Colorado mountains
From Long-Term Data to Understanding: Toward a Predictive Ecology
2015 LTER ASM Estes Park, CO - August 30 - September 2, 2015

Keynote Speakers

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James Olds

Jim Olds is currently Assistant Director for Biological Sciences at the National Science Foundation. Olds is concurrently the Shelley Krasnow University Professor of molecular neuroscience. The Biological Sciences Directorate funds the majority of non-biomedical research at U.S. colleges and universities. He is also editor-in-chief of The Biological Bulletin published by the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. Prior to his appointment at NSF, Olds spent 16 years as Chief Academic Unit Officer and Director of George Mason's Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study.

Prior to taking the leadership role at Krasnow, Olds led one of the oldest and most prestigious scientific societies, The American Association of Anatomists as CEO.

Olds has served on numerous private and public boards and has played a central role in scientific public policy development at all levels, ranging from the White House to advising heads of ministries internationally. He spent eight years as chair of Sandia National Laboratory's External Cognitive Science Board. In the non-profit world, Olds was treasurer of American's for Medical Progress. Olds has also served as a Virginia State Commissioner, appointed by Virginia Governors of both political parties

Olds received his undergraduate degree from Amherst College in chemistry and his doctorate from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in the field of neuroscience. His postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health led to fundamental advances in understanding the molecular basis of learning and memory, for which he was awarded the NIH Merit Award in 1993.

His presentation will focus on principles and rules: Biology ab initio: "Understanding the rules of life". The mission of the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) is to enable discoveries for understanding life. Our theoretical understanding of life is based on first principles; for example, that life comes in dynamic packages (e.g., cells and organisms) and these packages reproduce with variable heredity, expanding in population size until constrained. Among life's first principles—the constraints, drivers, and feedbacks of evolution—there must be discoverable sets of rules that, once identified, would contribute to new or refined conceptual understandings of life, new approaches to studying life, and new, fundamentally different, questions about life and its origins. There have already been advances in our understanding of some rules, for example, in our knowledge of how protein dynamics contribute to their function and of developmental signaling, but many rule sets remain to be discovered. And such discoveries will be the engine for innovation in other disciplines that make use of biology. Understanding the rules of life is the business of biology in the 21st Century.

Diana Wall

Diana Wall is a University Distinguished Professor and Director, School of Global Environmental Sustainability at Colorado State University. She is also a Professor of Biology and Senior Scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at CSU. Diana is actively engaged in research to explore how soil biodiversity contributes to healthy, productive soils and thus benefits society, and the consequences of human activities on soil sustainability.

Her global research includes more than twenty years of research in the Antarctic Dry Valleys examining how climate change affects soil biodiversity, ecosystem processes and ecosystem services. Wall Valley, Antarctica was named for her achievements in 2005.

The title of her talk is: "Long Term Ecological Research: A perspective from the top of the food chain at the bottom of the world "

The abstract for the talk:
We all think about the LTER network as having a history of contributions that have advanced ecological knowledge, much of it based on the strength of quantifying long term changes to biodiversity and ecosystem processes. But how can the LTER sites be maximized to their fullest potential and are we meeting global ecological challenges fast enough? Are we using the ecological knowledge and insights from our vast network to the benefit of the global environment and society? What is the Future of the LTER?

In the austral summer, many scientists travel to Antarctica to work in either the marine site (Palmer LTER, PAL) or the terrestrial site (McMurdo Dry Valley LTER, MCM). The McMurdo Dry Valleys are the largest ice free region on the continent and are plant-less and void of any vertebrates. In fact, until 1989, most scientists thought the valleys were essentially sterile. Now we know that the animals at the top of the food chain in this ecosystem are microscopic, live in soil and are dependent on limited periods where energy inputs and/or temperature provide liquid water for activity. Our MCM research examines how legacies of geological history and contemporary human impacts affect this cold desert ecosystem. We conduct manipulative experiments to understand ecosystem changes in abiotic and biotic components of the landscape in response to climate variation. While seemingly remote from scientific and policy issues influencing research at other LTERs in the network, it is not. A swath of global environmental issues connect the MCM LTER to other LTER sites: the ozone hole, climate change with extreme events, and changes in abiotic factors such as ice melt are of primary interest for aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem functioning. We are seeing the connectivity in the polar desert landscape components as lake levels rise, permafrost thaws, and biota shift in abundance. At the two Antarctic LTER sites we have shown that the top consumers are sensitive to changes in temperature with a cascade of ecosystem responses. Issues of impacts from tourism, science activity, and introductions of invasive species are advancing as priorities for both Antarctic LTERs and the ecological science generated will continue to be useful for regulation of Antarctica by the Antarctic Treaty. But thinking beyond a single site to the urgency of addressing the complexity of global issues, how can we better develop the LTER network of sites to serve as a model for addressing global environmental changes?


Knute Nadelhoffer

Knute Nadelhoffer is the Director of the Biological Station (Pellston, MI) and Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan, positions he has held since 2003. He conducts research on ecosystem biogeochemical cycles, especially as impacted by climate, human use, and air pollution. Nadelhoffer has led and participated in collaborative studies of soil organic matter formation, effects of atmospheric N deposition on temperate forests and arctic tundra, and changes in primary production and nutrient cycles during ecosystem development.

He served as co-Director of the NSF Ecosystem Studies Program (2002-3) and as Panel Manager of the USDA Ecosystems Program in 1992. After completing his PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1983, he was appointed as the Jesse Smith Noyes Postdoctoral Fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory's Ecosystems Center (Woods Hole, MA). He remained at the MBL Ecosystems Center as an Assistant Scientist (1985-91), Associate Scientist (1991-99), and Senior Scientist (1999-2002). During that time he served as co-PI on both the Harvard Forest and Arctic (Toolik Lake) LTER projects. He was a Fulbright Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of Water Research (Oslo) and the Norwegian Institute of Forest Research in 1996-97 where he worked with international collaborators on a network of North American and European forest nitrogen deposition experiments.

For the past decade, Knute has worked to inform environmental policies with results of ecological and environmental research. He has testified before Congress on climate change impacts in the Great Lakes region, meets regularly with law makers in the US Congress and Michigan, and served as the founding chair of the Environmental Law and Policy Center's (ELPC) Science Advisory Committee (2006-10). He now serves on the ELPC Board (2010-present) where, as the sole scientist board-member, he advises ELPC's governing body on scientific matters.

The Title of Knute's talk will be "Looking back to move ahead: Retrieving, resurrecting and disseminating historical data sets to inform long-term research"

Ned Gardiner

Ned Gardiner is the Visualization Manager, Climate Program Office, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. After Receiving his Ph.d in ecology at the University of Georgia, Ned began his post-graduate career at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City one week before the September 11 attack. Inspired by the need for stronger global communication, he has sought ways to use scientific data and information to help a broader public understand our place in the biosphere. He spent seven years as scientific and technical advisor to an international media program, Science Bulletins.

The Bulletins team used data visualization as an integral component of informing the public about big-picture stories in the Earth system. He worked closely with academics and government researchers at NASA and NOAA to process large volumes of data into time series images that most people could understand. For the past seven years, he has helped NOAA position its climate science and services portfolio in the public eye. As a producer, designer, and strategist for the website, he has leveraged scientific visualization into a broad effort to help citizens understand the climate system. Most recently he has focused on the White House's Climate Resilience Toolkit initiative, which targets business leaders, planners, and government officials so they may learn about and make climate-smart decisions. Climate science is complex both scientifically and sociologically, so Gardiner has innovated storytelling techniques to help people relate to their own role in shaping and responding to climate variability and change. He co-founded the Worldviews Network to bring science and art together as a way to engage people on a personal level with ecosystem processes at all levels, from local to global. The idea was born at the Copenhagen Climate Summit (COP15) when he and collaborators realized they needed to move outside of traditional communications and into direct engagement with people in a position to make decisions. The Worldviews Network has brought together some of the nation's largest museums, entrepreneurs, NGOs, and dedicated science educators. Network members are actively working with Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, Climate Science Centers, the Future Earth network of United Nations-affiliated researchers, and the Aspen Institute to innovate the ways in which people relate to global change information.

Ned's talk is titled " Data Visualization: a Language for Scientists and Society"

Christine O'Connell

Christine O'Connell, PhD, is the Instructional Program Director for the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and a faculty member in the School of Journalism at SBU. Christine is a marine and environmental scientist with an extensive interdisciplinary background in policy, outreach, and communication. Christine was trained in improvisation by Alan Alda, and works on improving scientific communication to the public and scientific outreach to the community.

Christine teaches and develops curriculum for graduate and undergraduate courses in science communication and speaks at national and international workshops for the Alda Center. Christine also manages The Flame Challenge, an international contest that asks scientists to communicate complex science in ways that would interest and enlighten an 11-year-old. Christine has a BS in Natural Resources from Cornell University and a PhD from Stony Brook in Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

Christine's presentation, "Distilling Your Message" will focus on effective science communication. Effective science communication is necessary in fostering ongoing conversations between scientists, policy makers, and the general public, as well as promoting science literacy across all ages. The challenge is for scientists to be clear and engaging without oversimplifying the science. This interactive presentation suggests tools and examples to help scientists communicate in ways that resonate with people outside of their field about what they do and why it matters. We will cover general principles in how to craft short, clear, conversational statements, and avoid jargon. Participants will be actively engaged in explaining scientific material to lay people to develop and practice clarity in speaking to non-scientists about their work.