The Ecosystems Center and a Century of ESA

September 11th, 2015 @   - 

It’s the 100th birthday of the Ecological Society of America, and Ecosystems Center scientists and their work are being featured in the celebration. Formed in 1915 through the vote of several members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the ESA is now the largest professional society devoted to the science of ecology, with more than 10,000 members.

As part of the centennial activities, ESA has identified “Notable Papers of the Last Century”, and among those listed are two published by Ecosystems Center scientists:

Melillo JM, Aber JD, and Muratore JF. (1982) Nitrogen and Lignin Control of Hardwood Leaf Litter Decomposition Dynamics. Ecology, 63(3): 621-626.

Chapin III FS, Shaver GR, Giblin AE, Nadelhoffer KJ, Laundre JA. (1995) Responses of Arctic Tundra to Experimental and Observed Changes in Climate. Ecology, 76(3): 694-711.

Also, at the recent ESA national meeting in Baltimore, MD, the ESA Science Committee presented a celebratory “Ignite” session, where eight speakers were invited to provide their vision of a roadmap for key advances, frontiers, challenges, and applications of ecology over the next 100 years. “Got Organisms?” was the title of Zoe Cardon’s talk in the session. Over the last several decades, she says, there has been an explosion of research in biological science at the two ends of the biological spectrum—genes and ecosystems. “But where did the organisms go?” she asks. “Organismal ecology links genes with ecosystems,” Cardon says. The expression of genes “packaged” within organisms has to be carefully orchestrated for organisms to survive. At the same time, organisms (whether microbial, plant, or animal) carry out many of the large-scale environmental functions upon which humanity depends, such as cleansing wastewater and recycling nutrients in soil. Understanding organismal biology, Cardon says, helps bridge knowledge at the two ends of the biological spectrum—and that’s especially important in the face of rapid global change.

A ciliate active in sludge from the Falmouth, MA wastewater processing plant. Credit: Suzanne Thomas (MBL) and Ruby An (Metcalf intern, University of Chicago, and MBL SES student).

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