of his former student, Hsiao-wei Yuan. Hsiao-wei is now Chair of the Department of Forestry and Resource Management, where Tom taught a short course on Current Topics in Conservation Biology; about 17 students took the course, most of them grad students in wildlife biology.

In addition, Tom went on numerous field trips with the class and with grad students to visit their projects. He visited sites where conflicts arise between land use, mainly agriculture, and conservation of biodiversity on Kinmen Island, Neidong National Forest, and numerous locations near Taipei. He also had a small reunion with students from a course he helped lead two years ago, and he attended a dinner of Taiwanese business and university leaders who were all Cornell alumni. He also paid a courtesy visit to the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, who he first met in 2012. There are many opportunities to lecture or teach at NTU, where they encourage foreign scholars to spend time at this excellent university.

If interested in learning more about this very user-friendly experience, please contact: Dr. Thomas A. Gavin, 607-272-4081 or email

Shorna B. Allred, an Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Resources, recently led a Cornell University research team in developing survey questions regarding climate change. The survey questions were used in the 2014 Empire State Poll administered by the Survey Research Institute at Cornell.

Results indicated that respondents’ desire to take action depended on their knowledge and experiences with climate change. While over 80 percent of New Yorkers surveyed believe climate change is happening, less than one percent of respondents believe it is the most pressing issue faced by the state.

For more information about Shorna B. Allred’s work and the survey results, please check out this article on the Atkinson Center Blog.

In a recent editorial piece for The Hill entitled “Avoiding the path to zero”, Amanda Rodewald addressed the ever-present threat of bird extinctions. Amanda Rodewald is the director of conservation science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, faculty fellow at Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, an associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University, and a Robert F. Schumann Faculty Fellow. In her editorial, Rodewald looked at four grand species of grouse which are already suffering from extremely low population sizes. She emphasized the point that while extinctions (such as that of the passenger pigeon) may seem unlikely with modern ecological knowledge, we are closer to that precipice than we may think. In light of the recently issued State of the Birds report, Rodewald identified five major ways to help save America’s bird populations:

  1. “Fully fund key bird conservation legislation, such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act.
  2. Increase the price of the Duck Stamp to $25 as supported by Ducks Unlimited and other conservation groups.
  3. Sign the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels treaty that endorses bird-friendly ocean fishing.
  4. Support successful conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Migratory Bird Joint Ventures and State and Tribal Wildlife Grants.
  5. Keep promises made in the Farm Bill by appropriating amounts authorized for conservation.”

(List taken directly from “Avoiding the path to zero” by Amanda Rodewald)

Please read the full article written by Amanda Rodewald here: “Avoiding the path to zero”

For more information about Rodewald’s work with The Hill check out this link!

This year the Environmental Science and Sustainability (ESS) major welcomed its largest and most diverse class yet. A total of 97 students joined the ESS major this academic year.

The ESS Class of 2018 consists of 73 students from 14 US states and six countries. Approximately half of the class of 2018 is from New York State, 30 students are from 13 other states (CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, IL, MA, MD, MI, NC, NJ, PA, TX) and 11 students are from five other countries (Canada, China, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan). Additionally, 24 transfer students from 23 different colleges joined the ESS major this year. Most students transferred from colleges within New York State, but students also transferred from 10 different states (PA, IL, CT, NJ, FL, WA, AL, VA, CA, MA) and one other country (China).

The incoming students thoroughly enjoyed themselves during the ESS orientation program. They had the opportunity to meet with other ESS students during a luncheon. “The older students in ESS were very nice,” said one student, “and they answered all my questions!”

Afterwards, new students went to meet their advisors and learn more about the ESS program. The new students had a great time getting to know their professors and advisors. They were excited to have the opportunity to meet their professors before the start of class, and to see who they would be taking classes with in the future.

“I think the thing that stuck with me the most about orientation was the passion and enthusiasm that every faculty member who spoke to us possessed,” said Emma Dietz, Class of 2018, “their excitement was inspiring, and really made me feel lucky to be spending my next four years at Cornell.”

“Meeting my professors really stood out for me,” said Hailey Aleman, “not only were future professors there, but some I would be working with on the first day of classes!”

Abby Kawola said, “The camaraderie among all the professors was nice to see. You could tell how passionate they are about their fields of study and it made me excited to learn from them!”

Overall, ESS orientation was an exciting moment for students and faculty alike, and we are thrilled to welcome so many new students to the major!

Welcome to Cornell and ESS!
ESS Class of 2018

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