Thursday, October 2, 2014

Validation and respect

Boxes appeared in a few high traffic areas on campus, laden with individually wrapped sanitary pads, labelled "Free samples (for ladies)."  On each sign, some alert soul changed "ladies" to gender inclusive wording:  "people with menstrual cycles", or "people who bleed from sensitive places."  One of these, someone went a step further, adding a post-it note thanking this individual for "validating me a a person" signed "someone who menstruates but is not a lady."  More post-it notes appeared, in support of the improved wording or the acknowledgement.

I applaud this person who turned questionable wording into a respectful reminder of not just tolerance, but inclusion.  And the respectful conversation that followed was also touching.  Well done, good people.  Well done!


Friday, June 13, 2014

Encouraging our daughters, dads, and businesses.

I like this ad, asking parents to let their daughters get their clothes dirty in their pursuit of knowledge. (Even better, this is more about the kids, than about the product and service this manufacturer provides.  I think I'd love the commercial if I didn't also know that girls tend to think poor grades is a failure in themselves, rather than simply material that takes time to master as boys are socialized to do, and thus that it is better to praise effort than inherent intelligence.  But I digress.).  Girls can be just about anything they can dream, with encouragement and access, in the absence of biases, . Those social penalties of that bias are high stakes, too. Women that ask for higher salaries, as men often do, can be perceived as unlikable which erodes the perception of their competence rather than as go-getters as those male counterparts would.  Women and people of color with impeccably written letters of introduction and interest were systematically less likely to get responses from the prospective major professors than were white men, and less likely to get positive responses from those that did reply. Wither these are the result of biases, or favoritism which restricts access to many support mechanisms as recently posited scarcely matters.

Our sons also need a societal shift so they can be engaged fathers and partners, in the home and at work, rather than broody, unfeeling workaholic providers.  Will last week's Working Father' Summit, which acknowledges the economic reality of dual income families (but not necessarily that very few of those workers can limit their workloads to a mere 40-hours a week), and the upcoming working families summit, pave the way so that all our children can be all that they can in whatever fields they choose to pursue, while also nurturing their own families, and making positive contributions to their communities?  It makes good business sense--a 2014 evaluation  found that the newly implemented policies for paid sick and family leave (for all workers, not just mommies) found improved worker morale, a  reduction in the spread of illness, lower turnover, which likely all attributed to the increase productivity that was also identified.  Imagine what would happen if we also embraced paid vacation and capped the number of hours in a workweek like so many other nations have done?  Heck, businesses might have happier, more productive workers, and with the savings in overtime pay, maybe could afford to bring back a few of the highly skilled folks that have been layed off since 2008 and that pesky downturn in the economy.

Monday, April 21, 2014

ESF women take first and second place in the Slepecky Undergraduate Research Competition

The experimental green roof, located on
top of Con Edison's The Learning
Center.  Image credit: Tiziana Susca, Columbia University
Katy Austin, an EFB undergraduate honors student has won first prize in the Slepecky Undergraduate Research Prize.  She was awarded the prize for a manuscript based on her honor's thesis "Effects of Nitrogen Deposition on Nitrogen Acquisition by Sarracenia purpurea in the Adirondack Mountains, New York, USA".  The study is in review at the journal
Botany.  Austin is first author.  Her co-authors include Mark Teece, and Jesse Crandall from ESF's Chemistry Department, and Amy Sauer and Charley Driscoll, from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Syracuse University.

Cambria Ziemer, an ERE undergraduate honors student tied for second place honors.  Ziemer completed her honor's thesis the past summer on "Boundary Layer Conditions of a Shrub Willow Evapotranspiration Cover Syracuse, NY". She worked with Wendong Tao, in ESF's Department of Environmental and Resource Engineering, and Tony Eallonardo, a Scientist with O'Brien and Gere.

The award presentation followed a lecture by Dr. Patricia J. Culligan of  Columbia University, on Green Roofs and Urban Stormwater Management, which featured projects under evaluation at Columbia University and around New York City.  Dr.  Culligan is a leader in the field of water resources and urban sustainability.  In addition to being a Professor, she co-directs the Columbia University Earth Institute’s Urban Design Lab and is the director of an innovative, joint interdisciplinary Ph.D. program between Columbia Engineering and the Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation that focuses on designs for future cites, including digital city scenarios.

The Slepecky Lectureship and Undergraduate Prize has been endowed by family, friends and colleagues to honor Syracuse University professor Norma Slepecky, who died in 2001. Dr. Slepecky was a distinguished auditory neuranatomist and member of the Institute for Sensory Research.  She was a passionate researcher and an advocate for undergraduate student research. Dr. Slepecky hoped that her legacy, with the support of the endowment, would continue to encourage young women to conduct research. As stewards of the Lectureship and Prize, SU WiSE annually coordinates the undergraduate award and lecture by a noted woman scholar and a celebration in Dr. Slepecky’s memory.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Great Lakes – Today’s Issues and Tomorrow’s Concerns

As part of the course requirements for FOR797, Environmental Career Strategies for Women, students share responsibility for reporting on  WiSE Professions Events.   The following was prepared by Becki Walker, a MS student in the Graduate Program in Environmental Science.  Becki's studies are focused on Environmental Communication and Participatory Processes.

On Tuesday, March 25, 2014, members of the ESF campus community listened in fascination as Professor Helen Domske described a truly “hands on” experience with one of her research subjects – a sea lamprey.  Her lecture, “The Great Lakes – Today’s Issues and Tomorrow’s Concerns,” was part of SUNY ESF’s Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Spring Seminar Series.

In order to learn more about the invasive eel-like creature from a parasitized fish’s perspective, Domske submerged her arm in a tank of cold water for twenty minutes (in order to mimic the body temperature of a cold-blooded creature) and had an associate place a lamprey on her arm.  “You could see the indentations from each of its individual teeth!” Domske said, with the excitement in her voice that is the hallmark of a scientist truly immersed in her research.   Sea lamprey were only one in a parade of invasive creatures Domske discussed in her presentation.  

The Great Lakes are a special ecosystem, but they are threatened by a number of factors.  Invasive aquatic animals such as quagga and zebra mussels, round gobies, and water fleas (as well as the aforementioned sea lamprey) are wreaking havoc in the ecosystem.  Invaders compete with native species for food and habitat, and are even capable of altering the nutrient composition in the Lakes. 

Some of the emerging threats to the Lakes are thanks to another species – humans.  A recent study of water quality in 139 streams conducted by the US Geological Survey identified 82 contaminants in the water column.  Contaminants included a number of prescription drugs, ranging from anti-seizure medications to estrogens from birth control pills.  Personal care products such as face and body washes are also part of the problem – many of these contain tiny plastic “microbeads.”  Because these microbeads appear similar to eggs, many fish may consume them by mistake.  Microbeads also tend to attract other contaminants, posing additional problems for aquatic species.

Domske’s presentation wasn’t all doom and gloom, though – she provided some concrete ways we can all work to protect the Great Lakes.  We should remember we all live in a watershed, and avoid flushing any prescription medications that could wind up downstream.  She also suggested seeking out natural alternatives to personal care products containing plastic microbeads.  Through relatively simple actions such as these, we can help to insure that the Great Lakes remain worthy of their name.

Helen Domske is a Senior Extension Specialist for New York Sea Grant/Cornell Cooperative Extension and Associate Director of the Great Lakes Program at the University of Buffalo.  She is also the Education Coordinator of New York Sea Grant and the New York leader for the Center for Great Lakes literacy. She holds an MS degree from SUNY Buffalo, and has completed post-graduate coursework at Ohio State University and the University of Buffalo.  Her lecture was sponsored by the Great Lakes Research Consortium and the ESF Women’s Caucus. 

For more information about the WiSE Professions Speaker Series, please visit

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Perceptions of women and power

The Society of Women Engineers Greater Syracuse Section, The Baobab Society, ESF Office of Multicultural Affairs and ESF Women's Caucus gathered for a showing of Miss Representation.  
The 2011 documentary was written, directed, and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom about the perception of women in mainstream media--TV, movies, magazines, and advertising--and its impact on young people.  Commentators also discussed how these portrayals impact the representation of women in positions of power and influence in America.  Film is rated TV-14 by the OWN network, and is recommended for 13 and up by Common Sense Media (their parent panel suggested 16 and up, because of some strong language and portrayals of sexuality.  

Its a disheartening look at the increased pigeonholing of half the population as bitches or sexy bimbos, with nary a role in between, and a reminder that not only do our children, all of our children, need to see more women in positions of influence in real life, but also at every life stage as the heroines and the everyday folk in fictional portrayals rather than only beauties in their reproductive prime as part of the scenery or the punchline (if portrayed at all).

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Dr. Paige Warren speaks about human influences on species interactions in urban communities

As part of the requirements of FOR 797, students share responsbility for reporting on speakers in the WiSE Professions Speaker Series. The following was prepared by Amanda Gray, Amanda Pachomski, Jennifer Potrikus, Emily Van Ness, and Qing Ren.

Dr. Paige Warren, Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Conservation at U Mass, Amherst, presented her research as well as the research of several collaborating scientists on human influences on species interactions in urban communities at ESF on Thursday, February 6, 2014. This presentation launched three spring SUNY College of Environmental Professions speaker series: Women in Scientific and Environmental (WiSE) Professions, GraduateStudent Association (GSA) Speaker Series, and Adaptive Peaks. The Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, GSA and the ESF Women’s Caucus jointly co-sponsored the seminar.

Dr. Warren discussed findings from five different cities (two in the Western US (Fresno,CA and Pheonix, AZ) and three in the Eastern US (Boston, MA, Baltimore, MD, and Raleigh, NC)) that looked at human influence as the dominant mechanism of species presence and interaction in urban communities. She determined that for the cities in the Western US, water use is the main driver of species presence and interaction; for the cities in the Eastern US, forest cover is a more important driver. Other human-driven factors are also at work in each city and so the actual role of species interaction in determining community structure is still unclear.

The most direct human influence on species presence and interactions in each city relates directly to the two driving factors mentioned previously. Landscaping decisions in each city has a huge affect on which species appear in urban areas and the species interactions within the urban areas. In the western city of Phoenix, AZ where water is the major driving factor, there is a stark contrast in types of yards, largely dictated by neighborhood. There are xeric yards which are drier and support native and non-native vegetation similar to the surrounding flora of the region, and then there are mesic yards which are wetter and more lush that support some native, but mostly non-native vegetation that is very dissimilar to the surrounding vegetation. These different vegetation types support different types of animal species and can therefore influence the presence and interactions of species in the city. In the eastern city of Baltimore, MD, where the primary driver is forest cover, a direct correlation was seen between the canopy cover and amount of dead branches in the area and the number of woodpeckers present.

Under these more direct human influences, there are a variety of human influences that are likely to be interacting with the primary driver in each city that affect species presence and interaction. For example, in Phoenix, there was a pattern seen between the income level of a household and the type of food being fed to birds. The higher income families often left nectar and thistle for birds, which attracted more specialist bird species, whereas lower income families often left bread crumbs, which attracted more generalist bird species. The resulting consequences of these different food types include differences in species richness, competition, and the giving up densities of the birds at each location. Dr. Warren’s research looks at wealth as well as many other social science factors such as policy, institutional investment, consumer tastes and lifestyles to try and untangle the complex association of humans and the unban ecosystem.

Dr. Warren received a B.A. in biology from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and a Ph.D. in Zoology, from the University of Texas-Austin. Before she joined the faculty at U Mass, Amherst, she served as a Research Scientist at Virginia Tech and a Post Doc in the Biology Department and Center for Environmental Studies at Arizona State University. Dr. Warren was also recently on sabbatical as a Visiting Scholar in the School of Sustainability and School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University.

For upcoming lectures at ESF, please visit the College Calendar at