I look forward to writing these missives each week. But this will be the last one until the start of the semester in 2018. I could look backwards on the year (and it is amazing that I've been here for a year already). But instead, I'd like to look forward to next year and tell you about some of the initiatives that are likely to be launched next year, or at least worked on seriously by many. You've read some of this before, or I've at least hinted at some of the topics in previous Friday emails. But here goes (and I'm certain I'll forget some things…).
Initiative 1. Preparing students for the world. Last week, I wondered aloud whether we are preparing our students for an increasingly connected world. Early next semester, I hope to have some brownbag meetings, across campus, to think about what we could be doing better, and what we could be doing that we're not doing. I know some faculty affiliated with Our Environmental Program are equally excited about talking about this. I am especially interested in connections with China and connections within the US, but would welcome any and all ideas.
Initiative 2. Advising and mentoring. Starting on February 1, we will have an additional professional advisor housed in Bittersweet. Kevin Chu is going to join us, and he's bringing both a wealth of experience and exciting ideas to the Environmental Program. Kevin graduated from Middlebury and has been working in UVM's Office of Admissions for a while. Once he's here, he and Ibit will be in charge of advising for all first- and second-year students, and they will be point people for all ENVS students across campus. Adding Kevin to our staff will transform, in a very positive way, how we support our students and our faculty advisors across campus. Plus, having Kevin as a colleague will allow Ibit, whose plate is always so full, to think about new projects and initiatives.
The search process was amazing. I’d really like to thank Brendan and his search committee (from RSENR, CALS, and CAS) for all of the hard work they did in getting the applicant pool down from ~100 applications to 4, and finally to Kevin. Amy Seidl got the ball rolling on this search way back in May and June. Cathy in our office did tons of leg work to make the search run smoothly and was an incredible asset on the committee. An incredible crop of thoughtful ENVS students met with each finalist, and their perspectives were a huge benefit. Ibit thought long and hard about each of the finalists and provided the committee with incredible insights about what each could bring to the position and ENVS. And Deans Mathews, Vogelmann, and Falls should also be commended for funding this position that is going to help us, and our students, in so many ways.
Initiative 3. Undergraduate research and scholarship. We will continue to support undergraduate research and scholarship in ENVS. In fact, we are going to increase our support. I will look to hire an undergraduate on an NSF-funded project for ~$5,000 this summer. We will also offer our usual ENVS Summer Research Award (this has traditionally been $2,000 per student, but I want to increase it). The Ian Worley award will be announced in January. And, I hope to announce news about supporting even more undergraduate research and scholarship in the very near future… Stay tuned.
Initiative 4. Strengthening our cross-campus connections. You all know this, but some of the best environmental scholars might not have offices in Bittersweet. (However, there are some darn good folks in Bittersweet). Instead, they are scattered across campus, in Philosophy, Classics, Biology, Political Science, History, Forestry, Plant and Soil Sciences, and elsewhere. Beginning in February, we will initiate a series of meetings with the goal of engaging with these incredible scholars and teachers even more than we do now.
Initiative 5. Building on our Program Assessment. Brendan Fisher has been going above and beyond to think about how we go about assessing our programmatic learning outcomes. We'll finish this up in the early spring. But our discussions have made many of us in the ENVS faculty think more deeply about what we're trying to accomplish, and what we hope our students leave UVM with. Maybe by the end of spring semester, we'll be able say more about this. But I think it's an exciting time in Environmental Studies.
Initiative 6. Alumni engagement. I've travelled a lot the past 3 weeks. Just this morning, I was in the Brussels airport, waiting to board a plane back to the US, when I recognized one of our alumni walking by me. We have thousands of alumni, scattered all over the world. But it was REALLY cool to bump into one in an airport in Europe. All semester, I've been thinking about our incredible network of alumni around the world, and how better to get their insights and thoughts and increased engagement in Our Environmental Program. Toward that goal, beginning in spring of 2018, I will invite a group of alumni to join an Alumni Advisory board for ENVS. I have some names in mind, but I would love to receive nominations up until February 15 (including self nominations!). I'll send out a reminder about this after the holidays.
Again, I'm sure I've forgotten some things. But that's what I'm thinking about now, and what I hope we can move forward on in the spring.
Until then, I hope you enjoy some time away from UVM to think, to write, to explore, to reconnect, to rebalance, to spend time with loved ones, to read, or, if you're Brendan Fisher, to work on Assessment Plans.
Thanks for a wonderful first year.
I'm just back from Japan, where I served as the external examiner on a PhD thesis at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST). It was my first time to Japan, and I hope to go back. The people were lovely, and the sushi was better than I could've imagined.
While I was there, I of course was thinking about Environmental Studies at UVM (honestly, I was). And here's why: the student who was finishing his PhD was from China, but he worked on biodiversity in Fiji. His advisor is a Greek-Canadian-American who is married to a Singaporean woman, and they live in Okinawa. The other external examiner was a lovely British ecologist who hasn’t lived in the UK for more than 40 years; instead, he's lived and worked in Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and China. While touring OIST, I met a Spanish myrmecologist who spoke English with a German accent and works in Madagascar; I had dinner with French grad student who is studying in Japan, but works on ants from Australia. And then there was me, who flew for about 20 hours to get to Okinawa. All of these people, literally from nearly all corners of the world, sat down together to talk about our understanding (or lack thereof) of the natural world.
Are we doing a good enough job at preparing our students for an increasingly connected world? To understand and solve problems that will require diverse approaches from diverse teams? To understand the cultural and social contexts in which many environmental issues are embedded? To be frank, I think the answer is no. Late this afternoon, I had an engaging conversation with two of our students (one of whom is graduating). I think, well, I know, they would both say the answer is a resounding no. No we are not doing enough to help our students deal with, let alone address pressing environmental issues in a diverse and interconnected world. So what do we do? I think it's time to start having the conversations about what we can, and should, do as The Environmental Program at the University of Vermont. And in the new year, I'll invite some of you to engage in these conversations. I hope you'll be willing.
Best wishes -
Why preserve biodiversity? That question has motivated me since I was a sophomore in college in the early 1990's. Since then, I've done research on biodiversity and the functions and services it provides, and I've given hundreds, if not a thousand, lectures about why biodiversity is important. Sure, there are scientific reasons to preserve biodiversity. And as you know, the Federal Government and other entities have traditionally focused considerable effort on saving endangered species. There are numerous ethical, economic, aesthetic, and other reasons that we could discuss, at length, for why we should work to preserve biodiversity and those species that are most threatened with extinction.
Maybe you agree with everything I've written above, or at least some of what I've written above. I guess I would be surprised that anyone would disagree with what I've written. But, as I've written before, I live in a bit of a bubble. But there are people who apparently disagree with the paragraph above. For example, here's a perspective that was published about a week ago in the Washington Post. It's entitled "We don't need to save endangered species. Extinction is part of evolution." The author, an Associate Professor of Biology at George Washington University named R. Alexander Pyron, writes "… the impulse to conserve for conservation’s sake has taken on an unthinking, unsupported, unnecessary urgency", "… we should feel no remorse about altering our environment…", and " Conservation is needed for ourselves and only ourselves. Conservation is needed for ourselves and only ourselves." I could go on, but you should go read it for yourself.
As you might imagine, when folks caught wind of Dr. Pryon's essay, there was dismay, anger, and some ridicule on platforms like twitter. And, many of us (and by many, I mean >3000 people, including ~20 from UVM) have signed a letter to the editor of the Washington Post that that counters much of what Pyron wrote in his essay. (And if you want to sign, go here by 7PM tonight, EST).
But the story gets a bit more interesting. Apparently Dr. Pyron posted a commentary on his Facebook page that included the following:
“In the brief space of 1,900 words, I failed to make my views sufficiently clear and coherent, and succumbed to a temptation to sensationalize parts of my argument. Furthermore, I made the mistake of not showing the piece to my colleagues at GWU first; their dismay mirrored that of many in the broader community. As I’ve explained to their satisfaction, and now I wish to explain to the field at large, my views and opinions were not accurately captured by the piece, and I hope the record can now be corrected. In particular, the headlines inserted for the piece for publication said “We don’t need to save endangered species,” and that “we should only worry about preserving biodiversity when it helps us.” I did not write these words, I do not believe these things, and I do not support them.”
Over at a blog called Writing Science, Josh Schimel writes the following, in a longer blog post that I would encourage you to read:
Dr. Pyron is saying things that are scientifically reasonable and thoughtful in his long, thoughtful, Facebook post. Unfortunately few will ever read the FB post; millions may read the op-ed. The public gets the wrong message, and his scientific peers are dismayed. Not a good outcome. Remember, always, that communication isn’t what you think you are giving, but what the reader gets. In this case, most readers get a message that was antithetical to Dr. Pyron’s true beliefs. Ouch. That is a true failure in writing. Worse, it is a failure that Dr. Pyron is going to have to live with because published is forever. You can’t unpublish something. [bold added for emphasis by Nate]
Equally, this is a powerful lesson in the value of peer review: Dr. Pyron did not run the piece past his peers and so never got feedback that indicated that readers were getting a different message than that he intended.
So, there are lots of lessons here, for all of us. One of course is that we should all work on communicating clearly. If someone doesn't understand what you've written or what you've said, it could be your fault. And, now that you've perhaps read Dr. Pyron's piece, you know how you would refute or rebut his arguments, given that you're all interdisciplinary thinkers who know (or are soon learning!) about the importance of biodiversity, and how to have a civil, engaging discussion with someone.
But wait! While I've been writing this, Dr. Pyron has updated his webpage with a longer defense/explanation of his Washington Post essay. Go see for yourselves what he has to say. (Now that I've read it, I have my own thoughts).
Hi all -
Happy Friday before Thanksgiving! At this time of the year, I think many of us are ready for a little break from studying, teaching, writing, advising, and thinking. I hope you all take some time away to recharge for the final push this semester.
One of the biggest differences between Denmark, where we lived for about four years, and the US is that Danes are serious about work-life balance. Most Danes adhere to the 37-hour work week, which means that when 2PM on Friday rolls around, many Danes start their weekends. Many of my Danish colleagues didn't email after hours or on weekends. They paused during the day for coffee breaks and cake breaks (Danes look for reasons to bring in cake). And they were generally happy at work.
But the Danes also embrace vacation time. Of course, it helps if you're guaranteed at least six weeks of paid vacation per year. Many Danes took the entire month of July off and would completely unplug. Some shops would close. Colleagues would turn off their computers and ignore emails. The Danes aren't alone. Workers in other European countries are guaranteed at least 5 weeks of paid vacation.
You might be saying, but surely taking all of that vacation time hurts productivity! Well, I wouldn't be writing about vacation time and productivity if that were the case. Nine of the top 10 most productive countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2015, measured by GDP per hour worked, are in Europe. The United States ranked sixth. And of course that time off can also reinvigorate the mind and body and provide inspiration.
All of that is to say that I hope you all get to enjoy some time off over the next week, that you come back ready to finish up the year. And finally, my sincere hope for all of you is that you have many things to be thankful for, and you get to celebrate with good food, good friends, and your loved ones.
All the best -
All - I love the Education Life Section of the NY Times. And, this piece, though from Nov 3, is timely, given that many potential students are thinking about their major were they to come to UVM, and many students at UVM are considering changing majors. That’s it for today!
Along with first-class teachers, we also have world-class scholars in the Environmental Program doing impactful research. The below was an announcement from the Gund Institute about an EPA grant awarded to Rachelle Gould. Because I want all of you to know about this important work, and to celebrate Rachelle’s continued successes, I thought I’d send this along that write one of my usual missives. Brendan Fisher is also involved in the project, as are several other UVM faculty.
Nov. 1, 2017
EPA Awards UVM $598K to Explore Links Among Algal Blooms, Human Health, Community Action
The University of Vermont has received a $598,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate links between harmful algal blooms and human well-being, and to explore how a community along Lake Champlain works to take action based on scientific information about those links. In lakes and ponds worldwide, cyanobacteria blooms, also known as “blue-green algae,” threaten water quality, ecosystem health and human well-being.
“Science has demonstrated multiple links between cyanobacteria blooms and human health and well-being,” said lead principal investigator Rachelle Gould of UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. “This project explores links of emerging concern and then investigates how the community processes that information.”
The three-year project combines natural and social sciences to study both the blooms’ impacts and the community responses to data about those impacts. A team of interdisciplinary researchers will investigate how algal toxins may travel in fish tissue and as aerosols, and how the blooms affect non-material aspects of well-being such as connection to place. The team will then analyze how communities process scientific information about these links to human well-being and how people feel empowered or disempowered to affect change.
“In many communities, awareness of these concerns has not readily transformed into policy and behavior change that could reduce bloom impacts,” said Gould, who specializes in research investigating relationships between ecosystems and human well-being, and in environmental learning. “There is, of course, a complex suite of reasons why that information and concern don’t translate to action," she said. "To help communities develop preventative or adaptive measures, one important step is to explore how people process complex information and determine how to make change. Our community partners on the project are critical to helping us understand that.”
Gould and collaborator Brendan Fisher, of the Rubenstein School and the Gund Institute for Environment, will engage communities in and around the city and town of St. Albans, Vermont, located along the northern shore of Lake Champlain. St. Albans Bay is a hotspot for cyanobacteria blooms.
Partnership with local nonprofit organizations is a crucial component of the project. Project partners include Franklin Grand Isle Community Action and Lake Champlain International.
“Recognizing that households with limited resources are often impacted disproportionally by adverse environmental conditions, this study will better equip our agency to anticipate the future needs of low-income households in the affected areas and help them strategize about effective remedies,” said Robert Ostermeyer, director of the Franklin Grand Island Community Action program. This program of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity helps to address issues of economic, social and racial justice for residents of northern Lake Champlain communities.
Low income households can be disproportionately impacted by the transfer of algal toxins to fish tissue used for human consumption. Jason Stockwell, director of the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory on Burlington’s lakeshore and co- principal investigator on the grant, will lead efforts to understand the impacts of algal toxins in the tissues of fish.
“We have very little information about how many and how much cyanobacteria toxins can accumulate in fish,” said Stockwell. “We will be evaluating a long list of potential toxins, including neurotoxins, that are typically not assessed in fish tissues.”
“I congratulate Dr. Gould and Dr. Stockwell and their team for taking on such an important, but complicated, set of questions,” said Vermont U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy who strongly supported this grant award from the EPA. “I am proud that the EPA selected this project, based at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School, to help us learn more about how water pollution and algae blooms may affect our health and our communities.”
Other collaborators on the grant include Jana Kraft in the UVM Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences; Elijah Stommel at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth; Todd Miller at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Zilber School of Public Health; and James Ehlers of Lake Champlain International. Rubenstein School Ph.D. students Diana Hackenburg and Natalie Flores will conduct their dissertation research on aspects of the project.
The UVM grant was one of four grants funded, and part of more than $2 million awarded, by the EPA in October 2017 in the research area of Integrating Human Health and Well-Being with Ecosystem Services. The grant comes through the EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program administered by the EPA Office of Research and Development’s National Center for Environmental Research. The research area supports collaborative, community-based research to improve people’s understanding of how ecosystems support human health and well-being and to better inform community decision-making and management practices.
I’m writing to you from Nashville, Tennessee. This isn’t a work trip though. My parents live in Arkansas, and I flew there on Wednesday afternoon. Now, my mom and I are driving from Arkansas to Vermont. She’s always wanted to drive from Arkansas, over to North Carolina, then up through the Appalachian Mountains to New England during the fall. So, she and I are doing that this weekend. She’s likely missed seeing peak foliage in Vermont, but I bet Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Mountains are going to be lovely.
Despite being on the road, I wanted to share a new term I encountered this week – “a swerve.” Of course, we all know what a swerve is. I’ve had to swerve several times on Interstate 40 between Memphis and Nashville. But the new use of swerve that I came across this week was in an interview with Robert Jay Lifton. Lifton is a psychiatrist and author who has written about some of the most globally traumatic events in the 20th century and how our minds grapple with them, the psychological impacts of the trauma, and how our minds might influence how we perceive such tragedies. Lifton’s book about the people who survived Hiroshima won the National Book Award.
Lifton’s newest book is called The Climate Swerve: Reflections on Mind, Hope, and Survival. In the book (which I really want to read), Lifton posits that climate change, for many people, is becoming an increasing reality, largely due to mounting evidence (mostly from natural disasters), economics, and ethics. And it’s that shift in viewpoint that Lifton calls a swerve. I can tell you that many of my relatives in Arkansas are experiencing a swerve right now. Here’s a fascinating interview with Lifton.
I’m really not trying to sell Lifton’s book for him, but I thought I’d share the blurbs with you just to give you a sense of what it’s about.
“From one of the foremost chroniclers of the twentieth century’s other great dilemma, we now have these powerful reflections on climate change—they set in useful and vivid context this great crisis, and will be of use to all as we try to think our way through it.”
— Bill McKibben
“In the 1980s, Robert Jay Lifton gave us the term ‘psychic numbing,’ to explain how people coped with the threat of nuclear annihilation by denying or at least discounting it. While denial might be beneficial to an individual, it was potentially catastrophic to society if it led us to fail to act to address the threat. In this important new work, Lifton addresses the existential threat of our day: climate change. He offers us the ‘climate swerve,’ not as explanation but as a source of hope. We can swerve: we can become aware, change our ways, and avoid disaster. For one of our great qualities as humans is that we have the capacity to anticipate the future and act accordingly. Most important, the heart of the swerve is the commitment to telling the truth about climate change, which Lifton does unflinchingly in this courageous and crucial book.”
—Naomi Oreskes, author of Merchants of Doubt and The Collapse of Western Civilization
“Robert Lifton’s brave life, and his succession of masterful books on the most urgent questions of our time, have prepared him for this—perhaps the most urgent and timely of all his works. A rare combination of clear-eyed realism and chosen hope, The Climate Swerve comes just in time to move politics and resistance to the next, necessary level. A treasure still, Lifton is a prophet again.”
—James Carroll, author of House of War
“Robert Jay Lifton’s The Climate Swerveoffers original and penetrating insights into the psychological workings of the human mind as it grapples with the largest ethical issue before us—the reality of human-made climate change. Lifton’s lifetime work as a scholar of mass violence and human survival is brought to bear in his brilliant exploration of the problem that challenges every person and nation on the planet. This is a necessary, timely and urgent book.”
—Peter Balakian, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Ozone Journal and Black Dog of Fate
OK. Onward to Virginia!
How many of you got to see John Elder earlier this week on campus? If you didn’t, you missed an amazing scholar speaking beautifully, even poetically, about environmental issues in an awe-inspiring setting. Adrian Ivakhiv and Sasha Woolson deserve a big, and sustained, round of applause for bringing him to campus.
One of the things that Professor Elder spoke about was how and why we use the words we use to talk about environmental issues, and whether we should be using those words. (I’m still mulling over “affiliation”, for those of you who were there). By chance, the day after Elder’s talk, I was reading this essay by Eduardo Brondizio. Brondizio’s essay is mostly about how interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching can thrive, despite the disciplinary and organizational structures at universities. It really is worth a read if you’re interested in interdisciplinary programs (like our Environmental Program), interdisciplinary scholarship and research (like what many of you do), and tackling vexing environmental problems (like many of you are). On campus, students hear about majors, programs, disciplines; faculty talk about departments, colleges, programs, and silos. Sure, there are differences among some programs and departments. But there’s also a huge diversity of differences within particular programs. Brondizio writes,
“Yet, there is so much diversity within the umbrella of most institutionalized disciplines that assumptions (usually stereotypical) about what a given discipline “is” can hardly match what people in a discipline “do.” The problem starts with definitions and classifications, which may list disciplines in the dozens or hundreds, using various types of hierarchies. New “disciplines” are created all the time at the convergence or divergence of scholarship and institutional organization. Furthermore, what is interdisciplinary today can be disciplinary tomorrow. The more “traditional” disciplines have become so large and diverse that it has become challenging to talk about internal coherence. It is not uncommon for colleagues in the same disciplinary department to be completely ignorant of each other’s areas of expertise—including related theories, concepts, and methods—which can be nonetheless comfortably shared with colleagues outside of one’s “discipline” but working on similar problems. Even across groups working on similar issues within a discipline, such as social-environmental issues, one may find completely different vocabularies and conceptual framings depending on one’s theoretical orientation.”
Essentially, Brondizio is asking why we even have disciplines if there’s sometimes as much variation within disciplines as among disciplines. So maybe we’re already making our way toward a silo-less (Editor’s note: glad that didn’t autocorrect to soul-less) university, right? Well, Brondizio questions that as well:
“Still, even if one considers the term “discipline” of limited utility, the same problem is true for concepts that have tried to “pre-fix” it, whether multi-, inter-, cross-, pluri-, or trans- (disciplinarity). Beyond their general reference to different types of combinations, have you ever come across definitions of one of these concepts that satisfy you? They often create more disagreement than productive engagement as some of them stereotype disciplines either as narrow and limited or as historical relics. Arguably, there is little hope for consistency across these terms, and perhaps not much need of it. But there is a point in these discussions: they bring attention to the impact of institutional organization on the fragmentation of knowledge, and attention to the distance within the academy and between it and society.” [bolded for emphasis by me]
As I hope you’ve picked up on over the past 10 months, one of the things many before me in the Environmental Program have tried to do, and I’m trying to continue, is to reduce the fragmentation of knowledge and the distance between the academy and society. There are such amazing environmental scholars scattered across campus. Alison Brody in biology is one of the world’s leading experts on the diversity of ways plants and animals interact. Mark Budolfsen is a leading scholar on the intersection among climate change, inequality, ethics, and public policy. Bev Wemple knows more about ecosystem services provided by water in mountains than anyone I’ve ever met. And that’s just to name a few people I’ve emailed with or talked to at UVM in the past couple of days. There are dozens more scholars I could mention here (and will, ultimately). But what do we need to do to reduce fragmentation of knowledge on campus? How can the organization of the institution change to facilitate that? Or should it?
OK. The day is too beautiful for me to still be in the office. Rick Paradis and I are off to talk about Natural Areas, not in the office.
Enjoy the weekend –
Hi all – I was inspired by the Day in the life of UVM. So here’s a week in my life.
I spent Monday and Tuesday serving as an external evaluator of a similar Environmental Studies program at Miami University in Ohio. It was great fun to talk with new colleagues and old about the best possible models for educating students, engaging the public and policy makers, and generating research and scholarship.
On Wednesday, I (and many faculty in Environmental Studies) attended the 2017 George Washington Henderson Fellowship Seminar, where we got to hear our colleague Bindu Panikkar talk about her important work in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
Thursday morning, I met with Brendan Fisher and Beverley Wemple from Geography to talk about our shared interests in research on the ecosystem services and functions provided by biodiversity in mountains around the world, and I spent most of the day writing a grant proposal that, we hope, will catalyze research, scholarship and teaching in mountain systems around the world, including in the Green Mountains (get in touch if you want to know more!).
This morning, I finally got to give a guest lecture in ENVS001 – Introduction to Environmental Studies. I’m not in teaching shape (I was spent after 50 minutes of engaging with students), but it was still a blast.
We also had a new paper come out this week. I think some of you know I work on mountains and global change, but I’m also passionate about all things related to ants. Some colleagues and I worked on this project for a couple of years, and I just have to tell you about it. It’s published in an open-access journal, so all of you can read it here. But here’s the story. About a decade ago, a geologist was hiking around in the Black Forest in Germany, looking for the locations of some recent tectonic activity. In the middle of the forest, near where the tectonic activity should have occurred, he looked down at his map and thought he recognized where the fault line should be. And when he looked up from the map, he saw a row of big ant nests (these nests are made of thatch, and can be about 1 meter tall) in a perfect row, exactly where the tectonic fault should be. Sure enough, the nests were located almost perfectly on the fault line. He then had a grad student go around the Black Forest to other locations of tectonic faults, and lo and behold, she tended to find more ant nests were there was recent tectonic activity. Somehow, the ants were more common where there was activity than where there wasn’t.
As you might have noticed by now, this wasn’t a double-blind study. The grad student at the time was told to go where the tectonic faults were, then to count ant nests to see if there were more. She could’ve been biased. As a result of that, the German scientists had a hard time getting their work published. They then contacted me and my colleague Aaron Ellison from Harvard Forest. Aaron and I had the idea to conduct a double-blind study (maybe it was Aaron’s idea). So, we recruited my postdoc at the time, Israel del Toro. We told Israel to go to two regions in Denmark and count and map ant nests; one of these regions had recent activity, and the other didn’t. Israel dutifully went out to the field and collected the data, not knowing why he was doing it. When he returned to the lab, I told him what was up, we analyzed the data, and voila! The ant nests in Denmark were closer to tectonic faults than you would expect by chance alone. The distribution and abundance of these charismatic organisms wasn’t dictated by climate or competition, but seismic activity. Cool, no?
Now, that begs the question: Why in the world would ants associate with tectonic activity? Beats me. Any ideas?
Enjoy this lovely fall weather –
Something a little different today. I thought I’d share some of the feedback about what you all would like to see in Our Environmental Program. These are just some of the highlights from many different corners of campus.
Happy Friday –
If you would like to work with Nate
Please email him a summary of your research experience and research goals, along with a CV.