The challenge of conserving our natural resources—while also sustaining healthy and equitable human societies—is one that requires large, innovative initiatives that can make significant impacts. In spring 2016, the CNR Executive Committee of the Faculty envisioned a new program to help the College of Natural Resources incubate just these types of innovations, and Science to Solutions @CNR was born.
Three ESPM faculty were chosen as finalists in the program. In these videos, each professor explains his idea for making real change for sustainability, biodiveristy, and the earth's resilience.
Professor Dennis Baldocchi, Bio-Environmental Engineer
California, often called the ‘land of milk and honey’, is home to the 7th largest economy of the world. It is populated with a diverse, energetic and creative population that thrives on its unique and benign climate, its beautiful geography and bountiful supply of fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables. Together as a people we have developed many of the best Universities in the world, a movie industry that entertains the world and technical centers that have made computers cheap, fast and ubiquitous. Dennis Baldocchi discusses how to sustain this population and help it thrive in an uncertain future with variability and change in climate and natural resources.
Understanding and Conserving California Biodiversity in a Changing Climate
Assistant Professor Patrick O’Grady, Biologist & Geneticist
The next frontier in biology involves how genotype translates to phenotype, and how both are modified by and respond to local and landscape-scale environmental changes. Species adapt as their interactions with the biotic and abiotic environment shift with changing climate and species communities. Thus, an extended phenotype arises from the extended genotype, comprised of an individual species’ genotype and the genotypes of all organisms (mutualists, parasites, predators, competitors) with which it interacts. We adopt a phylogenetic framework to understand the role this “interactome” has played in shaping biodiversity and will tease apart ecological and historical effects among a number of plant lineages (e.g., Astragalus, Collinsia, Calochortus, Aquilegia) characteristic of California’s diverse habitats, from estuaries to deserts to mountain tops. Each lineage has diversified across California by adapting to different ecologies and native and non-native (anthropogenic) communities. Patrick O’Grady discusses how we understand the historical and ecological components leading to the generation of biological diversity.
Parks, People and Biodiversity
Professor Steve Beissinger, Conservation Biologist
Parks are essential to a healthy people and a healthy planet. People need parks to reconnect with nature, understand their history, and enjoy outdoor recreational activities. Parks are the backbone of regional and global biodiversity conservation strategies. Parks need people to value them in order for parks to be established and to be supported. In some parts of the world, people live in parks and derive their existence entirely from park plants, animals, and resources. Steve Beissinger discusses research and programs that will mold the future of parks and shift public perceptions about parks and conservation.
Resilience Measured: The Key to a Sustainable Future
Professor John Battles, Forest Ecologist
A fundamental tenet of ecology, built on more than a century of study, is the balance of nature. Simply put: we expect nature to recover after disturbance. Today there is no such guarantee. In ecosystem after ecosystem, we have observed biological and physical responses to perturbations that defy expectations of nature’s equilibrium. We worry that these erratic responses signal the approach of a tipping point and suspect that the accumulated stress of global environmental change has reduced the resilience of many ecosystems to the extent that recovery from disturbance will be critically slowed. Our concern over the loss of resilience and the risk it poses to sustainability is widely shared. Leaders from the National Park Service to the US Conference of Mayors have prioritized “planning for resilience.” Although theory suggests that there may be early warning indicators for systems approaching major shifts, we do not yet know how to measure resilience — let alone manage it — in complex ecosystems. John Battles will work to take a data-intensive approach to quantify resilience in well-studied, high-dimensional ecosystems in order to test the hypotheses that some might be approaching a tipping point and that indicators of this approach exist.
For more information and to learn how you can get involved, visit the Science to Solutions @CNR website.