Monday, December 15, 2008

BES Renewal Process

Planning for Renewal – BES-3

Planning for the renewal of BES will involve working meetings and white papers. A series of six meetings will be held before submission of the BES LTER renewal proposal in February 2010. Each meeting is envisioned to be a day long event. The Mid-Term Review of BES conducted in 2007 provides necessary background. The review team’s report and the NSF Program Officer’s letter are at (see heading “Renewal Material” and its subheading “2006 Mid-Term Site Review”).

Product – Each meeting will produce a white paper as a contribution toward the renewal proposal. The required content of the white paper is given after the descriptions of the meetings and schedule, below.
Participation – All Co-Principal Investigators, Post Docs, Graduate Students, and agency and partner Collaborators are invited and encouraged to attend the meetings.

Goals and Strategies – All meetings should:
1. Be primarily product oriented;
2. Result in a referenced white paper as input for the renewal proposal;
3. Employ a few synthetic presentations as stimulus for discussion;
4. Be designed to emphasize discussion rather than presentation;
5. Employ the LTER Network’s Integrated Science for Society and Environment feedback model template (Figure 1);
6. Seek to integrate social, and biophysical realms of research;
7. Identify and state the integrated theory motivating activities to be proposed for the renewal;
8. Articulate integrated modeling and quantitative approaches; and
9. Highlight opportunities for teaching and for educational research that emerge from the theme of each meeting.

Meeting Topics and Schedule

Individual Meetings with Agency Stakeholders. Three representatives of BES met with Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Maryland State sustainability officers and other decision leaders in October 2008. We explored how to establish a regular communication to exchange information of mutual interest about research, projects, and policy. The insights from these meetings will be used to design an ongoing process for BES to identify shared concerns and opportunities for interaction with policy, management, and decision leaders in the Baltimore region. Leaders: Morgan Grove, Steward Pickett, and Mary Washington.

Meeting 1 -- October 14, 2008:
Scoping the Renewal Process.

The BES Steering Committee, consisting of all Co-PIs and BES Collaborators met to share thoughts on the five conceptual areas to organize the renewal proposed at the 2007 meeting. The feedback loop (Figure 1) that will be an important conceptual tool for planning and organizing BES-3 was also presented. The structure and goals of the white papers, and the consideration of teaching and education research opportunities in each planning meeting were reviewed. Attendees were asked to study the Mid-Term Review report and the notes from the 2007 Steering Committee meeting concerning components of new theory for BES-3, as well as the LTER Network’s model template for Integrated Science for Society and Environment (ISSE) to prepare for the Steering Committee discussion.

Meeting 2 -- January 23, 2009:
Environmental Change and Environmental Inequity.

The issues of global change is significant for Baltimore, as is the differential impact of current and future environments on different social groups. BES-3 must address climate change directly, and identify the ecosystem services that might be altered by changing climate. Measurement of those ecosystem services, and how they can alter environmental hazard and vulnerability, and consequently, environmental justice should be proposed. Explicit measures of each of these features of the urban ecosystem should be identified and justified. Leaders: Larry Band and Kirstin Dow

Meeting 3 -- April 16, 2009:
Land Change Scenarios and Locational Choice Modeling.

The changing structure of urban areas is a key topic for BES-3. A task before us is to develop scenarios for land cover and land use change. The relationship of land change scenarios to models of locational choices that households and firms might make, and the social and economic drivers of those choices will be identified and specific approaches identified and justified. How policy interacts with scenarios can also be explored. Leaders: Mary Cadenasso and Elena Irwin

Meeting 4 – June 23, 2009:
New Hydro-Ecological-Social Theory.

It is crucial to articulate a new generation of integrated theory covering the various major disciplines that constitute BES. Several areas should be considered as a framework for a new statement of the theory unifying BES-3: 1) An urban stream continuum theory; 2) Controls on ecosystem flux and retention; 4) New social theoretical framework; and 4) Theoretical and conceptual approachs addressing coupling and feedbacks between social and biophysical components of the metropolitan system. The mainly biophysical theory should, in cooperation with social scientists, articulate both the expected social-economic drivers and social-economic effects of urban stream continuum and flux theory, while the mainly social theory should, in cooperation with biophysical scientists, articulate the hypothesized biophysical drivers and effects. Here is where education theory that justifies education research or pedagogical methodologies should be articulated and related to the physical-ecological-social theory that emerges. Leaders: Sujay Kaushal and Austin Troy

Meeting 5 -- October 20, 2009:
Integrated Sampling Strategy

Integration across the multiple disciplines within BES can be enhanced by a clearly articulated sampling strategy that spatially and temporally relates the various social and biophysical samples. Options to be explored are the reconciliation of our current different sampling strategies, complementing the existing strategy by new spatial arrays, or articulating a sampling design essentially de novo. This meeting should produce a fully annotated map for one to several sampling strategies that take advantage of our existing data base while advancing sample integration in BES-3. How the sampling strategy can support teaching and education research should be explored. Leaders: Peter Groffman and Morgan Grove

Meeting 6 -- November 17-18, 2009:
Writing Team Working Meeting

A small group will take on the task of preparing the renewal proposal based on the insights from the planning meetings. The leaders of the previous five meetings and other key BES members will convene at the Cary Institute in Millbrook, New York, in order to draft an integrated proposal for BES-3. This meeting will be a focused, intensive writing session lasting two days. Leader: Steward Pickett

BES-3 Renewal Proposal White Papers

Each of the five preparatory meetings listed above will produce a white paper. The meeting conveners will be responsible for organizing the drafting of the paper, and will involve other contributors as needed and available. The papers should satisfy the following goals: 1) State a clear theoretical motivation for work to be conducted in the third phase of BES; 2) Identify clear relationships between social and biophysical topics; and 3) Suggest the key feedbacks between social and biophysical realms to be investigated.

The components of each white paper should be as follows:
1. Title. A conceptual orientation should be emphasized. Titles for these components of BES-3 should be phrased to engage potential reviewers.
2. Research Questions. What research questions have been addressed to date in BES? Briefly, what has been learned? What new questions or outgrowths of the previous questions should be addressed in the renewal? Where do these new or extended questions fit in the LTER social-biophysical feedback loop (Figure 1)?
3. Motivations for the Questions. What explicit theoretical, methodological, and practical motivations are there for each research question suggested? What well known and cutting edge literature supports the theory, methodology, or practical concern?
4. Key Variables. What are the key variables to be measured to answer the questions? How will scenario generation and future projections be supported by the variables suggested? How can the variables from social and biophysical realms be related?
5. Sampling Plan. What sampling plan supports the suggested research questions? How does this exploit the existing BES sampling array? What future changes to the sampling regime are required? How does this sampling plan support the integration of biophysical disciplines, different social disciplines, and the relationship of biophysical and social research? Draft maps of the suggested sampling regime must be included.
6. Anticipated Findings. What outcomes are expected? What theoretical advances are likely? What methodological advances can be served? What practical contributions can be supported? How does the plan contribute to quantifying the feedbacks in the LTER social-biophysical loop (Figure 1)?
7. Illustrative Material for the draft proposal, such as figures, conceptual diagrams, tables, and brief text boxes can be used to summarize and support key points of the argument of the white paper.
8. Executive Summary. A brief (ca. 200 words) abstract or bulleted summary should be prepared to assist the writing team.
The white paper for each meeting will be due one month after the meeting.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Baltimore Mayor Dixon Announces Sustainability Goals

With the announcement on Wednesday, December 3rd, of the overview of recommendations from Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon’s Sustainability Commission, the region enters an exciting and important time. The jurisdictions directly responsible for the majority of the Baltimore metropolitan region, including not only the City of Baltimore, but Baltimore County and the State of Maryland, now have visions for sustainability. As environmental researchers encompassing ecology, social sciences and economics, who contribute to the Baltimore Ecosystem Study research program, we are immensely encouraged by this commitment to sustainability.

Sustainability is a goal for society that seeks to insure the social, economic, and ecological health and adaptability of our shared environment. Health of this three part, unified system is important because it is the source of the environmental, social, and economic resources and services we all depend on for sustenance and well being. Adaptability is an important part of sustainability because it is not realistic to keep systems from changing. Events like cycles of wet and dry weather, severe hurricanes, economic cycles, shifting locations of investment, social disruption, and new social interactions all can cause unexpected changes in our cities, towns, and the surrounding countryside.

For sustainability to be a reality, three things are key. One is good knowledge about the environmental processes the rest of the system depends on. The Baltimore Ecosystem Study is a research and education project that helps complement the knowledge generated and managed by municipal, county, and state agencies. Although traditionally each agency, say, parks, public works, or housing, has some of the key data and expertise, sustainability requires knowing how the system as a whole works. This is why coordinating activities with the goal of sustainability in mind is so important. It provides a way for seemingly separate agencies and indeed separate jurisdictions to work together to promote the current health of the Baltimore ecosystem.

The second key for sustainability is to understand how this whole metropolitan system might respond to different ecological, social, and economic changes in the future. Here especially is where the Baltimore Ecosystem Study may reinforce and complement the activities of the different agencies and governments. By providing scientific information and contributing to a socially motivated dialog, the research and education we are charged to accomplish can help policy makers, managers, and citizens to understand how their decisions can influence sustainability.

The third key is political will. With the announcement of the recommendations of Mayor Dixon’s Sustainability Commission, an important part of the puzzle for facilitating the health and adaptability of the Baltimore region falls into place. It identifies a suite of actions that are both relevant to people’s daily lives and for improving the quality of life in Baltimore City’s neighborhoods. But it is also a symbol of political will. Without that, no amount of scientific information will be of any use. Combining the thinking, planning, and activities aimed at promoting sustainability that now exist in the city, county and the state, the Baltimore region can become a national model for linked sustainability of city, suburb, and countryside.

Baltimore Watershed Featured in Chesapeake Quarterly


The activity in the West Baltimore storm drain watershed number 263 continues to attract attention. This unusual combination of research, community engagement, and partnership with city agencies is aimed at improving quality of life and of environment in this 930 acre amalgamation of some 11 neighborhoods. The work was featured in the June 2008 Chesapeake Quarterly.

“Renewing an Urban Watershed” is the subtitle of Chesapeake Quarterly, volume 7, number 2. This issue of the journal, published by the Maryland Sea Grant College, highlights the joint work of BES, the Baltimore City Department of Public Works, and the Parks & People Foundation in the 930 acre (376 ha) storm drain watershed. This area west of downtown in Baltimore City is characterized by low vegetation cover, highly polluted storm drainage water, high levels of housing abandonment, and lack of economic opportunity. The Parks & People Foundation has long aided neighborhoods in the area by promoting community greening, community organization, and after school educational activities. BES is a partner in the educational activities here. More recently, the Baltimore City DPW has begun an effort to coordinate the activities of various city agencies in improving the environment in the rich mixture of neighborhoods that overlap or are contained entirely within Watershed 263.

BES is helping the DPW to conduct research on the quality of water draining two subwatersheds in this area. Water flow, water chemistry (including pollutants such as phosphate, nitrate, and organic carbon), reduction of impervious surface, increasing vegetation cover, adding best management practices for storm water, and targeting improvement of sources of pollution have been some of the activities conducted by the city, private, and research partners. The nature of the work, and some of the researchers, managers, and community leaders involved, are all described in very readable articles and side bars in the issue. There are also engaging photographs accompanying the text. It makes interesting reading, and I recommend it to those interested in how BES links to community and policy concerns. Click on to read the articles.