Fellows in the News


Elizabeth Castner at ESAReflecting on the 99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America

For scientists, conferences are times of communication, collaboration, and celebration. They come to share their work and ideas and meet old and new friends and collaborators. A conference is a good time to step back and reflect on the relevance of one’s work and learn from other scientists. This August, I attended the Ecological Society of America’s 99th annual meeting in Sacramento, CA to present my senior thesis research.

As a first-time attendee, this convergence of more than 3,000 scientists was both exciting and overwhelming, because of the sheer number of events and range of topics. At check in, I declined the textbook size paper guide to the conference (in favor of the newfangled app), but did accept the famous ESA tote bag, which has been the official conference swag for a very, very long time. Perhaps since 1865.

A few things I learned during the week: city lot maintenance is a public health issue, because of ragweed; delta smelt (a fish endemic to Northern California) smells like cucumber; the ROTC advice of “Be sincere, be brief, be seated” applies to science communication; the trees outside the convention center in Sacramento are painted blue as part of a project bringing awareness to global deforestation; and poster sessions are tons of fun.

One of my biggest takeaways from this conference was getting to see the nebulous “scientific community” in action. There were talks aplenty on current research, but I also got the chance to attend sessions about interacting with policy makers, promoting interdisciplinary research, presenting science to varied audiences, and developing new tools for teaching. These talks made more of an impact on me than many of the research talks because they provided insight into how scientists and others working at the intersection of scientific and policy domains think about ecology. That’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot as I begin to navigate my post-undergraduate path.

Another great thing about the conference was getting to talk to scientists at different stages of their careers. I always want to know how people got where they are and what it’s really like to be, say, an associate professor or to work for a non-profit organization. I think anyone in my position would benefit from that kind of networks. So fellow alums and current students, I encourage you to attend conferences and build your professional network, whatever your field of interest.

- Elizabeth (Izzy) Castner

Class of 2014 (ScB in Environmental Science), Brown University

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Izzy’s ESA trip was supported by the Voss Environmental Fellows Program, The Rathmann Family Foundation, and her generous family.

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To network with current and past Voss fellows, contact Heather_Leslie(at)brown.edu to join our Facebook group.

Scott Comings and students on BICheck out the new essay on engaged scholarship and courses by Megan Palmer, Class of 2014. Megan penned this essay  for Heather’s senior seminar, Engaged Environmental Scholarship and Communication (ENVS 1965), reflecting on her time on Block Island with fellow students and Scott Comings, director of Land and Freshwater Conservation for The Nature Conservancy of Rhode Island’s chapter.

Leslie Lab undergraduate researcher and Voss course participant Megan Palmer published an op ed earlier this year in The Providence Journal on the merits of offshore wind power. Read it here. 

August Marsh, WellfleetVoss Fellows Matthew Bevil and Sinead Crotty, together with their Brown faculty mentor Prof. Mark Bertness, published a paper in PLoS One entitled Herbivory Drives the Spread of Salt Marsh Die-Off. 

Matt and Sinead are translating these findings into formats appropriate for resource managers and other decision makers through the Voss capstone course, Engaged Environmental Scholarship & Communicationthat Voss Director Prof. Heather Leslie is currently teaching.

Wellfleet marsh image by Mike Sleeper

Read about Voss alum Emily Lamb, Brown Univ Class of 2011

Erica Goldman of COMPASS writes about the value of scientists learning to tell good stories, and how she shared some of storytelling craft with Brown students as part of the Voss course in Spring 2013.

Read her post! and subscribe to the COMPASS blog to join a broader conversation about science communication and engagement.

Congratulations to Lucy Zipf, who published an op ed in New Jersey’s Ashberry Park Press today! Lucy is a member of the Engaged Scholarship and Communication seminar (ENVS 1965) this spring and a Voss Fellows affiliate.

Voss Fellow Veronica Clarkson (Class of 2012: A.B., Environmental Studies & Economics) published an opinion piece in The Brown Daily Herald on the opportunities to support local agriculture through the Farm Bill.

Working with Prof. Kathy DeMaster, Clarkson has investigated how small-scale agriculture can contribute to ecologically and economically resilient working landscapes.

“Shifting the focus of some of our agriculture subsidies away from mass production to reintegrate small-scale production would demonstrate our country’s commitment to preserving rural livelihoods and environmental protection. The three-pronged or “triple-bottom-line” set of objectives for the Farm Bill that I propose — quality of economy, society and environment — are currently being addressed by small-scale producers. Research like ours is starting to document the factors that help create these triple-bottom-line outcomes. Our work suggests that comparable concentrations of small-scale production could be replicated throughout the country with a modest amount of direct state and government support to groups of producers who demonstrate the potential to produce high quality products on smaller scales.”

- Veronica Clarkson

Brown Environmental Fellows Ariana Spawn, Barbara Santisteban and Eric Van Arsdale authored opinion pieces related to their independent research projects. Congratulations, Ari, Barbara and Eric!

  • To read Ariana Spawn’s op ed on climate change impacts in Massachusetts, click here.
  • To read a synthesis of Barbara’s work on integrating fishermen’s knowledge into management plans, click here or see the recent issue of Commercial Fisheries News.
  • To read Eric’s piece on salt marsh die off on Cape Cod, click here.
  • To read Eric’s op ed from the Brown Daily Herald on the importance of science communication, click here.

Congratulations to the 2011-2012 Brown Environmental Fellows! See http://blogs.brown.edu/bef/welcome-to-brown-environmental-fellows/about-bef/2011-fellows/

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