Thursday, February 22, 2018

Dr. Nacoulma explores Elephant Attacks on Baobab Trees in Burkina Faso

On February 22, 2018, Dr. Blandine Marie Ivette Nacoulma - a Fulbright Scholar from University Ouaga 1 Professor Joseph KI-ZERBO serving at University of California, Davis as an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science – presented “Why do elephants attack Baobab trees in protected areas of Burkina Faso? Toward the elaboration of a strategy for species conservation.”  This presentation was a join presentation of SUNY ESF’s Advaptive Peaks Seminar Series and the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series. The Department of Environmental and Forest Biology Department sponsored the seminar with the Fulbright Outreach Lecturing Fund and the ESF Women’s Caucus. 

            Dr. Nacoulma discussed a variety of characteristics of Baobab trees that may indicate a high likelihood of elephant attack, in which the tree is debarked to some degree, including bark texture, bark color, tree shape, and diameter at breast height (dbh).  The research area consisted of a group of protected areas or parks with various management plans in Eastern Burkina Faso.  As this research is ongoing, final conclusions were not presented.

            The presentation began with extensive background information regarding the setting of this research: Dr. Nacoulma’s home country, Burkina Faso, which is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Dr. Nacoulma also provided a primer on the country’s “Big Two” species.  Elephants and Baobab trees are “charismatic flagship and keystone species” important to ecology and economy of the region, and “indirectly in conflict.”    The Baobab trees surveyed for Dr. Nacoulma’s research were found within three adjacent protected areas in Eastern Burkina Faso, each within a different ecological zone and with a corresponding management plans: Arli National Park, W Burkina Faso National Park, and Pama Reserve.  In these areas, debarking of Baobab trees by elephants has been observed repeatedly.  Only one other study exploring this phenomenon has been completed in Western Africa.

  Dr. Nacoulma’s research utilized feedback and input from local people to identify distinct characteristics of Baobab trees, including bark texture (smooth, rough, and cracked), bark color (pink, white, dark, and intermediate), tree shape (“broom”, flattened, round, and “sunshade”), and tree size (dbh).  Tree size was the only characteristic that had a noticeable correlation to debarking, in that larger trees were more likely to have been attacked.  No other measured characteristics had significant correlation to elephant attacks, indicating that these characteristics do not predispose the trees to attack.  Nutrient analyses are still underway.

Local people provided potential reasons that elephants attack Baobab trees, including for a nutritional supplement, as a source of water, because of a need to destroy, and because elephants compete with Baobab trees to be the largest organism on the landscape.  Finally, local people gave suggestions on how to address the problem and protect the trees, including fencing in each tree, providing additional water holes for elephants, planting more Baobab trees, and culling the elephant population. 

During the discussion the day prior and the reception following her presentation, Dr. Naclouma shared many interesting stories about her country’s economy and the financial benefits of Baobab trees. It is obvious that Baobab trees facing threats from the unsustainable tourism and illegal hunting which very common in Africa.

Dr. Nacoulma holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and Ecology from the University of Ouagadougou, where she focuses on the diversity, production, uses, ethno-ecology, ethnobotany and conservation of indigenous trees important for the livelihood of rural communities in Burkina Faso. Dr. Nacoulma is studying the functional traits of the baobab as a baseline for its conservation. 

The next presentation in the WiSE Professions series will be March 27, 2018 with Dr. Christine O’Connell of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science “Communicating science to the public.”  For more information about the WiSE Professions Series, please visit or the SUNY ESF’s Women’s Caucus at

As part of the requirements of FOR496/797 Perspectives on Career and Gender, students share responsibility for reporting on the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series.  The preceding was prepared by:  Xue Dong, PhD student in Environmental and Forest Biology; Megan Gorss, a BS student majoring in Natural Resources Management, in the Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management Department; and Colin Mettey, a MS student focusing on Ecology in the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Happy Anniversary!

Stay turned for updates on the 10th anniversary CNY Girls Summit, 19th anniversary public Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series (and some not-so-public meetings, as part of the concurrent Perspectives on Career and Gender seminar), and the 25th Take our Kids to Work Day Program!  Each of these works to increase women (at different life stages) in the STEM pipeline, and to change the conversation about what it means to be a welcoming, inclusive work environment that values diverse perspectives and contributions.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Panel: Strategies for Professional Success for Women in Engineering and Science.

The ERE Club hosted a panel discussion November 15, 2017, featuring current ERE graduate student Meghan Mussehl, who studied engineering at the all women's Smith College (with work experience between and throughout); ERE Advisory Council Chair and ERE alumna Meghan Platt, a recent ERE alumna; Kiana Morse, and ESF GPES alumna Hayley Effler, who both work for local engineering firms; and SU alumna Meghan Gilbert, who works for the DEC. Questions were drafted by ERE Club President Isabelle Horvath, who moderated the panel.  ERE Chair Ted Endreny welcomed the panelists, introduced and thanked Ms. Horvath, and then stepped out to encourage more candid discussion. 

Panelists echoed the empowerment brunch’s mention of the importance of mentors, strong role models, and people who told them they could do it.   Each of the panel shared instances where their recommendations were discounted until reiterated by a male colleague or supervisor, one sharing the this came more from within an organization with the common refrain “are you sure?  Did you do enough research?” while male colleagues similar recommendation would be accepted without those questions.  They have been catcalled on jobsites.  Gilbert returned the workforce after “off-ramping” to care for one of her children; Platt went part-time to better balance work and family, and notes that part-time options have become more common, without the “you won’t go anywhere” stigma that used to come with that.  She notes that men also use the flex-time options.  Others shared that particularly in private firms, that with laptops and cell phones, there is quite a bit of work that can be taken home (DEC was the exception;  all work must be done on DEC computers, phones, cameras, as they are subject to seizure through FOIL).  Their closing advice to the students:  say it with authority, believe in yourself, find yourself a mentor. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

3rd Annual Empowerment Brunch: opportunity and amplification

The Baobab Society and USA (with a little help from the ESF Women's Caucus) hosted the 3rd
Annual EMPOWERMENT BRUNCH on November 12, 2017.  Elissa Johnson, Food Science (SU) keynoted (food is a social justice issue); panel with Dr. Rebecca Gardner, Upstate; Dr. Marie-Odile Fortier, ESF-FNRM; Dr. Malika Carter, ESF; and Jason Bonet, an undergrad in Conservation Biology.  Laura Crandall was presented an award for (among other things) her work empowering students through the Leadership Training series. 

Take home messages from keynote and panel: mentor matter; sheer representation is not enough, need to think about systemic change; those with privilege can amplify the voices of those without.  Empowerment comes from within but also from community, equal treatment and opportunity—including assumptions about income potential, transformative power sharing. language matters.  Choose battles.
Baobab members also used “conversation mapping” for everyone to weigh in on questions like “What is Empowerment”, “How can men be allies”, “how to encourage women to pursue STEM”, “how to encourage women of color to pursue STEM.”  Participants were encouraged to write responses, and star those that resonated.  Baobab members then shared some of them, including:  allies can listen and give credit, and empower coworkers so they aren’t overburdened with the “representation” tasks; mentors share stories of success and failure, media shows science as elitist and inaccessible so we are challenged to make it relevant; acknowledge women’s contributions to STEM, don’t sexualize nerdiness, build better pathways for girls providing quality education preK on up. Images are available at:

Friday, October 6, 2017

Community Celebrations

Email from Chief Diversity Officer Malika Carter, to all students and campusnews:
Dear ESF Community,

The crisp air and changing leaves tell us that autumn is upon us. And with that comes Halloween and the many ways some observe this festive event. If you choose to participate in Halloween festivities, please be thoughtful and respectful when celebrating.

In particular, please keep in mind that certain Halloween costumes inappropriately perpetuate racial, cultural, and gender stereotypes. Although it may not be the intent, these costumes, and choosing to wear them, can depict identities in ways that are offensive or hurtful to others. Please take care in selecting your Halloween costumes. And, as always, keep in mind the potential for social media posts to have a long-term impact on your reputation.

Halloween is just one occasion on a broad continuum where we all benefit from acting with an understanding of the concepts of diversity, inclusion, equity, and respect. At ESF, we work to foster a campus climate that supports these values, and we seek to weave them into the life and work of every member of our community.

We appreciate your commitment to these values in your choices for daily life and as you celebrate Halloween.

Please post this notice in community spaces for the benefit of individuals without regular access to email.

Be well and be safe.

Dr. Malika Carter, Chief Diversity Officer

Endorsed By:
ESF Professionals of Color

[Drawn from an open letter from Katrice Albert and Danita Brown Young]

This material is available in alternative formats. Please direct comments/inquiries to:
Malika Carter, Ph.D., Chief Diversity Officer, SUNY ESF at

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Bathrooms, revisited

A Message from the President

Dear ESF Community,

A major priority of the College in the coming year will be to further address issues of accessibility, equity, and inclusion. This comprises several areas of concern, including increased compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), better access to all our facilities for members of our community and visitors-both here on the main campus and at our regional properties-and enhanced spaces that exemplify equality for all people. Equitable access to restrooms is one of the most important components of an elevated focus on accessibility.

Last academic year I directed our Physical Plant and Facilities unit to accelerate their activity to address the current inequitable situation in regard to the disproportionate availability of restrooms for women, and to provide more gender-inclusive options. Academic Governance, our Leadership Council, student governance groups, and others identified this very important need as well. Please see the memo below on this issue from Rex Giardine, our associate facilities program coordinator, and please recognize the changes being proposed are only our first step toward a much more comprehensive and College-wide solution.

I encourage you to share your thoughts on this proposal with Rex.

My Regards, Quentin Wheeler

TO: ESF Community
FROM: Rex Giardine, Associate Facilities Program Coordinator
DATE: August 8, 2017
RE: Campus - Toilet Room Change Initiatives

Consistent with ESF's commitment to diversity and to better accommodate our campus' demographics, several changes to existing toilet room designations are proposed. We recognize that the changes noted below do not completely address this issue either here on our main campus or at our regional properties. This is only the first phase of improvements; additional changes will follow this phase. The changes proposed, for implementation in the coming weeks, include the following:
Gateway Building
The men's and women's single-occupant toilet rooms on Floor 2 (near the elevator) will both be designated as gender-inclusive.
Illick Hall
Illick was constructed in the late 1960's with the higher number of men's toilet facilities reflective of the disproportionate number of men on campus at that time. As a measure to begin to create a balance indicative of the current ESF main campus demographic, the following changes are proposed in Illick Hall:
The existing men's rooms on Floors 1 and 4 will be designated as women's rooms. The existing women's room on Floor 4 will be designated as a single occupant, gender-inclusive restroom. This room has a lockable door

Feedback concerning the proposed changes will be accepted through August 16. It is our goal to implement accepted changes Monday, August 21, 2017.

Temporary informative signage will be installed at each restroom approximately one week ahead of the change, and maintained until occupants and visitors to the building become accustomed to these new designations.

A directive by President Wheeler, recommendations for bathroom equity outlined in a recent Academic Governance resolution, and requests made by both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as other faculty and staff members, are the major catalysts for these changes. There are additional measures in design to create ADA-compliant, single-occupant, gender-inclusive toilet rooms in both Illick Hall and Moon Library, with construction anticipated to take place during the 2017-2018 academic year.

Again, this is only one step in a larger effort that will address this important issue throughout all ESF properties.

Questions and comments regarding these initiatives should be directed to Rex Giardine in Physical Plant and Facilities at or 315-470-6731.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Program ideas and strategies from other women in natural resources

Christel Kern, Laura Kenefic, and Susan Stout, who co-authored Bridging the Gender Gap: The demographics of scientists in the USDA Forest Service and academia were in Syracuse last week to take part in Silviculture 2017.   We took advantage of this convergence to discuss their collaborative work, and the programs at the individual colleges with whom they are affiliated, and to share with them some of the programs at ESF. Preliminary findings were shared during a prior visit: 

Workplace Culture Learning Community (Forest Service):
--Monthly conference calls amongst Forest Service personnel.  Participants take turns picking topic, choosing literature or TED (and similar) type talks to discuss.  End each session with strategies.
--Sample topic:  “horizontal hostility” or the Queen Bee phenomenon.
…Strategy for appropriation:  Joke about it in a really light hearted tone “thanks for taking credit for my idea!  Are you going to claim (something ridiculous) as well?)

Supporting Women in Forestry Today (SWIFT) at UMaine:  “Small-scale discussions with large-scale implications”
--informal, to meet, support, mentor and share strategies.  Break-out groups, return to larger group to share strategies.
--participants come from a variety of departments and levels (mix of undergrads, grads and faculty/staff at program)
--Each meeting begins with ground rules (assume positive intent, don’t be afraid of silence, speak from personal experience, be aware of and try to avoid stereotyping….)
--Topics discussed:  imposter syndrome, confidence gap, lean-in, strategies for enter the labor force, campus climate survey, meet and greet, advocates and allies, self-advocacy, identifying and challenging discrimination, role-playing, field tours
--Assessed impacts:  90% of respondents became more aware of biases since attending SWIFT meetings, 80% gained new skills or strategies (call self out on imposter syndrome), 100% developed connections with women in other departments, citing “safe space” to communicate with others and comfort realizing they were not alone
--Future:  adaptive management framework, more topics, involving others (recognizing mixed feelings in doing so)
…Strategy:  Know terms for phenomena, this is empowering!  (experience is less likely to be perceived as an outlier); faculty need to be more aware of what students know.  Jargon is a huge barrier, as is expectation that rural experience is universal
…prompted a story from a different person, who recalled being told about not wanting to mow lawn because of a rabbit’s nests, but not relating, not because of anything about bunnies or ground nesters  but because at that time, they knew no one with their own lawn

Pathways Program and Presidential Management Fellows
….gateways to many federal jobs, and the latter program also provides some leadership training

Book Club comprised of the few women in one of the remote Forest Service office’s (Wisconsin)  AND other women that work nearby—
… Strategy: “Thank and Yank”—when someone else takes (or is given) credit, sincere “thank you for reiterating my idea” and bring it back to that focal point

ESF Women’s Caucus
-- topically, have much in common with above
-- Perspectives on Career and Gender is for credit, so more formal and more limited reach. 
-- Used to do more informal as well, would like to do more of these, especially in the fall (opposite above class & WiSE Professions Speaker Series) and with student and faculty/staff affinity groups.  Build in meetings in conjunction with other events?  Look for opportunities to collaborate with CDO (once announced and here), bring back SU Advance to share what they’ve learned and developed since they spoke about early program developments (
…. strategy:  Amplification.  This is a parallel to “Thank and yank” when another person, rather than the Original Speaker, says “that’s very similar to what Original Speaker said—Original Speaker, tell us more!”  Another usage maybe when trusted colleagues preview and suspect it will be naysayed in meeting (and appropriated later):  “That sounds like it has great potential—can you tell us more about …..”

Mentoring discussion ensued:
--Does it matter if mentors female?  Can have wonderful (or crappy) mentors across gender spectrum.  Someone with some similarity to you validates your experiences.  But may also find this with someone with other types of differences.  The caveat:  formal mentoring programs often don’t work. 

Suggested readings:
Kern, Christel C.; Kenefic, Laura S.; Stout, Susan L. 2015. Bridging the Gender Gap: The demographics of scientists in the USDA Forest Service and academia. BioScience. 65: 1165-1172.
Kramer, Andrea S; Harris, Alton B.  2016.  Breaking Through Bias: Communication Techniques for Women to Succeed at Work.  Taylor and Francis
Sharik, Terry L. 2015.  Diversifying Student Demographics in Forestry and Related Natural Resources Disciplines.  Journal of Forestry 113(6): 579-580
SAF Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.  2017.  Strategies for increasing diversity and inclusion at SAF meetings.  Forestry Source 22(6):  17, 21

Instructional Support 
FNRM Equipment Room and
WiSE Professions & Take our Kids to Work Day 
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
415 Bray Hall (Mail:  320 Bray Hall)
1 Forestry Dr, Syracuse, NY 13210
315.470.4752 | 
7 315.470.6535