Write-up of Diana Wall in Nature

Nature published a great summary of Diana Wall’s soil ecology research last month. Wall served as president of ESA in 1999-2000 and became a Fellow of the Society in 2012. If you want to learn more about her, here’s more from around our website:


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Turning to a New Century

2014TurnerOutgoing ESA president Dr. Monica Turner highlighted ESA’s first century as she directed attention to present accomplishments and plans for the decades ahead. Her presidential address, The Turn of the Century (28 mb), included callouts to the centennial celebrated last year in Baltimore, as well as to HRC’s role in drawing attention to the organization’s history.

At the 2015 centennial, nineteen of ESA's presidents gathered for a group photo.

At the 2015 centennial, nineteen of ESA’s presidents gathered for a group photo.

SEEDS MTIn recognizing the 20th anniversary of the SEEDS program, Dr. Turner noted its significance as a model in STEM education. Many of the “personal accounts” on this website credit SEEDS as an influence in career success.

In slide 24, Dr. Turner highlighted the ways the science of ecology has changed since its early days, as follows:
Today’s expectations…

  • Excellence in science
  • Able to ask and answer good questions
  • Deep knowledge of study system
  • Proficient in (rapidly changing) quantitative methods
  • Clear, compelling, impactful writing
  • Be effective individually and in interdisciplinary teams
  • Assimilate novel data sources and technologies
  • Curate and share your data
  • Communicate well and to varied audiences
    • Multiple forms of media
    • Connect with non-scientists
    • Advocate for science in the policy arena
  • And… maintain work-life balanceDr. Turner outlined the roles of ESA and its strategic goals aimed at improving member services and communication. She captured the continued relevance of ESA using quotes from several long-term members:“ESA has been a place for me to grow as an ecologist, in research, education and administrative expertise… to make my work relevant to policy makers… to make a difference in the discipline and the multicultural diversity of ecologists.” —Carmen Cid (30+ yrs)“…with ESA providing a framework of emerging ideas, access to new colleagues, and novel environments to experience, I had grown intellectually and achieved considerable momentum in my career because of it.” —Kathy Ewel (40+ yrs)

    “I was graduating… and my friend gave me a gift of membership to ESA. I have a wide interest in ecology and related fields, so I go to the annual meeting every year… these meetings are times to get to know other people.” —Ed Johnson (40+ yrs)

    “No other professional organization provides such a big tent for my scientific interests.” —John Pastor (30+ yrs)

    “more than anything, ESA provides a sense of BELONGING. Of belonging to something bigger than myself, a community whose mission and values I share, a community I am proud to be a member of… and happy to support.” —Rick Lindroth (30+ yrs)

    In conclusion, Dr. Turner encouraged individual members to get—and stay—involved in shaping the organization to “sustain ESA’s tradition of excellence.”

    The gallery below features selected slides from Dr. Turner’s presentation. You can read or download the entire presentation at this link (note: 28.4 mb pdf).

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Annual meetings trivia – Fort Lauderdale edition

Graph of meeting attendance using data from Meetings table

With this year’s annual meeting fast approaching, we thought it was time for a little meetings trivia!

  • The annual meeting has only ever been held in Florida once before: in Gainesville at the University of Florida in 1954
  • This is the first time ever the annual meeting is in Fort Lauderdale
  • The annual meeting is huge! More than 4500 people attended the recent Portland and Baltimore meetings
  • The Florida International University (located in Fort Lauderdale) GLADES club was the 2015 SEEDS chapter of the year [link]

Add your Fort Launderdale ESA related trivia in the comments and check out our committee’s sponsored sessions.

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July 2016 Bulletin Rich in History

July2016coverThe July Bulletin of the ESA offers a wealth of history-related material, collected here (along with a few republished from April) for your browsing convenience.

Resolutions honoring the memories of recently deceased ecologists:

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Robert Treat Paine, His Legacy Continues

The world of ecology is saddened today by news of the passing of Robert Paine, who died last night after an illness. Dr. Paine was president of ESA in 1979-1980; his role is captured in his reflections on his presidency, written in 2012 as part of the Past Presidents timeline project.

April 13, 1933 – June 13, 2016

Here are some key articles as reminders today about Bob Paine’s contributions to ecology:

Bob Paine was interviewed for HRC’s oral history project in 2012 by Doug Sprugel, the first interview of ecologists in a series that now includes more than 20. In it, Paine discusses his early influences and his work under Fred Smith (ESA President, 1973-74), a “hands-off teacher” whose approach Bob appreciated. He talks about the “keystone species” concept he is known for, his research with Dr. Simon Levin (ESA President 1990-91), as well as the importance of ecologists being involved in policy and politics, as his student Dr. Jane Lubchenco (ESA President, 1992-93) later admirably demonstrated.

In his interview, Bob commented “I’ve had a terrific time.” His influence on ecology and ecologists is tremendous; he will be sorely missed.

Selected Papers

1966. Food Web Complexity and Species Diversity The American Naturalist, Vol. 100, No. 910. (Jan. – Feb., 1966), pp. 65-75.
1969. The Pisaster-Tegula Interaction: Prey Patches, Predator Food Preference, and Intertidal Community Structure. Ecology Vol. 50, No. 6 (Nov., 1969), pp. 950-961.
1969. A note on trophic complexity and community stability. The American Naturalist, Vol 103 No. 929: 91-93.
1974. Levin, Simon and R. T. Paine. Disturbance, Patch Formation, and Community Structure (spatial heterogeneity/intertidal zone) Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA Vol. 71, No. 7, pp. 2744-2747.
1995. A conversation on refining the concept of keystone species. Conservation Biology 9(4):962-964.
2002. Trophic Control of Production in a Rocky Intertidal Community Science 296, 736-739.
2016. Worm, Boris and R. T. Paine. Humans as a Hyperkeystone Species Trends in Ecology and Evolution. In press, corrected proof.

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2016 HRC-related Sessions at Annual Meeting

August 7-12, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Julie Mulroy and Zoe Nyssa have assembled a terrific program for the Ft. Lauderdale meeting. We have an exceptionally diverse set of disciplines represented, as you will see from the descriptions below. Steven Armour, who is in charge of ESA’s electronic archives at the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia, will be contributing a poster. Many thanks to Julie and Zoe for organizing these exciting sessions. More information will be in the July newsletter.

See also the April 2016 newsletter.

Organized Oral Session and linked Organized Poster Session scheduled for Tuesday, August 9:

OOS: “The Importance of History and Historical Records as Ecologists Confront the Anthropocene” on Tuesday, August 9, 8:30-11:30 a.m.
Description: A multidisciplinary set of presentations explores the increasingly important role that historical records play in addressing the accelerating changes that confront us in the Anthropocene. The concept of the Anthropocene compels us to examine the long-term relationship of humans and their environments, and in so doing to draw on diverse types of historical records and datasets. We must consider new institutional structures that facilitate cross-disciplinary approaches to environmental problems. Presenters demonstrate how interdisciplinary approaches, new technologies, and novel institutional structures can assist us in learning from the past to respond to present and future challenges. Opportunities for use of long term datasets and museum collections in research, conservation and education are highlighted. (Organized by Juliana Mulroy, Denison University.)

OPS: “Uses of and Access to Historical Data as Ecologists Confront a Rapidly Changing World,” on Tuesday, August 9, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Description: ESA’s Historical Records Committee promotes the preservation and use of historical records in ecology. We have invited a group of historians, archivists, museum researchers, conservation biologists and ecologists to help us expand our efforts at this critical time in human history. The poster session presents specific applications and case studies using long term data sets, field notes, historical photographs, explorations of digitized literature and other approaches to current ecological and environmental challenges. (Organized by Zoe Nyssa, Harvard University.)

Also of Interest! OOS from Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio)

Deborah Paul, who is contributing to our OOS, is also moderating the session sponsored by Integrated Digitized Biocollections, or iDigBio, which has organized a session on “Leveraging the Power of Biodiversity Specimen Data for Ecological Research,” Wednesday, August 10, 8:00-11:30.

See iDigBio’s wiki for more information.

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Celebrating Women in Ecology–since 1988

This post is part of a series for Women’s History Month, March 2016. See all related posts.

In August 1988, Dr. Jean Harmon Langenheim spoke to ESA members as the Society’s past president. Her speech, The Path and Progress of American Women Ecologists, was published in the ESA Bulletin the following December. In the introduction, she wrote:

“For my address to the Society, it seemed timely as we approach our 75th Anniversary to chronicle and give tribute to women ecologists. Although women have recently received recognition and attained some prominence in the Society, it is amazing how little we know about the history of women ecologists and their achievements, especially as these have paralleled the changes in society’s view regarding the role of women.”

This speech was the culmination of a two-year project. Early in 1986, Dr. Langenheim had begun writing to women soliciting information about their careers and experiences in ecology. The letters, in those days, were individually typed and wording varied, but the example below sent to Dr. Mary Willson (August 1986) is illustrative.

“As you may know, I was elected to the presidency of ESA last year. Since there have been so few women officers, and I was the only woman president, except E. Lucy Braun, I decided that I would do my Presidential Address on the history of women’s contributions to ecology. This would not only ”educate” many, but would also provide the opportunity to give tribute to the accomplishments of women, and to many who have remained essentially “invisible” (and hence unrecognized). I would like to include you, of course, among those highly accomplished and also recognized women. I would greatly appreciate having from you the following:

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Additional biographical sketch indicating:
    What initiated your interest in studying ecology?
    Were there role models (especially women)?
    Individuals who have particularly influenced the direction of your career.
    What you consider your most important contribution to ecology.
    Any additional noteworthy comments of interest.
  • Photograph (color slide fine) showing you doing what you consider
    exemplary of at least some aspect of your ecological work.

Additionally, I would be grateful if you (or someone else you could suggest) could obtain records of the percentage of women obtaining Ph.D. degrees over the years in ecology at Illinois.”

In 1996, Dr. Langenheim again wrote to many of her contacts, requesting updates for a subsequent paper that was published in the Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. For this paper, focused on research contributions, she was able to enjoy the benefits of word processing in her correspondence.

As a result of these prodigious efforts, Jean Langenheim became ESA’s de facto expert on women in ecology and created a huge legacy. Five heavy binders contain the results of her survey and related research, but much of the material in them remains tucked away; only a portion and some general conclusions could be included in the two papers. Without the space limitations of traditional paper publication, we hope to bring some of the insights and reflections shared by these women, these ecologists, onto our history website. Our progress can be monitored using this link.

What stories are hidden in these binders? Follow us as we present these women in ecology.

What stories are hidden in these binders? Follow us as we present these women in ecology.

Thanks to Dr. Jean Langenheim and the many ecologists who responded to her survey, we can share a wealth of history and commentary on dedicated ecologists who, in addition to their accomplishments in research and field work, just happen to be women as well.

Epilogue: As if all this were not enough, in addition to her other responsibilities, Dr. Langenheim agreed to serve as chair of the Past Presidents committee and assist in preparing for ESA’s 2015 centennial. In 2011, she again sent letters, this time to all of ESA’s living past presidents, to solicit brief summaries of their service as president and longer reflections on the events of their terms in office. Much of this correspondence was electronic. After three years of “reminders” and hundreds of emails, the results of that project are now online as the ESA Living Past Presidents timeline.

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Women in Ecology, Then and Now

This post is part of a series for Women’s History Month, March 2016. See all related posts.

Thirty years ago, Dr. Jean Langenheim initiated a project on “women ecologists” by sending letters to dozens of women who were practicing ecology, most of whom were in the United States. From her position as ESA’s past president, she asked each of them for a photo and CV, her most important contribution to ecology (in her own assessment), and comments on how her career began and any role models. The responses she got, combined with her additional research, formed the basis for her two papers on the subject, a Past President’s address in 1988 and a followup report in 1996 (see References).

“In 1988 I hoped that there would be no further need to discuss the contributions of women ecologists because we would be recognized just as ecologists. … Although women have become increasingly prominent as ecologists, it still seems timely and useful to consider the progress women ecologists have made in overcoming both personal and societal obstacles, particularly with regard to research contributions.”
—Jean H. Langenheim, 1996, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics

Twenty years later, we celebrate progress but still see valid reasons for singling out female ecologists. Although contributions from women are abundant, challenges remain.

In 2014, for example, PhD candidate Melissa Giresi tweeted a request for “most influential female ecologist (alive today)”. She started a lively discussion, although the list was not intended to be exhaustive. In comments, Melissa noted that:

If you have been to any scientific conference or symposium, you would notice that most of the speakers are male. This phenomenon is caused by bias. When you read textbooks about ecology, most are written by men, examples that are shown in classes are mostly experiments performed by men. It’s often difficult to break the cycle of repeating the same names that you’ve heard of in the past – I wanted to highlight the fact that there are many successful and influential female ecologists.

This month, in recognition of the incredible material compiled by Dr. Jean Langenheim on women in ecology, we want to present profiles of several who responded to Jean’s request for insight and information on their careers. In her work, she grouped women by the time period when they received their PhDs (we’ve listed a few examples in each category).

Early Pioneers: PhDs granted before 1934, including E. Lucy Braun, Edith Clements, Emmeline Moore, Margaret Nice, Minna Jewell, and Rachel Carson

Late Pioneers: PhDs from 1934 to 1960, including Ruth Patrick, Margaret Stewart, Elsie Quarterman, Margaret Davis, Jean Langenheim, and Estella Leopold

First Modern Wave: PhDs 1961 to 1975, including E.C. Pielou, Mary Willson, Frances James, Judith Myers, Sarah Woodin, Frances Chew, Jane Lubchenco, and many others (see full table below)

Twenty years later, many in Jean’s “First Modern Wave” are retired or emerita, and it is appropriate to reflect on their careers and update the 1996 reports and start thinking about the “Second Modern Wave” (1975-1995) and even maybe the “Third Modern Wave” (1995-2015). We’ll get a list of our plans up soon.

p.s. You can help!


Giresi, Melissa. 2014. The 45 most influential female ecologists alive today according to twitter. Online at Southern Fried Science, http://www.southernfriedscience.com/?p=16677

Langenheim, Jean H. 1996. EARLY HISTORY AND PROGRESS OF WOMEN ECOLOGISTS: Emphasis Upon Research Contributions. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 1996. 27:1–53
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2097228

Langenheim, Jean H. The Path and Progress of American Women Ecologists. Address of the Past President. Davis, California, August 1988. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America
Vol. 69, No. 4 (Dec., 1988), pp. 184-197 Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20167064

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Speaking of Women in Ecology

March will, once again, be Women’s History Month here in the U.S.* We’ll be focusing on the many women who now work, and have worked, in ecological sciences. We would love to have your help! We’ll be posting bios of women whose contributions are significant but who may, personally, be little known outside the field of ecology, as well as those who are accomplished and well recognized by their peers.

We’ve got lots of ideas and we could use your help! If you have a favorite role model, or just want to help out, we welcome you to help compile brief biographies of women who are now working, or have in the past worked, in the ecological sciences.

Given the vast, largely unsung, contributions women have made to many fields, including ecology, we think they deserve better. Give us a hand, won’t you? (By the way, HRC is heavily weighted toward plant ecologists—we could use some help from other disciplines!)

Please volunteer to help us with:

(links are brief Microbiographies)

  • Compilation of women Mercer Award winners
  • Description of research program and intellectual contributions of award-winning and office-holding women in ESA

Or propose a project!

Places to start

Sources of information:

Need ideas for subjects to profile? Here are some great suggestions:

  • Last year, Melissa Giresi asked Twitter about the “most influential female ecologists alive today.” She came up with a list of 45.
  • In 1988, ESA past-president Jean Langenheim surveyed 55 female ecologists about their careers, producing her Past President’s Address and, in 1996, this followup paper.
  • Does your subject have a Wikipedia entry? If so, can you improve it? Many ecologists’ pages on Wikipedia are incomplete. If there’s no page, why not start one?

* While there’s not a strong focus on women in science on the Women’s History Month website Women’s History Month website, they do include a a great Women in Science photo collection from the Smithsonian and Library of Congress references on African-American women in science and women and minorities in science. Unfortunately their earth and environmental sciences section doesn’t include much about women in ecology.

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HRC Newsletters

Keep up to date with HRC activities and events by following our newsletter. Contact HRC chair Sharon Kingsland (sharon AT jhu.edu) to subscribe. Since April 2015, the following issues have been published:

  • January 2017, features more information on ESA’s archives, and spotlights the papers of Dr. Ruth Patrick at the Academy of Natural Sciences.
  • October 2016, highlighting the “Focus on Ecologists” profiles on this site, and the ArchiveGrid, a cooperative project improving access to archive collections.
  • July 2016, with a summary of history-related sessions at the 2016 meeting, a introduction to this website, and a note on how long-term records from Japan and Finland illustrate changes in the Anthropocene. (PDF only)
  • April 2016, featuring 2016 HRC-related sessions for the annual meeting; ties between preserving records and preserving cultures. (PDF only)
  • January 2016, featuring the Anthropocene, old weather, oral histories. (PDF only)
  • October 2015, featuring new ESA obituary policy, preserving field books. (PDF only)
  • July 2015, featuring ESA archives at University of Georgia, Paul Sears papers, interactive maps. Download July 2015 PDF.
  • April 2015, featuring HRC at annual meeting, ESA archives, oral history project. Download April 2015 PDF.
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