2011 SEEDS Leadership Meeting, “Defining and Conducting Stewardship and Action as Ecologists and Global Citizens”
The SEEDS 2011 Leadership Meeting held March 3-6, 2011 at the University of Washington's Pack Forest was a huge success with 23 SEEDS student and alumni leaders participating from all aspects of the SEEDS program. For the second consecutive year, the enthusiastic SEEDS Leaders walk out the door with an immediate meeting products. The video entitled: "Hands of Change: A guide to Action Ecology" is an exciting sequel to the 2010 Hand of Change video. The students were so motivated and inspired by the monumental meeting that several were moved to write a blow by blow summary of the meeting. Read the Florida Atlantic SEEDS Chapter member, Josh Scholl's incredible summary below:
Energetic, inspirational, motivating, fantastic, wholesome, effective, relaxing – these are some of many adjectives that pop into mind regarding the 2011 SEEDS Leadership Meeting at the beautiful Pack Forest in Washington. Over the span of four days passionate ecologists met to learn from each other, professional ecologists, scientists and leaders. From addressing the global issue of climate change and its underlying impacts on third world nations to hiking through a magical old growth forest with 400-550 year old trees strutting towards the heavens, there was never a dull moment.
The first full day started out with a bang. Friday was set in motion by Dr. Greg Ettl, the director of the Center for Sustainable Forestry at Pack Forest, who intrigued participants with a unique approach to conservation that involved an auction and a group of scientists sipping on cocktails. Dr. Ettl explained that to engage in sustainable forestry a balance must be struck between economic, social and ecological aspects. Such a scenario plays out somewhere between the two extremes of complete conservation and complete destruction, neither of which are sustainable. Through a well designed graphical model Dr. Ettl illustrated the zone within which the amount of timber harvested would produce sufficient revenue to allow the land owner to keep the land while also leaving enough trees alive to allow sustainable forestry. Next Dr. Ettl described how he and his team created several management bundles, all within the sustainable zone, and held fake auctions at conferences during the cocktail hour to get an idea of how potential customers would react to the auction. In the future, Dr. Ettl and his team hope to hold a real auction in an effort to maintain the magnificent Pack Forest.
Dr. Nalini Nadkarni followed Dr. Ettl with a motivational presentation. She quickly grabbed viewers’ attention as she described her research which involved swinging through trees to access a relatively unexplored niche, for humans anyways: the forest canopy. Dr Nadkarni suggested that action ecology is an “iterative process of reflection and action;” that is, to be a successful action ecologist one must listen and understand the motivations and desires of the target audience as well as inspire them to become earth stewards. Through this strategy she managed to connect with society and inspire social action in each one of her research projects. From encouraging prisoners to help her grow epiphytes to promoting earth stewardship through religious sermons at various churches, Dr. Nadkarni was engaging in action ecology everywhere. Most exciting of all, weaving research into society did not seem to have a negative impact on her scientific career in terms of publications, grants, etc. Quite on the contrary, through her actions she made helpful connections with other researchers and the public which helped her derive and pursue exciting new research quests.
After Dr. Nadkarni had finished, the room was bustling with excitement. Creative seeds planted by Dr. Ettl and Dr. Nadkarni were now beginning to sprout there first roots in the minds of participants. Next, Jeni Barcelos and Jen Marlow maintained the meeting’s positive momentum by summing up their efforts in action research. Together the two lawyers had started a project, called three degrees warmer, in an effort to address the indirect impact of carbon emissions on poor nations. They broke down the problems into several main categories including health, food and water, security, equity, and justice. Collectively they expressed the complex issues underlying global warming and illustrated the political debacle of finger pointing between leaders which is fruitless as it is childish. The two also introduced the concept of climate refugees and expanded on the lack of legal rights such refugees will have based on current international laws.
After these three exciting presentations a short, rich group discussion investigated the complexity of the problems facing action ecologists. Students volunteered examples from their home communities and explained how they have addressed or are working to address them. The diversity and actions engaged across SEEDS chapters were inspirational.
Dr. Terry Chapin and Jenna Hamlin initiated the afternoon agenda with Earth stewardship. Among other encouraging suggestions, Dr. Chapin and Jenna elaborated on the idea of citizen science, or the recruitment of non-science citizens to help perform scientific studies, as a way to promote earth stewardship. Events that have successfully encouraged citizens to take on scientific tasks were mentioned. Among them, the nationally coordinated Bioblitz, Nestwatch, and the National Phenology Network stood out. Dr. Chapin and Jenna concluded by suggesting that the important thing in becoming an earth steward is not necessarily to formulate a clear solution to a problem but to start a movement and gain support. Then, as more people join and more brains work on the problem a solution will eventually arise. Put simply, everyone has the potential to be an Earth steward and action ecologist!
After a relaxing break spent exploring the beautiful Pack Forest trails and reflecting on the day’s presentations, SEEDS members gathered once more to work on their individual leadership planning with Melissa and Charlee. Personal strengths, goals, and slogans were among the many items shared between participants. To conclude the day, each student leader met with their breakout group to discuss acquired information and begin devising group goals and presentations.
Day two started off crackling with energy as Dr. Scott Perez and Audra Stonefish took the spotlight. Both discussed the advancement of ecology careers and the importance of tightly coupling this with self reflection; that is, one should consider their heritage and personal goals in conjunction with career moves. Dr. Perez in particular discussed the importance of selecting the right working environment both for graduate school and as a professional scientist to maximize contentment and thus creative output and progress.
Carrying on the positive momentum of day two were Dr. Ettl, Dr. Wetzstein, Ricardo Rivera, and Lee Taylor. Dr. Ettl, Dr Wetzstein, and Ricardo expanded on the meeting’s leadership goals by considering the importance of outdoor education in our modern society. Enveloped in a jumble of electronic gadgets and gizmos, it is no wonder that kids cannot relate to nature much less connect with it. Our goals then, as developing proponents of action ecology, are to find a middle ground that will allow us to re-spark the connection between people and land. Lee Taylor ensued to with a brilliant example. She directed the groups outside into the crisp forest air, handed out papers and pencils, and asked participants to phrase their sensory experience in the forest. Shortly after, participants read their comments and experienced the creative poetry they had unknowingly produced. With a slightly more intimate connection to the Pack Forest, the SEEDdlingS marched back indoors.
After a quick break Dr. Jahi Chappell stepped onto the stage and along with Lourdes Lastra, Ana Perez, and Colibri Sanforienzo-Barnhard, explored the meetings theme: action ecology. Defined concisely by Colibri as “ecological research that leads to social action,” action ecology is multifaceted. For example, separating human populations from the environment in research disregards one of the ecosystems main drivers of both conservation and extinction. As human populations continue to expand it becomes increasingly important to include their presence in studies and ecological modeling. Furthermore, as Dr. Chappell pointed out, it is important to realize that preserves cannot be defined as “places where people aren’t.” Rather, a balance must be struck regarding the interactions between people and nature that maximizes the sustainability of both. Finally the group stressed the importance of viewing knowledge as a two way flow between the community and scientists.
The day’s presenters joined SEEDS participants for lunch and continued discussions regarding the central goals and questions of the meeting. These included the concept of action ecology, effective earth stewardship, the connections between actions in ecology and global issues, and how to integrate actions and plans for solving contemporary global issues into standard university educational programs that we are all committed to in one way or another.
After lunch Dr. Ettl invited participants on a short hike into the old growth forest. Needless to say, participants were thrilled and eagerly joined the expedition. The mature trees of the forest were magnificent. Stretching skyward with bewildering strength, these old giants have guarded the forest canopy for the past half millennium. After a brief spiel on the history of the trees by Dr. Ettl, participants returned to base camp awe inspired.
Once again, base camp was filled with bustle and excitement as student leaders met with their groups to finalize goals, action products, and presentations. Thereafter, the groups presented their sprouting ideas.
The “educating the future generation” group headed by Ricardo Rivera and mentor Dr. Ettl took the floor first. Among their several outstanding contributions to the meeting was an ecology board game. Based on monopoly, this game provides kids with a fun way to connect to nature. Streets were replaced with ecosystems, pieces by animals, and money by adenosine triphosphate - brilliant!
Next “action ecology” took the floor. Headed by Lourdes Lastra and mentor Dr. Chappell, the group explained their methodology to action ecology which was incorporated into a flow chart to help ecologists across the nation flow into successful action ecology. Along with the help of everyone at the meeting, the group also created a video titled “Hands of Change: A Guide to Action Ecology” – encouraging!
Thereafter, the “Earth stewardship” group headed by Jenna Hamlin and mentor Dr. Chapin stepped up to the plate. Among several interesting suggestions, such as the use of Bioblitz and other citizen science projects to encourage earth stewardship, was the promotion of an earth stewardship day. The group suggested that SEEDS chapters unite and apply for an EPA grant to make this project a reality across the US – engaging!
Finally, leader Audra Stonefish, mentor Dr. Perez, and students of the “traditional knowledge and western science” group explained the importance of remaining in contact with cultural roots. In particular, they stressed the maintenance of cultural diversity in our world both from a social and scientific perspective – diversifying!
After further creative and energetic discussions about projects to tackle in the future, SEEDS participants concluded the meeting with four main goals:
1) Writing the meeting’s article and submitting it for publication in the ESA bulletin
2) Applying for the EPA grant and planning the coordinated Earth stewardship day
3) Finalizing the action ecology monopoly game
4) Finalizing the action ecology conceptual map for SEEDSnet
Filled with enthusiasm and as passionate as ever, SEEDlingS dispersed back across the country to their home communities to grow their chapters and missions with the aid of new tools and friendships.
Stay tuned for more incredible things from the 2011 SEEDS Leaders!