Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Facing the Future: Meeting the Information Challenges for Natural Resources Management.


As part of the course requirements for FOR 797 Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions, students share the responsibility for reporting on our speakers for distribution to ESFWOMEN listserv, co-sponsors, and the Knothole.

Farnsworth Memorial Lecture and Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Campus-Wide Seminar April 9, 2002 
Facing the Future:  Meeting the Information Challenges for Natural Resources Management.
Dr. Susan Stafford, Colorado State University
Summarized by Heather Engelman

In meeting the information challenges that face resource managers, one might consider Dr. Susan Stafford’s subtitle “Do unto data before it does unto you”.  The Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network of 24 sites serves as an example of concurrent diligent data collection and management of ongoing studies coupled with exciting new research possibilities.  The network relies on continuous measurements of existing, long-term studies and analysis for the integration and synthesis of results, generalization of these results for broader use across disciplines, cultures and spatial and temporal scales.  LTER aims to better science that challenges technology.

Dr. Stafford discussed the H.J. Andrews Experimental Site (AND) and the Shortgrass Steppe (SGS) sites to demonstrate the goals of understanding, synthesizing, and disseminating information.  In particular, she talked about the change in focus of research projects over time from efficient management of AND in the 1940s to the interaction of its forests and streams to old-growth/spotted owl to its current focus of global change.   SGS research has also evolved from the sustainability of rangelands to ecosystem interactions and productivity to landscape issues and nutrient cycling to both global issues and local praire dogs.   Information technology has dramatically progressed during this period as well from field books to mainframe computers to personal computers with FTP, e-mail, LAN, and WWW capabilities, to a common ecological metadata language (EML) useful across all 24 research sites.

LTER sites must share date with the scientific community within 24 months (with some exceptions, such as thesis/dissertation completion or additional measurement required).  Two additional challenges are to determine how the limited available funds can be best spent, and to train the “next batch of scientists.”  LTER successes at site and network level are numerous: collaborations with other organizations, substantial databanks, dynamic web pages, school yard long term ecological research (SYLTER) programs for K-12, network information systems (NIS), the development of EML and increased access to data and cross-site transfer of such.  The network also has fostered an increased sense of community among and between the research sites.

Stafford earned a B.S. in Biology and Mathematics at Syracuse University in 1974, a M.S. in Quantitative Ecology at ESF in 1975, and a Ph.D. in Applied Statistics at ESF in 1979.   She was part of Oregon State University’s Quantitative Sciences Group for 19 years, with 1-year assignments as a Faculty Associate to the Provost (1987-1988) and as a Division Director of Biological Infrastructure for the National Science Foundation (1994).  Since 1998, she has been the Forest Sciences Department Head at Colorado State University. Dr. Stafford's research interests include research information management, applied statistics, multivariate analysis and experimental design, scientific databases, GIS applications, and other data management topics.

Stafford was the keynote speaker of the Annual C. Eugene Farnsworth Memorial Lecture and Fellowship Ceremony, sponsored by the Faculty of Forest and Natural Resources Management.   Stafford’s lecture was also part of the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Seminar Series organized by the ESF Women’s Caucus. The prestigious Farnsworth fellowships honor the memory of Dr. “Gene” Farnsworth and his many contributions to professional forestry nationally and internationally, and in particular to his contributions to forestry education.   By modest count, he influenced the lives of 1500 forest technicians and 4000 professional forestry students in the 52 years he was affiliated with ESF and its forest technology program at the NYS Ranger School.  The fellows for 2002 are John Munsell, a MS student in Forest Resources Management, policy and administration, and Eric Greenfield, a PhD candidate in the Forest Resources Management area.

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