In memoriam: Mark B. Bain (1955-2012): A commemoration by his students and colleague










Dr. Mark Bain passed away at his home in Lansing, New York, on 8 February 2012 from complications resulting from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease). He spent most of his career in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) at Cornell University studying fish and invertebrate communities in lakes, streams and estuaries in the wildest and most settled places, from the bays of Lake Ontario to the urban banks of Manhattan. He was recognized worldwide as a leading voice on aquatic systems ecology.

Born in Gary, Indiana, Mark gained his knowledge of ecology through
a B.S. in wildlife resources from West Virginia University, a M.S. in
fisheries science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State
University, and a Ph.D. in fisheries biology from the University of
Massachusetts-Amherst, where he worked with Dr. John Finn and Dr. Henry Booke. His doctoral research, published in Ecology, on streamflow regulation and fish community structure is one of the most cited papers on the subject.

Mark began his career in the Department of Biology at Ball State University, leaving after one year to become an ecologist at Argonne National Lab. In 1986, he became the assistant leader of the Alabama Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (CFWRU) at Auburn University, where he pioneered a new approach to measure cover in fish habitat surveys and studied habitat use and population characteristics of several southeastern fish species. In 1991, Mark moved to Cornell University as the assistant leader for fisheries in the New York CFWRU within the DNR. He became a tenured professor of systems ecology and was appointed director of the Cornell University Center for the Environment, a position in which he served from 2003-2007. In 2007 he returned full-time to the department faculty.

Mark’s boundless curiosity and wide-ranging professional interests defined his career. His work integrated fisheries science, aquatic ecology, hydrology, and systems theory. Among his diverse pursuits, Mark developed approaches for habitat evaluation and cumulative impact assessment, conducted studies on complex systems theory in bays and lagoons, described impacts to and recovery of fish species in the Hudson River, and planned ecosystem restoration and conservation projects. His expertise led to collaborations around the world, and during these travels, he enjoyed many adventures and made lasting friendships.

Even during his battle with ALS, Mark’s commitment to his work never waned. He continued analyzing data, advising students, collaborating on research projects, and serving the broader scientific community. At the time of his death, he was working on a book about the science and practice of environmental management, and he remained active on the editorial boards of Acta Ecologica Sinica, Environmental Management, and Folia Zoologica.

Mark was recognized by his peers for distinction as a scientist, teacher, mentor, and leader. He published over 100 scientific articles, and was the lead author on a respected AFS text on aquatic habitat assessment. He served as an advisor for many regional, national, and international organizations and initiatives. Mark received numerous awards, including the Special Achievement Award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacesetter Award from Argonne National Laboratory, Star Award from the U.S. Geological Survey, and President’s Outstanding Educator Award from Cornell University. He was recognized as one of the top 15 professors by the Cornell University Student Organization. He was a member of the American Fisheries Society, Ecological Society of America, and American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Mark’s passion for research and its application was matched by his enthusiasm for engaging students in aquatic ecology and fisheries science. He co-taught Cornell’s stream ecology course, ranked by students as among the top 15 courses at the university. Mark was a mentor and role model for undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. Many of his students credit him with providing unique opportunities and responsibilities. He let them make mistakes, with a hearty laugh and assurance that everything would work out in the end. His trust in their abilities gave them the confidence and knowledge to pursue successful careers in the aquatic sciences.

Mark enjoyed fishing and backpacking with his family, cooking gourmet meals, engaging conversation, travel, and woodworking. He is survived by his wife, Jane Barden Bain, also educated in aquatic ecology and currently working for the Ecological Society of America; children, Gary and Paul; parents, Sam and Rose; and siblings, Keith, Jeff, Terese, and Sam. He is mourned by countless friends, relatives, and colleagues. Donations in his memory may be made to the ALS Association (

Contributed by: Marcia S. Meixler, Kristin Arend, Katherine Mills, and Barbara Knuth
Kristin Arend, Assistant Professor, Lake Superior State University
Marcia S. Meixler, Assistant Professor, Rutgers University
Katherine Mills, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Maine and Gulf of Maine Research Institute
Barbara A. Knuth, Vice Provost and Dean, Cornell University

For an article to a previous blog posting about Dr. Mark Bain, click on the link below. Please contribute your memories of Mark there as well.

The memorial of Mark Bain’s life will be on Friday, May 11th from 4-6pm at the lower north pavilion at Robert Treman State Park.

DNR PhD candidate makes video about Akiima Price

PhD candidate Alex Kudryavtsev made a video about Akiima Price, which was featured in Scientific American. Ms Price is an environmental educator, who along with DNR Chair Marianne Krasny, co-taught an online course entitled “Environmental Education in Urban Communities.” This course is one of many activities being conducted as part of EPA’s National Environmental Education Training Program, which is housed in DNR’s Civic Ecology Lab.

View the video here:

Welcome Amanda and Paul Rodewald

Dear DNR Community,

It is a great pleasure to announce that Dr. Amanda Rodewald has formally accepted the position of Director of Conservation Science at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (CLO) and Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Resources. Her responsibilities will include teaching one course per yr, graduate advising in NR, as well as managing her research and day-to-day responsibilities at CLO.

Amanda currently is Professor of Wildlife Ecology in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University. She received her B.S. from the University of Montana, M.S. from the University of Arkansas, and her Ph. D. in Ecology from Pennsylvania State University. Amanda’s research spans a variety of disciplines relating to avian ecology and conservation, ranging from coffee-growing and silvicultural landscapes in the northern Andes to managed landscapes and urban-rural interfaces around North America. She strives to understand how human activities influence ecological systems and the services they provide, and to apply this understanding to conservation and management of wild, semi-wild, and managed landscapes. She has won numerous research and leadership awards during her career, is a Fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union, serves on the Science Advisory Board for the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency plus several other advisory boards, and is an elected member of the faculty senate at OSU. Besides being highly productive in the peer-reviewed technical literature, Amanda actively engages in outreach and extension, and has written several management bulletins and numerous popular articles.

Amanda will be visiting several times this coming spring and summer, and currently anticipates being here full time beginning in January 2013 after completing obligations at OSU. I have communicated with Amanda about spending next spring doing several guest lectures for DNR classes, while we work with her to develop a class that draws on her expertise and contributes to the DNR or Env major.

Amanda’s husband, Dr. Paul Rodewald, will also be relocating to Cornell next year as a Sr. Research Associate in the CLO Bird Populations Program. He may also teach one course per year in DNR; I will update you on this once we reach an agreement. Paul is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Wildlife Ecology at OSU, where he studies the ecology of migratory songbirds, and manages the Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas II, a scientifically rigorous citizen-science project with close ties to the eBird group at CLO. His start-date here is likely to be postponed until the end of the 2012-13 school year, when he and Amanda move permanently to Ithaca with their two children.

I hope you will welcome Amanda to Cornell and DNR. I am looking forward to the potential for greater collaborations with CLO as we continue to build our conservation programs at Cornell.

Marianne Krasny

Professor and Chair, Department of Natural Resources

Amy Hetherington interning with the SIDS Unit at the UN

As part of the Doris Duke Conservation Fellowship, Amy Hetherington will be interning with the Chief of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Unit in the Sustainable Development Division under Economic and Social Affairs at the United Nations in New York this summer.

The mandate of the SIDS Unit is to promote and facilitate the SIDS’ efforts to implement the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA) and the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation (MSI) by:

-Providing technical assistance and advice
-Mobilizing the necessary support of the UN system and the international community
-Providing Secretariat support for both intergovernmental and inter-agency coordination mechanisms by strengthening information activities for decision-making by SIDS and facilitating networking among SIDS stakeholders
-Monitoring and reporting of progress in implementation of the BPOA and MSI through the biennial cycle of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD).

Amy will be responsible for the following activities:

-Establishing a monitoring and evaluation system for the MSI of the Programme for the Sustainable Development of SIDS,
-Supporting preparations for the session of the CSD and substantive discussions on sustainable development in the Economic and Social Council and General Assembly
-Conducting research, preparing documents, and supporting the organizational work of intersessional meetings and other related events, including Rio+20.

DNR Grad, Rachel Neugarten, joins Conservation International

Rachel Neugarten, who received her M.S. from the Department of Natural Resources in 2010 under the supervision of Associate Professor Steven Wolf, recently joined the staff of Conservation International (CI), a non-profit based in Arlington, Virginia, as the manager for conservation priority-setting. In her new role, Rachel is helping the organization to integrate ecosystem services (carbon, freshwater) and human well-being (food security, health, and cultural services) into their biodiversity conservation work. She is working with a dynamic team of scientists from the US, UK, Copenhagen, Australia, and South Africa, and is involved in projects in Madagascar, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. In March she will travel to Lima, Peru to attend CI’s Americas planning meeting as a species team representative, and is looking forward to many other future travel opportunities. Rachel recently relocated to Washington DC and would be happy to host visitors or discuss pressing issues in international conservation with DNR faculty, staff, or students. She is trying to ameliorate her new urban lifestyle by jogging in Rock Creek Park (which is not as scenic, but is significantly less icy, than Ithaca’s gorges) and spending many hours exploring DC’s museums.

NWCOA National Award 2012

On February 18, 2012, the National Wildlife Control Operators Association (NWCOA) recognized Dr. Paul Curtis, Raj Smith, and Gretchen Gary as “Educators of the Year” for their effort in the development of the National Wildlife Control Training Program (NWCTP). As the wildlife control industry has continued to grow, agency officials and industry leaders have stepped up requests for a standardized curriculum that could be used throughout the country to train and regulate wildlife control personnel. The NWCTP is the first curriculum to meet NWCOA’s certification standards.

The NWCTP is 250 pages in length and contains 17 modules. Part 1 covers information that every wildlife control operator should know, such as the theory of wildlife damage management, safety, control methods, animal handling, euthanasia, ethics, and regulations. Part 2, the species modules, explains how the concepts contained in Part 1 apply to the management of bats, raccoons, skunks, tree squirrels, and urban birds.

The NWCTP’s developers also received assistance from Dr. Scott Hygnstrom and Stephen Vantassel from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The UNL collaborators also received NWCOA’s “Educators of the Year” Award. Team members are gratified by the positive response from industry and government officials. Presently, the team is receiving queries from state wildlife agencies seeking to implement this training program in their respective states.

Chick photos renew hope for endangered Caribbean seabird

Black-capped Petrels, at one point, were an abundant species, spending most of their lives flying over oceans. However, they were believed to be extinct in the 1800s due to overharvesting, habitat loss, and introduced predators. In 1963, a few sightings and nest discoveries gave hope that the species was still around.

James Goetz, a DNR graduate student working with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, helped lead a project last year in Haiti to search for the mysterious species. Using a motion-activated camera, Goetz and the team tracked the nest of a black-capped Petrel nest and were able to see how the species lived.

The once abundant species most likely now has only 2,000 breeding pairs, although this is the best case scenario. Goetz has hope that they have found the nesting site early enough to attempt to save the endangered species from extinction. Because the nest was found in Haiti, there is concern for loss of habitat since the poverty in the area causes a lot of natural resource depletion.

Regardless, Goetz and the rest of the group wish to gather more information that can be used to ensure that the black-capped Petrel stays in existence.

Read the full article on Round Robin, the Lab of Ornithology’s blog.

Tapping into maple success through sanitation

Borrowed from Cornell Chronicle Article.

Tapping into maple success through sanitation

 Kara Lynn Dunn

The secret to success for maple syrup producers may lie in the science of sanitation.

Simply changing taps and tubing or using special spouts could double the amount of sap seeping from New York’s maple trees, according to Cornell experts who have spent six years researching the topic.

“Taking steps to reduce the microbial contamination that occurs at the tap hole by replacing spouts and drop lines has produced substantial gains in sap production in trials at Cornell’s Arnot Research Forest and in producers’ sugarbushes,” said Stephen Childs, Cornell Maple Program director.

The buildup of bacteria and yeast inside tap holes can cause taps to dry up. Microbes can be pulled into the tapholes from old tubing when the tree develops a natural vacuum during freezing temperatures, which can suck sap back into trees. Check valve spouts can prevent this by employing small balls that roll back and forth inside the spout, blocking the flow back into the tree.

Through workshops and webinars, Childs and his colleagues are advocating sanitation techniques among New York’s maple producers. The results have been increased sap yields and expanded production for many, according to Mike Farrell, director of Cornell’s Uihlein Maple Forest in Lake Placid. The average volume of sap per tree varies from 10 to 20 gallons per tap, and it takes about 40 gallons of maple sap to produce one gallon of pure maple syrup.

New York State Maple Producers Association President Dwayne Hill credits the Cornell Maple Program for helping to boost New York’s $12.3 million maple industry.

“The research Steve Childs has done has had a huge impact on being able to tap two to three weeks earlier in the season without worrying about bacteria contaminating the tap hole,” Hill says.

Chuck Winship is one producer who has benefited. He makes more than 1,000 gallons of syrup annually at his Sugarbush Hollow farm in East Springwater, N.Y., and said Cornell sanitation techniques helped make the 2011 season the best ever for sap quantity and quality.

Winship hopes history will repeat itself in 2012. Hill agrees, but is hesitant to make any predictions.

“The old timers say you never get two good years back-to-back,” Hill said. “We are weather dependent. The season will be determined by what happens for a few short weeks in February and March.”

“The moderate, early, temperatures and limited snowfall this winter will allow most producers to more easily work in their sugarbushes, and I suspect we will eventually get the winter weather necessary to sweeten the sap and cause the flow,” adds Peter Smallidge, director of the Arnot Teaching and Research Forest in Van Etten, N.Y.


Introduction to DNR’s Post-Doc Researchers

This year the Department of Natural Resources is fortunate to have several post-doc researchers working with them. Below are short biographies of their diverse backgrounds and current research interests.

Selmin Creamer:

Selmin is a postdoctoral research associate at the Human Dimensions Research Unit and currently working on a project investigating the recreational impacts of the aquatic nuisance species (ANS) in the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi River Basins with Bruce Lauber. Two primary objectives of the project are to provide defensible economic benefit estimates associated with current recreational angling in the study area and to collect contingent behavior information from existing anglers in the study area about how their fishing activities would change in response to variations in the species composition that could result from ANS. The results are intended to generate estimates of the effects on recreational angling activity and benefits associated with management decisions regarding the spread of ANS between the Great Lakes and the Upper Mississippi River Basin through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and other aquatic pathways.

Before coming to the Department of Natural Resources, Selmin completed her PhD and MA at Washington State University. Her PhD thesis focused on forest economics. For her first paper, she conducted an econometric study using the data from U.S. Forest Service’s National Woodland Owners Survey and examined the family forest owners’ forest certification program participation behavior in the Pacific Coast and Southern regions of the United States.

For her second paper, she investigated a forest owner’s decision on when to harvest her/his forest and how much it is currently worth, using the real options framework for a representative Douglas-fir stand in the Pacific Northwest, when the carbon price was stochastic and there was a risk of fire. For her MA thesis, she conducted an econometric study for estimating and forecasting the passenger and heavy truck annual vehicle miles of travel (AVMT) on each highway functional class for Washington State.

Andrea Dávalos:

Andrea was born and raised in Ecuador, where she did my B.Sc. in Biology. After spending many years in the rainforest, working on sustainable timber management and associated conservation challenges, she decided to return to school.  Andrea came to Cornell to pursue a M.Sc. an later a Ph.D in Natural Resources, where she addressed issues in biological invasions and biological control applying a quantitative and experimental approach.  After completion, she returned to Ecuador where, together with local governments and NGOs, they developed management plans for protected areas. During that time, she also taught extensively at a local University and later became the Director of the Department of Biological Sciences. She then realized she would like spend more time doing research and therefore, decided to return to Cornell as a post-doc in Prof. Bernd Blossey’s lab. Currently, she is working on understanding the interactive effects of multiple stressors (deer overabundance, earthworm invasion and invasive plants) on populations of endangered plants, as well as examining how these factors can be manipulated to achieve successful management. Her research interests are centered on community dynamics, especially in the context of plant-herbivore interactions and the spatial and temporal scales at which they occur. Her work is motivated by a strong interest in conservation and in the development of tools to restore natural ecosystems.

Nadine Heck:

Nadine is currently a postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Natural Resources working on the human dimensions of fishery management in the Great Lakes with Rich Stedman. The main aim of the project will be to rewrite a framework on human dimensions’ research needs for the Great Lakes fisheries based on input from fishery managers and other stakeholder groups.

Before coming to Cornell she did a PhD in geography at the University of Leeds (UK) in collaboration with the University of Victoria (CA). Her thesis focused on the identification and selection of indicators for evaluating temperate marine protected areas (MPAs) in British Columbia, Canada. The thesis also examined distinct evaluation information needs of diverse stakeholder groups and protected area managers as well as their opinions on the design of an evaluation and monitoring constraints. In addition, she investigated how far stakeholders would like to participate in MPA evaluation activities and which factors are influencing stakeholders’ opinions on MPA performance and participation. Since marine jurisdictions in Canada are very complex and often overlapping, a significant part of her research focused on governance aspects for marine conservation efforts.

Dan Ilut:

Dan did his undergrad work at Cornell (class of ’97) in physics and philosophy, followed by several years as a software developer, and eventually doctoral work in plant biology (once again at Cornell) with prof. Jeff Doyle.  He is currently a postoc working with Matt Hare (DNR) and Kelly Zamudio (EEB) under a grant from the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future ( Dan’s main research interest is genome archaeology: identifying older evolutionary events whose fingerprints are still present in a species’ genome, along with the relationship these events might have to current ecological niches occupied by those species.  Previous work included a comparative transcriptomics project among wild relatives of soybean in order to try and understand the “polyploid advantage” (Ilut et al. 2012; as well as an angiosperm-wide comparative study of key genes and taxa involved in the evolution of floral organs (Floral Genome Project;  His work in the Hare lab involves the development of bioinformatics methods for high confidence SNP detection using genotype-by-sequencing (GBS) in highly heterozygous non-model organisms such as sea squirts and oysters. In addition, he is working with Kelly Zamudio on research involving the global pandemic strain of the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a pathogen that is currently eradicating frog populations worldwide.

Sarwat Ismail:

Sarwat is a Plant Ecologist, who received her Ph.D.  from University of Karachi, Karachi, Pakistan. During her Ph.D. she studied Heavy Metals pollution in different Mangrove Habitats of Pakistan.  In her Post-Doctoral research from Cornell University, she worked on identification and localization of copper transporters  in plants. Currently, at Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University, with Dr. Shorna B. Allred  she is studying conservation of degraded  mangrove forest of Pakistan through community forestry for sustainable management of natural resources and to analyze the socio-political dimensions of mangrove forest conservation. The purpose of this project is to bring the local community in a common vision for the area development that leads towards linkage between poverty and environmental degradation. At the same time the values of the Mangrove Ecosystem should be communicated at both the local and national level to encourage support for mangrove management and conservation.