2012 NASA-MSU awards recognize outstanding environmental scholars

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Twenty promising landscape ecology scientists will make presentations at the 2012 annual symposium of the U.S. Regional Association of the International Association for Landscape Ecology (US-IALE) in Newport, R.I., April 8-12 as recipients of a NASA-MSU Professional Enhancement Award.

"Some junior scholars who are interested in research on landscape ecology may not be able to attend conferences and other professional events without financial assistance," said Jianguo "Jack" Liu, MSU University Distinguished Professor of fisheries and wildlife, who holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability. Liu also is director of the MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability. “This award program was set up to help these promising scientists connect with other researchers at a national event."

Liu created the program in 1998 with support from Michigan State and NASA when the US-IALE annual symposium was held at MSU.

“The awards program helps students attend the US-IALE meeting, present their research, interact with leading researchers and build their professional networks,” Liu continued. “In the past 15 years, the program has supported approximately 310 students from more than 120 institutions from around the world. Many of the former recipients are now leaders in landscape ecology research.”

“One of my committee members was actually a previous reward recipient and encouraged me to apply,” said Patrick Raney, a doctoral student at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. “Because the focus of the US-IALE conference this year fell so in line with my graduate research studies, I was really interested in attending. This award seemed like a great opportunity to gain a little more awareness for the work my adviser and I are conducting in groundwater-fed wetlands with unique climatic properties.”

“I am intrigued at how science advances through time: the ideas, collaborations, dissemination, etc.,” said Christopher Bobryk, doctoral student at the University of Missouri School of Natural Resources. “I’m finally beginning to enter into my own scientific niche and it will be refreshing and enlightening to speak to and learn from leading scientists and meet other scholars in my field.”

“Having discussed this award with previous recipients, it is clear that the NASA-MSU award is not only a mechanism to help students attend the US-IALE annual symposium and learn from the presentations and discussions there, but it also builds a lasting network of professionals in landscape ecology, a network that can facilitate knowledge exchange well beyond the annual symposium and throughout one's career,” said Jessica Price, doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. “I hope to learn new approaches to understanding and applying ecology at the landscape scale, particularly how science is and can continue to inform policy and management.”

The 2012 NASA-MSU Professional Enhancement recipients are:

Rodrigo Begotti, University of San Paulo. Begotti’s research focuses on using land-use and land cover change to understand water quality in tropical streams.

Kathrine Behrman, University of Texas–Austin. Her presentation is “Trade-offs Between Agricultural Production and Biodiversity for Biofuel Production.”

Bray Beltrán, Arizona State University. Beltrán is interested in the combined effects of climate change and land cover/land use change in the environment. His presentation is “Effects of Climate Change and Urban Development on the Distribution and Protection of Mediterranean-type Ecosystem Vegetation.”

Christopher Bobryk, University of Missouri–Columbia. Bobryk builds spatial models for applications in toxicology, watershed management and forest resources. His presentation is “Dynamics of Aboveground Forest Biomass along the Missouri River Corridor.”

Karin Burghardt, Yale University. Burghardt studies plant-insect interactions, impacts of disturbance on community structure and interactions, tri-trophic dynamics and plant defense/herbivore offense. Her presentation is “The Evolutionary Origin of Landscaping Plants and Herbivore Populations: Implications for the Functioning of Managed Landscapes.”

Steven Collins, Texas Tech University. His presentation is “Developing Species Distribution Models for Riverine Dragonflies with Multiscale Environmental Parameters.”

Patrick Culbert, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Culbert’s research uses technologies such as geographic information systems and remote sensing to explain and measure human impacts on the environment. His presentation is “A Nationwide Map of Predicted Avian Biodiversity.”

Monica Dorning, University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Dorning is studying the impacts and drivers of landscape change in the Charlotte Metropolitan Region and is particularly interested in the social and ecological interactions that influence urban ecosystem function. Her presentation is “Changing Decisions, Changing Landscapes: How Would the Emerging Biofuel Market Impact North Carolina Forests?”

Hope Draheim, Michigan State University. Her presentation is “Applications of Graphs to Black Bear Source-Sink Dynamics.”

Matthew Duveneck, Portland State University. His presentation is “Assisted Migration for Climate Change Adaptation: Forest Management Scenarios in Northern Minnesota.”

Peng Gao, University of South Carolina. Gao’s presentation is “Identifying Functionally-Connected Habitat Compartments with a Novel Regionalization Technique.”

Christopher Hakkenberg, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. Hakkenberg’s research interests are spatial ecology, forest dynamics, dispersal, ecological modeling, remote sensing and GIS, China's forest policy, REDD+, and conservation. His presentation is “Greener Slopes: Quantifying Forest Cover Change in SW China.”

Spencer Meyer, University of Maine. Meyer’s research focuses on how various conservation mechanisms (e.g., working forest conservation easements, forest certification, public ownership, market incentives, etc.), are used to ensure that forested landscapes remain intact and available for future generations.

Daniel Miller Runfola, Clark University. Runfola’s research focuses on the environmental implications of urban growth policies, satellite remote sensing methods for land cover classification, and the vulnerability of U.S. federal infrastructure to climate change.

Ilona Naujokaitis-Lewis, University of Toronto. Naujokaitis-Lewis’ research involves spatial modeling at multiple scales of analysis and includes developing mechanistic process-based models that integrate temporal climate dynamics with population demographic models. Her presentation is “Influence of Temporal and Spatial Dynamics of Climate and Habitat Changes on Range Margin Dynamics for a Threatened Bird Species.”

Bradley Pickens, Louisiana State University. His presentation is “A Test of the Spatio-Temporal Transferability of Habitat Models: The Case of Migratory and Resident Coastal Marsh Birds.”

Jessica Price, University of Wisconsin at Madison. Price’s research interests center on the potential effects of climate change and resource demand on biodiversity and ecological functions (especially ecosystem goods and services) in forest ecosystems. Her presentation is “Integrated Scenario Building and Landscape Modeling Inform Forest Management in a Changing Climate: A Case Study from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.”

Patrick Raney, State University of New York. Raney’s research interests include plant and wetland ecology, climate change, and conservation biology. His presentation is “Deployment Considerations for Micrologger Networks in Regions of High Topographic Complexity: Insights from Northeastern Wetlands and Southern Appalachian Mountains.”

David Simeral, University of Nevada. Simeral’s research interests are in cartography, climate change and variability in mountainous regions, field meteorology and instrumentation, geographic information systems and snow science. His presentation is “Topographic Influences on Near-Surface Temperature Regimes in Complex Terrain, San Francisco Peaks, Arizona.”

Zhiqiang Zhao, Michigan State University. His presentation is “Exploring Spatial Variable Relationships Between NDVI and Environmental Factors in Transition Zone Using Geographically Weighted Regression.”

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