Plenary Speakers

Susanne Moser

Dr. Susanne Moser is Director and Principal Researcher of Susanne Moser Research & Consulting, based in Hadley, MA, a Research Faculty in the Environmental Studies Department of Antioch University New England and an Affiliated Faculty in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at UMass-Amherst.

Opening Plenary

Oregon Ballroom
Sunday, August 6, 5:00 – 6:30 PM

Ecology for All…If We Want It: Three Transformational Imperatives

What would it mean to use the ESA Annual Meeting – and our day-to-day work back home – to make ecology relevant and useful to people whose decisions would benefit from ecological science? How would that change how we work and what we work on, who we work with and how we communicate?

At a time, when the pressures on Earth’s biosphere are near breaking points (and nowhere near diminishing), when public policy has set biodiversity and habitat protection targets while climate change undermines practically everything we work so hard to achieve, when species and ecosystem services are being lost ever-more rapidly and even our own spirits falter at times in the face of the mounting losses of all we love – something has got to give.

It is time to not just incrementally adjust our work, but slow down long enough to reckon with the transformations that need to happen. Yes, transformations “out there”, by others, but also in our own way of doing what we do, in ourselves. This opening plenary will lay out three imperatives for profound change in our work as academic and applied scientists that are required to meet the growing multi-faceted crises of the day. The stakes could hardly be higher. The benefits – immeasurable.

Dr. Susanne Moser portrait picture.
Susanne Moser

Susanne Moser

  • Ph.D. from Clark University
  • Prolific writer, an inspiring speaker and has served on scientific advisory boards
  • Director and Principal Researcher of Susanne Moser Research & Consulting

Priyanga Amarasekare

Dr. Priyanga Amarasekare is the 2023 Scientific Plenary keynote speaker for the ESA Annual Meeting. She is the recipient of the prestigious ESA Robert H. MacArthur Award that honors an established ecologist in mid-career for meritorious contributions to ecology, in the expectation of continued outstanding ecological research.  

MacArthur Lecture

Oregon Ballroom
Monday, August 7, 8:00 – 10:00 AM
(Scientific Plenary and Awards Session)

Non-linearity, variability and emergent ecological patterns: an integrative perspective

Nature is full of puzzling biological patterns.  All such patterns ultimately arise from the interplay between non-linearity and variability.  Non-linearities arise when biotic factors generate density- or frequency dependence in fitness. Variability arises when abiotic factors modify these non-linearities, generating spatial or temporal variation in fitness. My research focuses on understanding how the interplay between non-linearity and variability generates the patterns we see, and how those patterns might change under perturbations to organisms’ typical biotic and abiotic environments.  I will talk about how evolution of phenotypic traits may be constrained by variability that arises through non-linearity itself, emergent phenomena such as keystone dispersers that arise from the interplay between spatial variation and multi-trophic interactions, and how thermodynamical processes operating within cells can explain why organisms from warmer climates can easily move to cooler climates but not vice versa.  I will present these ideas within an integrative framework that allows us to both understand and predict how organisms respond to environmental perturbations in ecological and evolutionary time.

Read the ESA MacArthur Award press release.

Portrait Image of Priyanga Amarasekare
Priyanga Amarasekare
Photo by Kavan Wijeratne

Priyanga Amarasekare

  • Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine
  • Postdoctoral research at the prestigious National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis
  • Assistant Professor in Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago.

Yadvinder Malhi

Yadvinder Malhi is Professor of Ecosystem Science at the University of Oxford, Jackson Research Fellow at Oriel College, Oxford and Director of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery. His research has focused on how the biosphere is responding to global change and feeds back on global change, with a particular focus on the tropics.

New Phytologist Foundation Keynote

Oregon Ballroom
Monday, August 7, 10:30-11:30 AM

The productivity, carbon dynamics and energetics of tropical forests: new insights from a global monitoring network

Tropical forests show strong geographical variation in ecosystem functions, but the role of climate, soils and biogeography in shaping these patterns remains unclear. I show results from our studies across the tropics as part of the GEM (Global Ecosystems Monitoring Network), exploring the factors that contribute to geographical variation in productivity and carbon cycling, their link to canopy traits and the possibility of mapping this geographical variation using satellite remote sensing. I then explore a case study along a logging gradient in Malaysian Borneo in more detail, describing how nutrient and carbon cycling vary with logging intensity and also what fraction of productivity ends up in birds and mammals. The energy analysis finds some surprising results, suggesting that logged forests can be more ecologically vibrant than expected and questioning the widespread use of the concept of degradation.

Portrait Image of Yadvinder Malhi.
Yadvinder Malhi
Photo by Jake Bryant

Yadvinder Malhi

  • Professor of Ecosystem Science at the University of Oxford
  • Jackson Research Fellow at Oriel College, Oxford
  • Director of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery

Barbara Spiecker

Barbara Spiecker (she/her/hers) is a marine community ecologist who is broadly interested in scale-dependent responses of marine communities across space and time.

Scientific Interfaces Lecture

Oregon Convention Center
Tuesday, August 8, 12:15-1:15 PM (Room 252)

Can we push the boundaries of science communication?

Science communication plays a pivotal role in bridging the gap between scientific research and the everyday lives of people in our community, encouraging the dissemination of knowledge and promoting scientific literacy. Yet for all we know about communication and science, how to engage communities in the science conversations that matter most to them remains a mystery. Can we push the boundaries of science communication to incorporate diverse voices and challenge our conventional assumptions of what communication looks like? How can we create clear, accessible, and engaging communication that sparks curiosity, inspires interest, and empowers individuals to make informed decisions? As a marine ecologist and a member of the underrepresented deaf community, I have seen firsthand the power of science communication in breaking down barriers and fostering a more inclusive and equitable scientific community. My experience led me to found a non-profit organization, Atomic Hands, whose mission is to work with the community to develop engaging STEM resources in American Sign Language and create inclusive spaces that will facilitate the exchange of ideas between signing and speaking communities. Using examples from my own experience and that of others, this talk will consider: (1) ways we can push the boundaries of science communication; (2)ways wecan amplify diverse voices and reach a broader range of individuals and perspectives; and (3) ways we can enhance collaborative efforts between science communication organizations like Atomic Hands, scientists, educators, and policymakers in cultivating a scientifically informed and diverse society.

Thumbnail portrait image of Barbara Spiecker in field study.
Photo Credit: Song Hoa Choi.

Barbara Spiecker

  • Marine Community Ecologist
  • Co-founder of a Non-profit Organization
  • Involved with American Sign Language empowerment in the community with a focus on STEM communications.

Rod Schoonover

Rod Schoonover is CEO and Founder of the Ecological Futures Group, (non-resident) Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University.

Recent Advances Lecture

Ballroom 252
Wednesday, August 9, 12:15 -1:15 PM

The Urgent Need for Ecological Security Research

The 21st century has witnessed drastic changes in Earth’s systems, such as atmospheric transformation, soil depletion, ocean acidification, and freshwater reconfiguration, primarily due to human activities. These changes destabilize the biosphere, threaten the ecological foundation of human society, and could lead to a sixth mass extinction marked by rapid species loss with lasting implications for humanity.

National security structures have adapted to address threats from nation-states and non-state actors but require further modification to adequately handle actorless threats like infectious diseases, pandemics, and intensifying disasters. Research must be expanded to address crucial knowledge gaps resulting from stressors that pose considerable risks to public health, social stability, and political and economic security.

Specifically understudied are elements of ecological disruption such as antimicrobial resistance amplification, physiological consequences of pollution, the decline in nature’s contributions to people’s well-being, local and regional ecological tipping points, harmful organisms thriving in rapidly changing environmental conditions; and climate change impacts on abiotic and biotic systems.

National security is unattainable without ecological security. This realization necessitates increased research, policy innovation, and collaboration among scientists and policymakers implementing an integrated approach that acknowledges the interconnectedness of the hydrosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere in shaping security outcomes.

Embedding ecological security in national security doctrine and architecture ensures a proactive, comprehensive approach to confronting challenges arising from ecological disruption. Moreover, addressing uncertainty and knowledge gaps should drive research and action to prevent, mitigate, or adapt to potentially catastrophic consequences.

Portrait image of Dr. Rod Schoonover.
Rod Schoonover
Credit: Erin Fitzgerald

Rod Schoonover

  • U.S. intelligence community as the Director of Environment and Natural Resources
  • AAAS Diplomacy Fellow in 2009
  • Tenured Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo