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Plenary Speakers

Dr. J. Morgan Grove, USDA Forest Service; Dr. Steward T.A. Pickett, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
PLENARY SESSION I: The Social-Ecological Landscapes of Baltimore: Legacy, Process, and Change
Monday, April 10 - 8:00am to 9:30am

Baltimore is home to one of the two urban Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) projects in the U.S.  A key component of the project is to understand and employ information on the various kinds of landscapes that exist in metropolitan Baltimore.  This talk will give a brief overview of the history and structure of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study LTER; present important discoveries the project has made concerning social-ecological spatial heterogeneity in the metropolis; illustrate what has been learned about the legacies and lags involved in landscape change; and suggest some of the multi-scalar connections among the different kinds of landscapes and their relationship to ecosystem functioning and dynamics.  The contrasts between the major paradigms of urban ecology -- ecology in, of, and for the city -- helps us to understand the changing role of spatial heterogeneity in urban theory, and how the different kinds and conceptions of heterogeneity have become important tools to inform policy, planning, and urban design.  The use of landscape principles to inform future research and application is the final contribution of the talk.

About the Speaker:

Dr. J. Morgan Grove

Dr. J. Morgan Grove is a Team Leader for the USDA Forest Service's Baltimore Field Station. Dr. Grove has worked in Baltimore since 1989 and was a founding member of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES) LTER. Grove leads the social science team for BES, where his research focuses on long-term dynamics of urban forests, environmental quality, human health, property regimes, land management, and watersheds. For 17 years, he has researched the long-term effects of urban vegetation on city ecosystem processes. Morgan has 110 published articles to date that focus on different aspects of human dynamics related to urban forests. He addresses how we can improve watersheds and how the Forest Service can assist with plans to make our cities as green as possible.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Steward T.A. Pickett

Dr. Pickett is a distinguished senior scientist and plant ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. He directs the Baltimore Ecosystem Long-Term Ecological Research program. Dr. Pickett’s projects relate to the role of spatial heterogeneity in community and landscape structure and dynamics. He has produced books on ecological heterogeneity, humans as components of ecosystems, conservation, bridging ecology and urban design, the philosophy of ecology, and linking ecology and ethics. He is currently working on the Buell-Small Succession Study, a long-term ecological experiment designed to document succession on released agricultural fields; and the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, a ground-breaking urban ecology project that investigates the ecological, cultural, and economic forces that shape the environmental quality of urbanized areas.

Ann Swanson, Chesapeake Bay Commission
PLENARY SESSION II: Chesapeake Bay: Restoration at the Landscape Level
Tuesday, April 11 - 8:00am to 9:30am

As part of a multi-state effort to address historical problems of overfishing and land use management in a culturally and commercially important estuary on the east coast of the United States, the Chesapeake Bay Commission serves as the legislative arm of the multi-jurisdictional Chesapeake Bay Program. This talk will provide an overview of the Program's restoration efforts across different spatial scales. The Commission sits at the interface between science and policy, and the interplay between these perspectives influences how we are tackling the problem: sometimes watershed wide, state wide, county, parcel, or 3 m squared pixels.

About the Speaker:

Ann Swanson

Ann Swanson has served as a leader in the Bay restoration for nearly 35 years, the last 29 as the Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tristate legislative authority serving the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. There is hardly a piece of Bay-related policy or legislation that Swanson has not been involved in.   A trained wildlife biologist and forest ecologist, she graduated with honors from the University of Vermont and Yale University. She served on the Board of the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources for 23 years and as its longest-serving Chair.  Her many awards include the Bay region’s highest Conservation Award, Conservationist of the Year (2001), the YMCA Outstanding Women in Industry Twin Award (2011), the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Leadership Award (2013) and Doctor of Laws from the University of Vermont (2014). In 2015, she was recognized as an Admiral of the Chesapeake Bay, awarded by Maryland’s governor to those who have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the conservation and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, the surrounding landscape, and the life that inhabits them. 

Dr. William Dennison, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences
BANQUET KEYNOTE: Tell a Compelling Story: Combining Killer Graphics and Narrative for Effective Science Communication
Tuesday, April 11 - 8:00pm to 9:00pm

The role of science in society is rapidly evolving. In many ways, science is becoming more politicized, with scientific results being viewed as fodder in contentious societal debates. This can result in scientists becoming more circumspect in their communication to broader audiences. Yet good science, communicated effectively, is needed now more than ever for solving, not just studying, the crucial environmental issues facing society. Therefore, every scientist must develop an effective communication skill set that includes the ability to craft compelling narrative and graphics, while maintaining scientific rigor. Developing a narrative, rather than simply conveying information, is crucial to being effective communicators. Developing killer graphics that showcase data in innovative ways can be effective for publication in scientific journals, and well designed graphics can also transcend the scientific audience to reach broader audiences. Combining graphics and narratives is what constitutes a compelling scientific story. A scientific story maintains scientific rigor and is based on established facts, but it becomes compelling with the graphics and narrative. Therefore, in this hour we will engage in an interactive exercise to introduce skills necessary to become more visually and narrative literate. Visualizations and story are ingrained in the human psyche - scientists who use these tools to communicate their work stand out and have a larger impact on society.

About the Speaker:

Dr. William Dennison

Dr. William Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and the Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network (IAN), a group of scientists committed to solving, not just studying, environmental problems. The IAN team has been developing environmental report cards in iconic locations around the world, training scientists in principles of science communication and pioneering new ways to communicate complex scientific concepts. Dr. Dennison rejoined UMCES in 2002 following a ten-year stint at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. 

Dr. Hugh Possingham, The University of Queensland, Australia and Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy
PLENARY SESSION III: Does systematic conservation planning really deliver outcomes?
Wednesday, April 12 - 8:00am to 9:30am

Systematic conservation planning emerged in the early 1980s (“gap analysis” in the USA) and since then there are thousands of reports and papers that purport to assist people with selecting areas for protection.  However, there has also been criticism of the approach, people have argued there is an “implementation gap” in which the many plans fail to deliver on the ground. This talk will briefly review the past, present and future of systematic conservation planning. It will provide example successes and failures of systematic conservation planning to deliver on the ground (and in the sea). The talk will conclude that systematic conservation planning, and tools like Marxan, have had extensive and deep impact globally for conservation, but this way of thinking does not always deliver a good outcome because politics can overwhelm the science. 

About the Speaker:

Dr. Hugh Possingham

Dr. Possingham is Director of The Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at the University of Queensland and Chief Scientist at The Nature Conservancy (TNC). A Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences, Possingham’s groundbreaking research has been published in such leading journals as Science, Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). His lab works on problems to secure the world's biological diversity: efficient nature reserve design, habitat reconstruction, monitoring, optimal management of populations for conservation, cost-effective conservation actions for threatened species, pest control and population harvesting, survey methods for detecting bird decline, bird conservation ecology, environmental accounting and metapopulation dynamics. His team’s Marxan software drove Australia’s rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and is now used in more than 150 countries to change the face of about 5% of the planet’s surface. Throughout his career, Dr. Possingham has used science to elevate the impact and effectiveness of conservation programs. In his position as Chief Scientist of TNC, he leads the work of more than 600 scientists engaged in conservation efforts impacting 69 countries around the world.