Friday, April 15, 2005

Forest Service Deputy Chief Visits ESF for Farnsworth and Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Lecture Series

by Heather Engelman

Dr. Ann Bartuska discussed “Setting the Stage: A national and global perspective on non-native invasive, species,” Forest Service Deputy Chief of Research and Development, on April 15, as the keynote address at the 22nd Annual C. Eugene Farnsworth Memorial Lecture and Fellowship Ceremony, sponsored by the Faculty of Forest and Natural Resources Management. Her lecture also concluded this year’s Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Seminar Series, organized by the ESF Women’s Caucus.

For the context of her discussion, Dr. Bartuska defined Invasive Species as “non-native to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” The species are not limited to plants such as the Rata tree or purple loosestrife, but also include animals such as the ash borer, and fungi such as sudden oak death. Problems generally arise after a “trigger” causes the expansion of a relatively stable population or “lag phase;” this is best documented by invasive plants. Successful invasive plants share a number of traits: they are environmentally fit, have rapid growth, mature early, and seed prolifically. In addition, they have rampant vegetative spread but no major pests.

Dr. Bartuska also emphasized the magnitude of the problem, noting that invasive species are attributed to a 50-85% loss of biodiversity and a cost of $137 billion in the United States alone. Financial losses reach $1.4 trillion or nearly 5% of the world economy. The loss of cultural resources and effect on quality of life has not been quantified.

Dr. Bartuska explained that a comprehensive approach to “integrated vector management” includes not only assessment and risk analysis, but the following components as well:

Prevention. Since many introductions are accidental, understanding the pathways of spread is key (e.g., dispersal by animals, or by sticking to campers and the undersides of boats). There are also intentional introductions, such as when someone plants an invasive species in his or her garden.” To help reduce this type of introduction, the USDA has developed a “webcrawler” that searches websites for prohibited species. The webcrawler also sends a notice to the owner of the site asking if they know that this item is on a prohibited list, and if they are aware that it is a felony to sell, trade, or otherwise bring such plants or animals into the US.

Early detection. The most successful early detections have been with human diseases (CDC). There have also been good examples with crop and livestock pests and diseases, such as foot and mouth disease, plum pox, and gypsy moth outbreaks.

Rapid response and eradication. Eradication is very simple only during the “lag phase” that occurs prior to population expansion. It is still feasible during the early part of expansion, but becomes more difficult and expensive as the population expands.

Control, management, and restoration. The most money is spent on these steps, because it is generally not until these phases that it is known that there is a problem. Using the correct tools at the right time is very important to maximize effectiveness at minimum expense (e.g., correct timing of mechanical and chemical control of purple loosestrife and buckthorn).

Research. There has been a shift from individual studies in specific locales to looking at a matrix of factors to better predict if an area is pre-disposed to invasion. This should help identify problems earlier, when control is easier and less expensive to implement.

Public education and awareness. Unfortunately, public awareness does not occur immediately when problem species are introduced and detected. However, people do respond once they are aware, so there have been strides to increase early awareness. Successful programs can be as simple as boot cleaning and restricting vehicular traffic to reduce the spread of Phytophthora in Australia. In addition to physically reducing the number of spore-carrying vectors, these are great public education tools.

Successful programs emphasize prevention, early detection, and rapid response, and integrated vector management (i.e., how does it get there?) at local, state and national, and global scales, especially since trade can increase 14% per year. Legislation often takes a while to pass, so administrative and policy changes such as “Weed Warriors” volunteer monitors for a problem species; exotic plant management for National Parks; and the “St. Louis Accord” (i.e., a voluntary code of conduct for the nursery industry) are very important. Dr. Bartuska also described New Zealand’s shift from a “black list” which assumes introductions are safe until proven otherwise to a “white list” which assumes introductions could be problematic until proven safe. This shift was a response to social and economic losses to invasions from entities not yet black listed.

Dr. Bartuska “is very optimistic about the problem, but there are challenges—adaptive management, loss of taxonomic expertise, reconciling societal values (e.g., trade vs. protection, and food vs. biodiversity), the ability to rapidly respond, and finding the money to do so.”

As the USDA Forest Service's Deputy Chief for Research and Development, Dr. Ann Bartuska directs the agency's research efforts to promote ecologically-sound management of the nation's natural resources, serve the nation's private forest landowners, and investigate new ways to process and recycle biomass into products. Prior to this, Bartuska directed the Invasive Species Initiative at The Nature Conservancy and worked for the Forest Service for 14 years in positions with research and development, state and private forestry, and in the National Forest System, as the agency's first director of ecosystem management. She currently serves on the board of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents and is past-president of the Ecological Society of America. For more information about the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions speaker series, please visit

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Transforming the Hudson River

By Angel Engman and Lauren Davis

Ms. Frances Dunwell, Director of the Hudson River Estuary Program with the NYDEC addressed “Transforming the Hudson River,” at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry on Tuesday, March 29, 2005, as part of the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Seminar Series. Sponsors for the seminar included ESF’s Women's Caucus, Faculty of Environmental and Forest Biology, and Graduate Student Association.
The Hudson River is renowned as spawning grounds for coastal fish populations. The river itself is 152 miles long and buffered by limestone bedrock.  The Hudson River estuary comprises the tidal portions of the river. Ms. Dunwell introduced the relevance of the Hudson River through slides of historical sites such as Revolutionary War battlegrounds as well as the river’s 19th century industrial importance.
The Hudson was an important industrial river up to the 1970s when factories along the river began to shut down. Chemical pollutants from the factories destroyed the ecological integrity of the Hudson River and the river was deemed dead. The turning point in the ecological health of the river was the Storm King case. Hudson River residents sued to prevent the construction of a hydropower facility on Storm King Mountain that would have greatly damaged the scenic views along this stretch of the river. As a result of this case, organizations were created such as Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper, and Clearwater.  In addition, a coalition was formed from these organizations. Governor Pataki adopted an Action Plan for the Hudson River in 2001, which allowed for “a real plan with real money.”
                The Hudson River Estuary program has seen dramatic positive results in environmental conditions by building understanding between the communities along the estuary. The program has many goals, including:  restoring the sturgeon (a native fish species) population to the river, understanding and controlling invasive species, cleaning up pollution, and restoring scenic vistas.
Ms. Dunwell serves as a Special assistant to the commissioner for the Hudson River Valley at NYS Department of Environmental Conservation where she directs the implementation of the Hudson River Estuary Plan. She is also author of The Hudson River Highlands, an award-winning book on the region's natural and cultural history.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Esnard Speaks twice: Disaster Planning and Environmental Justice

By Tina Notas and Cheng-Yi Pu

            Dr. Ann-Margaret Esnard, Associate Professor of City and Regional Planning and Director, GEDDes Computer Lab, Cornell University, presented her research on The Nexus of Disaster Planning, Geospatial Technologies and Local Land Use Planning Strategies on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 as part of the SUNY-ESF’s Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Spring Seminar Series. The seminar was sponsored by SUNY College of Environmental Science and Foresty, and its Graduate Student Association, Women’s Caucus, Council of Geospatial Management and Analysis (CGMA), and Diversity-Council/Office of Multicultural Affairs.
Dr. Esnard discussed the issues of zoning and controlling population densities when considering land planning, and asked the audience to consider whether an area being developed is concentrated in a hazardous area or one that is vulnerable to natural disaster. She stressed the importance of creating dialogue with the people affected by the plan, and establishing decision support systems or alternative public policies at the watershed level. She also explained that it is important to understand the weight vacant land holds. A land planner needs to consider if vacant land is currently zoned as open space and whether there is potential for development.  For further inquiry into land use planning, Esnard recommended the books Disasters by Design by Dennis S. Mileti (Director of Natural Disasters Center in Boulder, Colorado); Cooperating with Nature by Raymond Burby; and Disaster Resistance by Donald Geis. Esnard stated that the NYS GIS Clearinghouse is a good source of data for land planners.
            Esnard also presented her experience with Environmental Justice in Real and Virtual Communities on Wednesday, March 23. She stressed that, as a GIS user, one cannot be in front of the computer all the time, but instead needs to learn to receive and use feedback constructively from the community the planning affects. When reflecting on GIS in this way, the user ensures the community’s quality of life. On the other hand, if GIS users stay behind the computer screen, they create assumptions that influence policy in the mapping program being used.
Esnard discussed her work with the Community University Consortium for Regional Environmental Justice that includes New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico, the Iron Bound Community Corporation (Newark, New Jersey), and West Harlem Environmental Action. According to Esnard, land planning needs to be democratic, and Community Based Organizations (CBO’s) need to shape appropriate planning data. Land planners need to ask the community how useful the data being collected is. Another crucial point made by Esnard was that GIS planners need to make sure that maps are easily understood by the audience. Esnard and her students accomplished just that by helping the Ironbound community in Newark, New Jersey set up a map of their community on the Internet. In this way, the GIS users handed off the project to be continued by the community. Environmental Justice websites that should be taken into consideration are and the Toxic Release Inventory found at
Dr. Esnard received her B.S. in Agricultural Engineering from University of the West Indies, and her M.S. in Agronomy and Soils in University of Puerto Rico. She got her Ph.D. in Regional Planning from the University of Massachusetts. Dr. Esnard’s most recent projects have focused on hazard mitigation planning, and decision tools for post-disaster planning. She directed the natural hazards and vulnerability-mapping project for eleven counties in New York State and for the Tompkins County Chapter of the American Red Cross. She is the co-author of the Hypothetical City workbook and has written on other topics that include quality of life and holistic disaster recovery, spatial analysis of New York metropolitan urban expansion, vulnerability assessments of coastal and flood hazards, public participation GIS, environmental justice, GIS education, and ethics.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Domestic Violence and a Woman's Self-worth

After a round of self-esteem exercises on our own, Vera House, Inc. co-exective director Randi Bregman joined the Baobab Society and Women's Caucus to answer questions about recognizing domestic abuse, and helping our friends and families find the sense of worth and safety they deserve.  People stay in abusive relationships for lots of reasons, including fear of the unknown and some comfort with the familiar (the devil you know....).  Often, they "want the relationship to continue, but the abuse to end." The best thing that we can do for those we know are at risk:  be good supportive listeners and keep at it.   Model a concerned relationship. It's a big decision about whether or not to involve authorities--you might fear reprisal, or fear that this act might offend the person you are trying to protect. "Do not put yourself at risk by trying to intervene directly."  Direct them to local resources:  locally, Vera House and the Rape Crisis center have recently merged (Vera House, Inc) to provide comprehensive assistance, 24/7. Sadly, 70% of the clients of the Rape Crisis Center are children.
When are children at risk?  It used to be that they were only considered to be in harm's way when abuse was directed at them.  The current thinking has evolved, however, to recognize that it isn't good for their emotional and long-term well being to repeatedly witness such acts.  Teachers and medical professionals are mandatory reporters if they suspect a child is in any danger.
We also asked about the sensitivity of police when someone has been raped, should the initial response be to call the police?  No--first go to the hospital to 1. tend to  physical injuries 2. collect evidence and 3. talk to an advocate who can advise and notify authorities if victim chooses to do so.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Dr. Caryl Fish Speaks on Abandoned Mine Drainage

As part of the course requirements for FOR 797-2, students share the responsibility for reporting on the speakers in the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series.  The following press release was prepared by Yvonne Paul and April Baptiste. 

Dr. Caryl Fish, Professor of Environmental Chemistry at Saint Vincent College, discussed Abandoned Mine Drainage: A Resource for Undergraduate Education at ESF on February 22, 2005 as part of SUNY ESF’s Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series.

Dr. Fish’s presentation focused on the clean-up of abandoned mine drainage sites in Pennsylvania. During the 1800s and early 1900s, there were a number of coal mines in operation in Pennsylvania.  During active mining, water would be pumped from the mines to facilitate the process.  After the mines were depleted, pumping would cease and the excavated areas would fill with water. Groundwater chemically reacts with the mineral pyrite (iron sulphide – FeS2) that is commonly found along the seams of coal.  The iron and sulphur in the pyrite dissolve in the water to create iron hydroxide and sulphuric acid. As the iron and sulphur-rich groundwater reaches the surface through drill holes and other openings, the iron in the water reacts with air and essentially “rusts.” When the water drains into nearby rivers and streams, these water bodies are “stained” orange as iron-rich compounds oxidize and settle.  This drainage can be quite acidic, unless there is sufficient calcium carbonate in the groundwater to neutralize it.  The iron-rich compounds and other chemicals in the water decreased the flora and fauna that would naturally inhabit these waters. 

The Monastery Run Project near Saint Vincent College began in 1993 to test passive treatment for mine drainage.  Three multi-celled wetland ponds or cells were created to reduce the iron that was prevalent in the local streams.  Water moves from one cell to the next, reducing the concentration of iron dramatically between cells.  The first cell is aerated via the movement of falling water to maximize precipitation of iron compounds. The last cells contain cattails, which act as physical filters, trapping free iron molecules.  The wetlands in this project area can retain 250 pounds of iron oxide per day.  Less than 1% of the iron that entered the wetlands leaves.  This passive method is now a common means to improve water quality from AMD.  In addition, the wetlands are used to enhance science learning for chemistry and non-chemistry students, assist teacher education for grades K-9, provide general wetland education for the public, and serve as the basis for teacher education and senior research projects.

Dr. Fish is a Professor of Chemistry at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.  She is also the director of St. Vincent's Summer Institute in Watershed Restoration and its Environmental Education Center.   Dr. Fish earned her B.S. from Manchester College, MBA at the University of Dayton, and PhD from SUNY-ESF. 

This presentation was jointly sponsored by SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, its Faculty of Chemistry, Women's Caucus, Alumni Association, and Graduate Student Association.  For information about upcoming speakers, please visit

Chatting with Caryl Fish: climate for moms at a small teaching institution and evaluation of non-researchers

Dr. Fish is an Associate Professor of Analytical and Environmental Chemistry at St. Vincent College, the director of its Summer Institute in Watershed Restoration and its  Environmental Education Center, a mother of two, and happily married to a fellow highly educated chemist.  We couldn't resist the opportunity to meet with her after her campus-wide presentation on "Abandoned Mine Drainage:  A resource for Undergraduate Education" and ask about the climate for mom's at a small teaching institution, including how she and her husband solved their "two-body" problem.
Here are some highlights:
Caryl Fish and her husband Daryl met and married during their doctoral programs at ESF. Caryl came into the program with the intent of finding a position at a small teaching institution, while Daryl was interested in finding a position in industry.  She found her position at St. Vincent first, and with its close proximity to Pittsburgh, they expected that Daryl would have little trouble finding that industry job. This wasn't the case, however, and after he completed his post-doc and joined her in Latrobe, was unemployed until hired as St. Vincent's chemistry lab manager.  Soon thereafter, one of the other faculty members left, leaving the college with very short notice to find a replacement for the upcoming fall course schedule.  Daryl filled the position on a temporary basis, and the position was eventually converted to tenure track.  Their offices are a floor apart, and "it would seem strange not to see him every day."
Both of Fish's children were born before she attained tenure.  She took a leave after the birth of her older child, and after the birth of the younger was granted an extra year on her "tenure clock."  Her "marriage is very much a partnership."  Because she and her husband have staggered schedules, they can share care-taking of the kids when they are not in school.  Both Fishes have been involved with their kids Boy Scout troup, and she is currently serving as the den leader.  Daryl led her scouts on a field trip while she visited the campus.
Also,  "St. Vincent has a wonderful on-site daycare with a full-day kindergarten" which was an enormous help to them when the boys were younger.  Now that they are older, they still bring them to campus on occasion.   St. Vincent College also hosts the new "The Fred M. Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media", which is partially staffed by students in the early childhood development program.  The local community has also has many family amenities, courtesy of Latrobe native Fred "Mr." Rogers, and the Rogers-McFeely families. 
We also asked about how faculty are evaluated at this predominately undergraduate institution.
Faculty at St. Vincent have higher teaching loads than at research centered institutions, often 12 credits per semester.  While her faculty does not have a graduate program, all seniors are required to complete an independent research project, and she supervises about 1/5 of these (there are 4 other faculty). Faculty are evaluated first on teaching effectiveness, a second criteria associated with teaching, and then on professional development. Research fits into this third category.  There is an expectation that faculty will publish, but there is not the pressure to do so in the most prestigious journals as is common at research-centered institutions.  Successful grant writing, community efforts and participation in symposia are also considered in evaluation, but are probably not as highly ranked as more traditional publications.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Women, Work, and the Academy: chilly climate issues for women in science and beyond.

A roundtable discussion featuring Alison Wylie, Barnard College, Columbia University, and Syracuse University’s Marina Artuso and Diane Murphy.  Friday, Jan. 28, Alumnae Lounge, Women’s Building, Syracuse University.
“In March 1999, MIT released the summary of an internal report on the status of women faculty in science that immediately drew national and international attention.  Its central message was that gender discrimination is alive and well in elite science, although it takes a form quite different from what we typically recognize as discrimination.  It is not a so much a matter of explicit and intentional marginalization as of innumerable small differences in treatment that can have substantial cumulative effects:  a pattern of powerful but unrecognized attitudes and assumptions that work systematically against women despite good will.  While this report has been received by many as a startling revelation about the gendered dynamics of science, it builds on an expansive body of research that documents what was identified, in the early 1980s as a chilly climate for women in science and academia more generally.”  Wylie outlined the development of this research and discussed why the gender of science matters.
The MIT report came about after individual senior women faculty happened to come together and realized that what they thought were individual instances of less money, laboratory space and support were more universal across the campus than they realized. The key discoveries of the formal investigation were:  
1.While each “microinequity” was beneath the threshold of detection or concern, the cumulative effect was systematic exclusion and marginalization and altered career trajectories for women. 
2.There were clear differences by cohort over time, with the most senior women reporting the most problems.  This didn’t seem to be a factor of the younger women having a more supportive climate, but rather that the older women “feeling positive, too, when they were young.”  That is, the younger women had not yet been subject to the cumulative microinequities long enough for them to have taken their toll.
Chillying practices take three forms: 
1.Gender stereotyping . Women are expected to take primary control of student affairs, but often have little impact on key decision making.  Training often reinforces these stereotypes.  For instance, in archeology, men are groomed for the most prestigious field work, while women are trained in laboratory procedures—demanding and exacting work, but with much lower salaries.
2.Differential patterns of valuation.  Assertive behavior is considered a positive trait for men, but is often perceived as brassy or pushy in a woman.  Identical resumes thought to belong to a James Moore are generally rated more highly than those attributed to Carol Moore.  While women have lower publication rates than men, those publications are cited more frequently:  24 to 14 in one study.  Why this is so is not well documented, but likely a result of women’s work being more synthetic (big picture vs. smallest publishable segments, more careful to stand up to scrutiny, and more comprehensive.
3.Practices of exclusion, which may be unintentional.  For instance, women aren’t privy to the work related discussions that occur in locker rooms or at other social venues.  Often, women are not invited to these after hour events and they feel awkward about inviting themselves. 
For many years, the thought has been that if more women enter the “pipeline” they will reach enough of a critical mass to plug the leaks.  This is not playing out yet and the pipeline analogy may be too simplistic.  While the number of women in undergraduate SMET programs has increased dramatically, the % of women at each upper level remains similar.  In fact, once women elect to pursue college level science, they have higher grades and completion rates, but lower rates of entry into master’s programs.  Virginia Valian discusses this phenomenon in “Why so slow?”   
Why does it matter if women aren’t faring as well in math and science?  Wylie argues that is egregious that this injustice exists and persists in science which is held up as the ideal.  And on a more practical note, the influx of international scientists has declined in recent years as programs at home universities develop and their prestige grows.  Scientific fields simply cannot afford to continue deflecting this pool of trained, talented women. In addition, there is evidence that innovations are more likely among a diverse group than an homogeneous one.  The story is likely more complex for women of color, but few studies have looked at this pool except to determine that Black women have the lowest retention rates in academia.
Wylie’s presentation was followed by brief commentary by Diane Murphy, former director of the Women’s Studies program, and Marina Artuso, Associate Professor of Physics and Co-Director of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program, both of Syracuse University. Murphy adds that women are “Doing science” and are also the ones that work to create maternity leave, health centers and day care options that make universities more family friendly to all.  Women constantly need to educate their male and female peers about the sound reasoning behind these decisions which should be taken up institutionally.  Artuso notes that WISE’s was created to educate SU on patterns of women at Syracuse.   Since its creation, the numbers of women have increased, and the most current report will be entering its final editing shortly.
During the question and answer period, we learned one possible reason why there are so few studies that specifically address women of color:   the administration requested that WISE’s proposal to study this particular group be expanded to include all women on campus.  We also discussed the frustration felt when the numbers of women do increase in spite of patriarchal training, but the atmosphere remains the same.  Wylie does worry about this type of socialization; leadership must be top-down as the changes benefit everyone, not just “the girls.”