2011 NASA-MSU awards honor promising environmental scholars

April 4, 2011

Twenty-two promising landscape ecology scientists will make presentations at the 2011 annual symposium of the U.S. Regional Association of the International Association for Landscape Ecology (US-IALE) in Portland, OR, April 3-7 as recipients of a NASA-MSU Professional Enhancement Award.

"Some junior scholars who are interested in research on landscape ecology may not be able to attend conferences and other professional events without financial assistance," said Jianguo "Jack" Liu, who holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and is director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability at Michigan State University. “This award program was set up to help these promising scientists connect with other researchers at a national event."

Liu created the program in 1998 with support from the university and NASA when the US-IALE annual symposium was held at MSU.

“The awards program helps students attend the US-IALE meeting, present their research, interact with leading researchers and build their professional networks,” Liu continued. “In the past 14 years, the program has supported approximately 290 students from 120 institutions from around the world. Many of the former recipients are now leaders in landscape ecology research.”

“I expect this award will expose me to a diverse set of colleagues and professionals that I might not connect with otherwise,” said Robbie Greene, a graduate student and Department of Landscape Architecture Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “In a contemporary research environment where trans-disciplinary initiatives are forging new relationships among researchers and practitioners, I think a diverse network of resources will be extremely beneficial.”

“I’m focused toward a research-oriented career, but haven’t decided whether I’m best suited for academia, government, a non-governmental/non-profit organization or the private sector,” said Kimberly Meitzen, doctoral candidate in the Department of Geography at the University of South Caroline. “So I’m eager to network with professionals and learn about the different career opportunities that are available.”

“I plan to discuss my research ideas with some leading landscape ecologists,” said Marta Jarzyna, doctoral student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at MSU. “I believe this feedback will allow me to greatly advance my dissertation.”

The 2011 NASA-MSU Professional Enhancement recipients are:

Hawthorne Beyer, University of Toronto. Beyer’s research focuses on epidemiology, movement modeling and spatial ecology. His presentation is “Incorporating behavioral processes into movement models: state-space modeling of moose telemetry data.”

Shekhar Biswas, University of Toronto. Biswas wants to understand how ecological communities assemble in nature. He is quantifying the processes of environmental filtering, species interactions and dispersal individually, assessing their scale dependency and evaluating the relative importance of individual process when multiple processes interact. His presentation is “Spatial and temporal dynamics in garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) population regulation.”

Van Butsic, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Butsic conducts empirical environmental analyses and much of his research has focused on land use policy and land use change. His presentation is “Reserve selection in a dynamic landscape.”

Michael Calkins, Oregon State University. Calkins is interested in landscape and community ecology, conservation biogeography and mammalogy. His presentation is “Distribution of red tree vole habitat across national forest of the Pacific Northwest.”

Mark Chynoweth, University of Hawaii-Manoa. Chynoweth studies conservation biology, island biogeography and wildlife ecology using GIS applications and remote sensing. His presentation is “Movement patterns and habitat utilization of nonnative feral goats in Hawaiian dry land montane landscapes.”

Amy Davis, University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Davis is interested in landscape ecology, biological invasions, conservation management in urbanizing ecosystems and predictive ecological modeling. Her presentation is “Urbanization and exotic species invasions: interacting drivers of biodiversity loss.”

Robbie Greene, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Greene studies the social dimensions of urban landscapes and geodesign. His presentation is “Spatial analysis of open space planning and community agriculture in Madison, WI: A landscape ecology approach to urban policy assessment.”

Jacob (Jake) Griffin, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Griffen’s research focuses on disturbance ecology, biogeochemistry and landscape pathology. His presentation is “Forest type influences ecosystem response to bark beetle disturbance.”

R. Dean Hardy, University of Georgia. Hardy is investigating human-environment interactions, landscape ecology, political ecology, climate change and conservation. His presentation is “Planning for sea level rise in coastal Georgia: How grain size affects forecasted impacts on development and conservation areas.”

Nyeema Harris, North Carolina State University. Harris studies macroecology, conservation and carnivore ecology. Her presentation is “Evaluating spatial concordance of ecosystem services and biodiversity in an urbanizing environment.”

Jessica Hightower, University of Central Florida. Hightower is investigating the impacts of historical human land use on contemporary ecosystems, landscape ecology and conservation biology. Her presentation is “Relating ancient Maya land use legacies to tropical tree species composition of Caracol, Belize.”

Marta Jarzyna, Michigan State University. Jarzyna focuses on wildlife and landscape ecology, as well as applying GIS and remote sensing applications to wildlife conservation, including spatial and species distribution modeling. Her presentation is “Threshold responses of grassland breeding birds to landscape composition and configuration.”

Valeriy Kovalskyy, South Dakota State University. Kovalskyy’s studies land surface phenology, land coverage change, spatial statistics and water and energy balances. His presentation is “Quantifying the impact of changes in crop area on ET regime in the U.S. corn belt via phenology modeling and data.”

Kimberly Meitzen, University of South Carolina. Meitzen is studying biogeography and biogeomorphology of river and floodplain ecosystems, forest dynamics and aquatic-terrestrial hydrologic connectivity. Her presentation is “Forest dynamics of abandoned meander wetlands in the Southeastern Atlantic Coastal Plain.”

Alemayehu Midekisa, South Dakota State University. Midekisa’s research focuses on landscape ecology, vector-borne diseases, remote sensing and geospatial modeling. His presentation is “The relationship between remotely sensed climate variables and temporal patterns of malaria cases for 15 sites in the Amhara region, Ethiopia.”

Jessica O'Connell, Oklahoma State University. O’Connell is primarily interested in how disturbance processes interact with ecosystem conditions to influence services and functions. She’s examined these effects across multiple components of ecosystems, including soil, hydrology, plants and wildlife. Her presentation is “Influence of land-use and conservation programs on playas across the short-grass prairie ecotone of the U.S. high plains.”

Lin Shi, Knox College. Shi’s studies landscape ecology. Her presentation is “Examining land cover influences on fish species richness in the Arkansas-White-Red River Basin using path analysis.”

Rosina Soler Esteban, Centro Austral de Investigaciones Científicas. Soler Esteban’s research focuses on using landscape ecology approaches to forest management, as well as how large mammals use forest and the effects of herbivores on vegetation. Her presentation is “Landscape ecological approaches applied to forest management in South Patagonia.”

Rebecca Steinberg, Yale University. Steinberg is interested in interdisciplinary policy sciences, large mammal conservation, and wildlife, social and landscape ecology. Her presentation is “Rodenticide use and non-target impacts on felids in an urban ecosystem.”

Marcela Suarez-Rubio, University of Maryland. Suarez-Rubino studies land use change detection and modeling as well as the impact of residential development. Her presentation is “Modeling exurban development: comparison of a pattern-based model and a spatially explicit econometric model.”

Nyssa van Vierssen Trip, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Trip’s research focuses on landscape ecology and conservation biology. Her presentation is “Investigating all-terrain vehicle (ATV) trail impacts on vegetation and habitat fragmentation.”

Hillary White, Utah State University. White is studying riparian ecology, avian ecology and bird-habitat associations. Her presentation is “Riparian bird habitat association models: A framework for developing restoration and management guidelines in Utah.”


Jamie DePolo