Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Antarctica’s Ice in Earth’s Climate System

        Can you identify the different types of ice in Antarctica?  New scientific discoveries are revealing information about the movement and flow of various types of ice in Antarctica and the information it can provide regarding our future in a changing climate.  Dr. Kathy Licht, Associate Professor of Earth Sciences at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) presented her research on Antarctica’s Ice in Earth’s Climate System at SUNY ESF on Tuesday March 31, 2015.  The event was part of the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Spring Seminar Series, in conjunction with the Hydrology and Biogeochemistry Seminar Speaker Series.  This presentation was sponsored by The Department of Environmental Resources Engineering, the Environmental Scholars Program, the Graduate Student Association and the ESF Women’s Caucus.
            Dr. Licht discussed three types of ice found in Antarctica.  The ice sheet holds  most of the continent’s ice, touches bedrock, and is very thick, approximately 0.1-4.8 kilometers.  The ice shelf is floating ice which is connected to the ice sheet but has water underneath it and is 300-700 meters thick.  Sea ice is frozen sea water and it floats in chucks and is typically less than 10 meters thick. 
            The ice shelves on the west side of Antarctica are decreasing rapidly whereas the ice shelves on the east side are increasing slowing.  Globally, ice shelves are declining.  There has been a 70% increase in ice shelf mass loss in the past decade and this rate of loss is accelerating.  The breakdown of ice shelves into sea ice has made Antarctica a “sea ice factory.”  The ice in Antarctica flows like a river but on a much longer time scale.  When ice shelves break apart, there is nothing left to hold back the flow of glacial ice sheets which contributes to sea level rise.
            Dr. Licht and her research team have been sampling and analyzing zircon sand in an effort to better understand the movement and flow of Antarctica’s ice.  This knowledge will contribute to the accuracy of computer models used to predict the type of ice movement and ice shelf mass loss we might see in the future.  The sampled sand was dated using laser ablation and the age of sand grains from glaciers were compared with the age of sand grains under the sea, in order to get a picture of how ice has moved in the past.  The behavior of ice in Antarctica will have critical impacts on Earth’s climate system as a whole.
            At IUPUI, Dr. Licht advises the Geology Club and the Women in Science House.  She holds a BS in Natural Sciences from St. Norbert College and a MS and PhD in Geological Sciences from the University of Colorado, Boulder.  Last year, Dr. Licht won IUPUI’s School of Science Research Award.  Her work is supported by NSF Division of Polar Programs.

            For more information on the WiSE Professions Series, please visit http://www.esf.edu/womenscaucus.  For information on the Hydrology and Biogeochemistry seminar series including upcoming events for Spring 2015, please visit http://www.esf.edu/ere/courses/hbgsemi.htm

As part of their class requirements, students share responsibility for reporting on speakers in the WiSE Professions Speaker Series.  The preceding was prepared by Vanessa Gravenstine, MS Candidate, Graduate Program in Environmental Science (GPES).

Thursday, March 26, 2015

FNRM Awards Ceremony Farnsworth Lecture: Katie Fernholz speaks on: “The Challenges and Opportunities of Sustainable Forestry”

Trees are making a comeback from would-be extinction, changing rhetoric like “Save a Tree” to “Sustainable Trees,” according to Katie Fernholz, Executive Director of Dovetail Partners.  She says, “land use has changed over time,” necessitating modern sustainable forestry practices and effective public policy which has turned trees into efficient, renewable, productive resources.  Fernholz was the Farnsworth Lecturer for the FNRM annual awards ceremony held March 26, 2015 on the SUNY-ESF campus. 

Ms. Fernholz spoke about improved forest use to include tall wood building, ecosystem services in terms of climate change, policy for implementing green building code, getting wood out of landfills, more stringent rules on illegal logging, and rebuilding public trust in forestry.  Fernholz states, “My work touches many areas such as urban forestry, recreation, and silviculture.”  Other issues surround private forest land ownership, one of America’s biggest challenges and the appropriate frequency of fire.  During the ceremony preceding the lecture, the C. Eugene Farnsworth Fellowship was granted to Ph.D. student, Matt Kelly, and M.S. student, Yang Yang.

Fernholz grew up on an organic farm in Western Minnesota.  After earning her degree in forestry from the University of Minnesota, Fernholz worked for an environmental services department and eventually Dovetail Partners.  She has also served on several committees, boards and societies and is a forest certification lead auditor.  Fernholz travels and lectures internationally and has worked with the U.N.  She credits her success to “creativity and expertise through certification” and adheres to a holistic lifestyle.

Dovetail Partners, Inc., is an environmental nonprofit that uses info about forestry in a historical context to envision a future of forests as a sustainable energy source, as well as diversity of forest products from paper to fuelwood, informed land use, and nonwasteful, stable forestry to fulfill their objectives but also to enhance the natural beauty and function of forests.  Initiatives toward educating youth through internships and mentoring programs are also goals.  Fernholz is collaborating with Prof. Bob Malmsheimer of FNRM toward policy aimed at effective management for trees grown for their use as carbon sinks but with a goal toward sustainable harvest practices.

The event was cross-listed as a Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions lecture.  For more information about the WiSE Professions Lecture Series, please visit:  http://www.esf.edu/womenscaucus/speakers.htm

As part of their class requirements, students share responsibility for reporting on speakers in the WiSE Professions Speaker Series.  The preceding was prepared by Julie Grinstead (EFB 2015).

CONTACT:  Ms. Katie Fernholz, Executive Director, Dovetail Partners, Inc., 528 Hennepin, Ave., Suite 703, Minneapolis, MN  55403, Tel. (612) 333-0430.  Website:  http://www.dovetailinc.org.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Dittmar presents: Evolution and Ecology of Bat Parasites

Dr. Katharina Dittmar

As part of the requirements of FOR496 Women in Environmental Careers, students share the responsibility of reporting on the presentations of the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions.  The following was prepared by Julia Hart and Becca Sheetz.

Ever wondered about the genetic variation in the microorganisms in ectoparasites of bats and what impact that has on people? Evolutionary Biologist Dr. Katharina Dittmar of SUNY Buffalo addressed this topic on March 5 on the SUNY ESF Syracuse Campus.
 Dr. Dittmar’s lecture focused on the three tiered interaction of blood feeding parasites of bats, bat flies and microbiota in the flies. These relationships that exist between these organisms were previously vastly under-researched. Her research focused on the phylogeny of the bat flies, microbiological communities and interactions, and horizontal gene transfer within microbiota in the bat flies.

Investigating the development of the pupal stages of the bat flies brings forth the ability to research how the flies develop their internal biota. This is important because it helps to determine the function of the bacteria within the bat fly’s system. This sheds light on how the bacteria are passed down between generations of the flies and help define interactions between bat flies, microbes and mammals.
SEM of Megistopoda, courtesy K. Dittmar

Understanding these functions is not only important for the echological contributions to science but also the human health aspect that goes along with these organisms (for example, when people talk about bats being causal agents of disease). It's hard to imagine these seemingly illusive mammals as significant vectors of disease, even though bats may carry different human pathogens. Dr. Dittmar’s research makes the transmission of the diseases in ectoparasites in bat flies relevant to us in not only a scientific way but also a far more intimate fashion.

Dr. Dittmar currently serves as the director if the Graduate program in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at SUNY Buffalo.  Her main focus is the evolutionary history of blood-feeding arthropod vectors, specifically the orders Diptera and Siphonaptera. She also collaborated with Prof. Joyce Hwang of the SUNY Buffalo Architecture Department on the “Bat Cloud”, which won the 2012 Animal Architecture Award In addition to her academic research, Dr. Dittmar teaches courses on Evolutionary Genetics; Medical Entomology and Parisology; Microbial Genomics; and a Colloquium in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior.  She also collaborated with Prof. Joyce Hwang of the SUNY Buffalo Architecture Department on the “Bat Cloud”, which won the 2012 Animal Architecture Award. She holds a DVM, and was a practicing veterinarian prior to earning a PhD in Parasitology from the University of Leipzig.  She has completed postdocs in Ecology, Evolution, Systematics, and Population Biology at Bingham Young Unversity and the University of Wyoming.

Dr. Dittmar’s presentation was a joint presentation of the Adaptive Peaks and the Women andScientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series.  Her visit was sponsored by the ESF Women’s Caucus and the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology.