2010 Working Groups

A Comparison of the Socio-Ecological Causes and Effects of the Agricultural and Aquacultural Revolutions

 INVESTIGATORS: Leila Sievanen, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Center for Environmental Studies and Sheila Walsh, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Environmental Change Initiative.

DESCRIPTION: This working group centers on three questions relating the contemporary aquacultural revolution with the agricultural revolution of the past centuries and addresses cultural and economic as well as environmental impacts. key questions are:

  • Why has the shift to aquaculture occurred?
  • What are the social impacts of the shift to aquaculture?
  • Does the pursuit of aquaculture make communities more resilient to climate change or other disturbances?

OUTCOMES: Produced a database of over 100 case studies (through a literature review) describing social impacts of aquaculture in developing and developed countries, which will be publicly available upon completion. Work is ongoing. By applying descriptive statistics to the resulting metadata set, Walsh and Sievanen hope to determine which characteristics of aquaculture projects lead to increased social resilience.

Evaluating the use of fishermen’s logbooks as a window on the ‘Anthropocene’ era in southern New England

INVESTIGATORS: Caroline Karp, with partners from CT Sea Grant, MIT Sea Grant and the US Coast Guard Academy.

DESCRIPTION: The working group evaluated a cluster of fishermen’s personal logbooks to see whether they contain reliable longterm fisheries, oceanographic and climate observations that could be used to better understand some of the ecological consequences of climate change in southern New England waters. Preliminary results collected as part of a pilot project in summer 2009 indicate that many fishermen working in southern New England waters have kept detailed personal logbooks covering many decades on the water. These logbooks might provide historically important records of trends in species’ distribution, size, abundance and behavior relative to evidence of human impacts on the marine environment. If so, they would supplement ‘status and trends’ monitoring data collected by industry, government and academia.

OUTCOMES: None reported.

Conservation Medicine Working Group (2010)

PI's: Katherine Smith, Assistant Research Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Mark Lurie, Assistant Professor, Community Health and Medicine; and Stephen T. McGarvey, Professor, Community Health and Medicine & Anthropology.

This renewal of the 2009 conservation medicine working group supports a small group of CMG students and faculty working on three highly focused research questions emerging from last year's discussions:

  • Relative to other threats, where does infectious disease rank as a cause of global species extinctions?
  • How do pathogens emerge and how do the pathways to emergence vary with environmental drivers?
  • Relative to identified environmental drivers, what does the best available evidence say about HIV/AIDS as the cause of increased disease emergence since 1980


Question 1: Disease as a threat to species extinction: Undergraduate Kelsey Ripp is submitting a paper Disease on the Road to Species Extinction to Conservation Biology. Co-authors are Kate Smith and Matt Heard. the paper's key finding is that, while less than 4% of mammals birds and amphibians in the IUCN's Red LIst of threatened species have evidence of an infectious disease threat, the percentage of birds and amphibians facing an infectious disease increases as a species approaches extinction.

A second paper: Examining the Evidence for Chytridiomycosis in Threatened Amphibian Species, authored by graduate student Matt Heard, Kate Smith and Kelsey Ripp,  appeared in PLoS One in August 2011, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023150

Question 2: How Pathogens Emerge. A paper: The Pathways to Disease Emergence: A New Framework for EID Meta-Analysis, is in preparation for the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. Authors are undergraduate Sam Rosenthal, along with Rick Ostfeld (IES), Steve McGarvey (Community Health) and undergraduate Sarah Rappaport. The paper introduces a novel conceptual model (Figure 1 below) for incorporating ‘pathways’ into future prediction models for emerging pathogens.

Question 3: AIDS as a driver of global disease emergence. The complexity of the topic proved to be too great for the time allotted, but the process of identifying potential data sources and approaches to testing really helped develop a coherent and intellectually confident group.

Phenology, the Carbon Cycle, and Climate Change

PI's: Jim Tang (MBL) & Johanna Schmitt (EEB and ECI). Co-I's Jack Mustard, geological Sciences, Dov Sax, EEB.

This extension of the 2009 phenology working group will focus on preparing a paper that reviews the current knowledge in phenology, the carbon cycle, and climate change, points out the knowledge gap, and emphasizes the importance of the linkage. The paper will lay the groundwork for an NSF proposal to link Schmitt's phenological model with an existing ecosystem carbon-nutrient model and further develop a collaboration with MBL reserachers on a in-situ manipulation of temperature, rainfall, CO2 concentration and N levels.

OUTCOMES: In addition to the graduate seminar developed in the 2009 phenology working group (Plants in a Changing Planet), the 2010 extension continued to fund pilot work deploying cameras in oak forests on Martha's Vineyand. The camera and sensor network provides continuous observations of leaf size and color, together with temperature and light observations, helping to determine the drivers of leaf emergence in systems where green-up date can vary by more than 50 days over less than one mile.

Pilot data collected on the working group grant formed the basis for the Keck Foundation pre-proposal in summer 2011.