Ecology in ASEAN Nations: Bridging Ideas, Building Talents Dr. Mark A. McGinley Fulbright Visiting Scholar, University of Malaya Associate ProfessorHonors College and Department of Biological Sciences Texas Tech University Lubbock, Texas USA email@example.com
Outline Introduce myself Quick history of ecology Opportunities and challenges facing ecologists in SE Asia Building Talents Bridging Ideas
About Me I have conducted research in behavioral, evolutionary, and community ecology of birds, mammals, and plants. Been a faculty member at Texas Tech University since 1991
Science Education MS2 Masters Degree to teach middle school teachers (grades 6 – 8) how to integrate math and science in the classroom. Funded by $3 million (US) grant http://www.ttumssquare.org/ Malaysian Bat Education Adventure Collaboration between colleagues in Department of Biological Sciences, and Colleges of Education and Mass Communications Use biology of Malaysian bats as the focus for developing and integrated science curriculum for grades 4 – 8. http://www.ttu-mbea.org/
Informal Science Education Encyclopedia of Earth (EoE) http://www.eoearth.org/ Goal is to be the largest on-line source of information about the environment in the world. All articles written by scholars, all articles undergo peer review.
What Am I Doing Here?• Fulbright Visiting Scholar, UM• Fulbright Program – Funded by U.S. government – Encourage understanding by facilitating exchange of scholars between U.S. and abroad • Professors/professionals and students • http://www.cies.org/about_fulb.htm – I arrived in June and will remain until April • Taught “Special Topics in Ecology and Biodiversity” at UM • Malaysia Collection for EoE, Ecology Textbook
History of Ecology “Revolutions” in the 1960s1. Use of controlled manipulative experiments in the field – Joseph Connell and Robert Paine • Pioneered the use of manipulative controlled ecological experiments.
History of Ecology“Revolutions” in the 1960s2. Use of mathematics to generate ecological theory -Robert MacArthur and colleagues
Something to Think About!• Looking back on my career, if I could do one thing over to make myself a better ecologist then I would have learned more math!!!! – Theory – Modeling tools – Statistical analyses
What did “Old School” ecology teach us?Interactions are complex – Abiotic and biotic factors important – Combination of direct and indirect interactions– Interactions can take a long time to express themselves– Can increase progress if we allow ecological theory to guide our investigations
More Modern Approach 1980s – today “CLS”• Work in Collaborative teams – Bring a variety of expertise together• Conduct Long-term studies• Synthesize what we have learned • Search for generalities
Long Term Ecological Studies in Tropical Rainforests• Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute – Field site located in Barro Colorado Island (BCI) in Gatung Lake in the Panama Canal
BCI 50 Hectare Plot• BCI intensively studied since 1923 • Flora well known• 50 hectare Forest Dynamics Plot established in 1980. • Census every tree and shrub > 1 cm in diameter at breast height • 1982 census - 240,000 stems of 303 species of trees and shrubs• Recensused every 5 years• Robin Foster and Steven Hubbell• http://www.ctfs.si.edu/data/pdf/CTFSbook_PDF/BCIchapt.pdf
BCI 50 Hectare Plot• Many important papers have been based on research conducted at this site. – Often published in Science, Nature, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ecology & Ecological Monographs
CLS Approach Required Some Fundamental Changes• Funding – Although ecological research is much cheaper than molecular biology, large-scale ecological studies still require significant funding – Need to fund collaborations – If scientists are going to undertake long- term studies then they need to be confident that funding will be available – Funding for synthesis
Funding For Ecological Research inthe U.S. Most funding for basic research comes form the National Science Foundation (NSF) Federal Government 1. Long Term Ecological Research program (LTER) 2. National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS)
Long Term Ecological Research (LTER)• US LTER Network • Funds groups of scientists to work together over long time periods. – The Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network established in 1980 – 26 LTER sites – 1800 scientists/students – http://www.lternet.edu/
International Long Term EcologicalResearch Network- ILTER 40 members in the Pacific and Asia ILTER network • Australia • China • Japan • Korea • Mongolia • Taiwan • Thailand
Synthesis The NCEAS mission is to: Advance the state of ecological knowledge through the search for general patterns and principles in existing data Organize and synthesize ecological information in a manner useful to researchers, resource managers, and policy makers addressing important environmental issues http://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/
NCEAS Form “working groups” 10 visiting scientists Groups of scientists spend one or two weeks in Santa Barbara examining questions of interest. Examples of topics of working groups- Ecological response to climate change Effectiveness of marine preserves Temperate-tropical gradient in species richness Effects of introduced species
NCEAS Since its founding in 1995 400 projects involving over 4000 visiting scientists Over 1800 publications Many in journals with the highest impact factors http://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/products Ranked as the 22nd /38,000 environmental institutes worldwide in impact of its publications
Importance of Ecology in South East Asia• Obviously, better understanding of ecology and environmental issues is critically important to the future sustainable development of South East Asia.• We know a lot more about ecological interactions and the importance of biodiversity than we did when the United States was in a similar stage of economic development – Please don’t make the same mistakes we have!!!
Opportunities and ChallengesFacing South East Asian Ecologists• Much greater biodiversity in the tropics than in the temperate regions – True for terrestrial, aquatic, and marine ecosystems
Opportunities and Challenges Facing ASEAN Ecologists– Opportunity – Interesting systems, full of cool species – poorly studied – Understanding tropics key issue in ecology– Challenge – Lots of species to know – difficult to be a “casual” worker in a system
Opportunities and Challenges Systematics Still new species to be discovered and classified Natural History Still need to learn about the basic biology of most species Modern ecology can not exist without building on work of taxonomists, systematists, and natural historians. Who is training the next generation of taxonomists? National and regional need!
Opportunities Urban Ecology a subfield of ecology which deals with the interaction between organisms in an urban or urbanized community, and their interaction with that community.
CLS Aproach in South East Asia• Collaborative, long-term efforts will be useful • Established LTER sites could provide background and logistical support needed to foster research• Synthesis could be valuable • Basic questions • Environmental issues
Where Will Funding Come From? Governments Are governments really interested in supporting research that leads to a better understanding of the environment? In the U.S. we have seen funding depend on politics! Governments often has short-term perspective Corporations NGOs/Foundations Universities Governments, foundations, and general public will only support funding for ecological and environmental research if we make compelling arguments for why this research is valuable! We need to deliver this message!!
CLS Approach Requires Universities and other research groups to support collaborative, long-term research efforts Might require changes in organization, hiring, reward, promotion systems Governments may need to help facilitate interaction among local and international scholars Encourage travel and exchange May require efforts beyond single governments and require a regional approach Consortiums of Universities and research units CU, NUS, and UM could sponsor annual synthesis meeting? ASEAN?
Building Talents of South East Asian Ecologists• Characteristics – Generalist • Systematics, natural history, and ecology (including ecological theory and statistics) • Comfortable using tools from related fields – Specialist • Might need to specialize on a limited taxonomic group or specific region
Building Talents• You will need to be “better” than scientists in the previous generation and your peers in the West! • Work harder, work smarter!• Find your niche • Typically are best at what you enjoy the most• Always present your work in context of relevant theory• READ!!! • Have to be familiar with the best scientific literature to conduct the best scientific research• PRESENT and PUBLISH!!! • “publish and prosper” • Aim for the broadest audience that you can
Building Talents Possible Career Path HI*Time/Expertise Publish major “synthetic”papers Become “mature expert” HI* results in Publish Secure funding new areas Search for opportunities HI* Publish results that Attract collaborators Inform ecological theory Secure funding Search for opportunities Publish systematics Gain “expertise” in your system Publish natural history Publish species lists HI - High Impact
Bridging Ideas• Collaboration with other scientists is critical – Local and international scientists – Probably great potential future collaborators sitting in this room!• Must be able to bridge basic and applied research• Embrace new technology, but use it appropriately
Bridging Ideas• Form bridges with policy makers and the general public.• Advocates for the environment – Be a reliable and trustworthy source of accurate information about the environment for citizens and perhaps more importantly, for policy makers. – Ecologists in the US are often marginalized as “tree huggers” • We have not done a good job of educating the US public – Science – Environment
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Bridging Ideas, Building Talents HI* Inform General Public?Time/Expertise Publish major “synthetic”papers Become “mature expert” HI* results in Publish Secure funding new areas Search for opportunities HI* Publish results that Attract collaborators Inform ecological theory Secure funding Search for opportunities Publish systematics Gain “expertise” in your system Publish natural history Publish species lists HI - High Impact
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Charles Darwin“I trust and believe that the time spent in this voyage … will produce its full worth in Natural History; and it appears to me the doing what little one can to increase the general stock of knowledge is as respectable an object of life, as one can in any likelihood pursue.”
Thanks Texas Tech University U.S. Department of State Institute of Biological Sciences at University of Malaya Conference organizing committee