Monday, November 26, 2012

Dr. Emma Rosi-Marshall Named Director Designate of BES

Dr. Rosi-Marshall will be the next Director of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, Long-Term Ecological Research project, a role that is targeted to begin in 2016.  At this time, we hope that BES would be entering its next phase of support as an NSF-funded Long-Term Ecological Research project.  Dr. Rosi-Marshall is an Associate Scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, where she has been on the staff since 2009.  Her expertise in stream ecology, and her interests in the presence and role of pharmaceutical and personal care products in streams caused us to invite her to become a member of BES, and she has become an enthusiastic contributor to the program.

Background Information about Dr. Rosi-Marshall

According to the Cary Institute web site, “Dr. Rosi-Marshall conducts research on factors that control and influence ecosystem function in human-dominated ecosystems. Freshwater is one of our most vital and threatened resources; understanding how human-driven global change impacts freshwater ecosystem function is essential. Dr. Rosi-Marshall's research focuses on several aspects of human modifications to freshwater ecosystems such as land use change and restoration, widespread agriculture and associated crop byproducts, urbanization and the release of novel contaminants, and hydrologic modifications associated with dams.”

Dr. Rosi-Marshall earned the PhD from the University of Georgia in 2002.  She conducted Post-doctoral research at the University of Notre Dame, and was on the faculty of Loyola University of Chicago between 2004 and 2009, where she rose to the rank of Associate Professor.  More information on Dr. Rosi-Marshall’s career and interests can be found on the Cary Institute web site at

Why Having a Director Designate is Important

It is important to have overlap in the leadership of LTERs.  This is why I am happy that Dr. Rosi-Marshall has agreed to be the next director of BES.  Long-term studies are intended to observe, experiment on, and model ecological processes over long periods of time.  This is because many processes in which organisms, environment, and social phenomena interact unfold slowly.  In some cases, the complex and indirect interactions in human-natural systems only become clear when some unusual event occurs, or when a new comparison is conducted.  Long-term studies are a research platform allowing these crucial and impactful changes to be understood.  Dr. Rosi-Marshall in her new role in the project, will participate in the Project Management Committee, and will be closely involved in the decision making processes in BES.  The substantial period of overlap during which Dr. Rosi-Marshall will learn the ropes of BES and of the LTER Network is important for continuity. 

Other Components of Project Sustainability

Dr. Peter Groffman will continue to serve as Deputy Director after the planned 2016 transition, and I anticipate substantial overlap in the official Co-Principal Investigators and members of BES through that transition.  I am delighted that Dr. Rosi-Marshall has agreed to perform this crucial role in the sustainability of BES.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Successful 2012 BES Annual Meeting

BES has just concluded a very successful Annual Meeting.  This was the 14th annual meeting and it had two components.  First was a Steering Committee meeting on Tuesday 23 October.  This meeting, as is our tradition, was open to all members and collaborators of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) project.  This committee of the whole helps us plan the Quarterly Project Meetings for the coming year, and work on both intellectual synthesis and practical management and policy issues.  The meeting took four hours, which is typical for this important project wide activity.

Planning for the Mid Term Review

During this session, we worked on plans for the Mid-Term review by a visiting committee to be organized by the National Science Foundation’s LTER program.  We alerted all members of the project that next year’s Annual Meeting will overlap with the visit of the Mid-Term Review Committee.  This is being done in order to permit maximum participation by BES members, including PIs, Post-docs, graduate students, program coordinators, project staff, and collaborators.  We are embarking on a year of activities to prepare this broad constituency for effective interaction with the Mid-Term Review Committee. 

The 2013 Quarterly Project Meetings

As a part of the preparation for the Mid-Term Review, our Quarterly Project Meetings were scheduled and scoped.  We will focus the three meetings leading up to the 2013 Annual Meeting/Mid-Term Review on the overarching conceptual framework and integrative tools of BES.  So each meeting will discuss and deepen our understanding of the concepts of sustainability, resilience, adaptive processes, and pulse-press feedbacks.  In addition, each meeting will focus on one of the three new integrative theoretical areas: 1) the urban stream dis/continuum, 2) the metacommunity concept in the urban setting, and 3) the theory of locational choice by households and firms.  We will prepare summary and overview documents to help folks prepare for the meetings.

Image courtesy Brian McGrath,
Parsons The New School for Design
Two of the Quarterly Meetings will be extended for additional time in order to allow us to develop the new initiative of science and the arts in BES, and to update our ongoing activities in education.  The schedule of the Quarterly Project Meetings will be posted soon in the BES news:
The Steering Committee Meeting also afforded us the opportunity to advance plans for our synthesis volume.  This edited book will summarize the conceptual foundations and the important finding of BES over its 15 year history.  In addition, it will provide the opportunity to highlight our new theoretical themes, and to look forward as BES moves to understand the transition from the sanitary to the sustainable city.

Sharing Results and Outcomes

The second main component of the Annual Meeting comprised our technical presentations of results and research or project plans.  This was introduced by a keynote talk by Professor Sherry Olson from McGill University.  The themes that she highlighted were the cycles of growth in cities, and their relationships to the flows of energy and matter.  This is a potential area in which the work of BES could be enhanced. Members of BES then presented an exciting series of 26 talks and 17 posters.  The abstracts are available here  Senior PIs, graduate students and postdocs, and advanced undergraduates reported on their work.  Notable was how commonly a speaker noted the work of colleagues, both within and across disciplines.  Furthermore, examples of connections to our new theoretical themes appeared through the meeting.

In addition to being scientifically sound and practically significant, the presentations were of high quality.  Most talks followed best practices: good contrast between text and background, heavy lines defining graphs, and relatively little extraneous framing or graphical decoration.  The vast majority of speakers kept to the 12-minute target for their talks, leaving a short interval for questions and for introduction by the moderator. 

A New Way to Engage Posters

The poster session was scheduled after lunch, and was designed to give adequate attention to this medium.  To engage the participants in the poster session, we opened the poster session with a lightning round in which each poster was introduced by its author in a few sentences while the poster was projected on the screen.  The intent was not to read the poster, but to associate the poster with the author so that meeting participants could easily choose the posters they wanted to be sure not to miss.  We will use this method in the future as well.

BES and the Arts and the Annual Meeting

The first official BES Artist-In-Residence, Lynn Cazabon, exhibited several of the photographs from her “Uncultivated” portfolio.  These striking photographs graced the grand stairway hall of the Vollmer Center and the Cylburn Arboretum.  Their theme, volunteer plants in the city, resonated with the scientific and educational messages of BES that the city-suburb-exurb matrix is an ecosystem, in which both the built and the natural intermingle.  Mark Twery, Chair of the BES Science and Arts Committee presented an overview of activities and plans that this new committee is discussing.

Celebrating and Fellowship

Undoubtedly the most fun part of the annual meeting was the Community Greening Celebration and the BES Open House, held on Wednesday evening.  Music and refreshment accompanied the acknowledgement by the Parks & People Foundation of community groups that had performed exemplary greening and revitalization efforts in the city over the previous year.  This was an excellent opportunity to meet and converse with members of the communities in which our work takes place.


The series of formal, technical, informal, and fun activities are a highlight of the BES year.  Thanks to Project Facilitator Holly Beyar, Program Chair Morgan Grove, and Information Manager Jonathan Walsh for their contributions to the success of these meetings.  Thanks to those who presented their results and activities, and for doing so in clear and engaging ways.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Introducing the BES Urban Lexicon

The members of BES represent a wide variety of disciplines and backgrounds.  Some are educators, some are experts in community engagement, and some are researchers whose interests span from physical to social sciences.  It is no surprise that such a diverse community might use the same words in different ways, or have vocabularies that emerge from different theoretical assumptions and particular practical applications. 

A Tool for Synthesis and Conceptual Integration

In order to promote communication and shared meaning across this heterogeneous intellectual landscape, we introduce a lexicon – a roster of terms and their meanings.  Go here for the lexicon: .  This list of words was assembled by a call for suggestions from the BES community.  Many different people contributed definitions.

But each definition also includes an example or two, a statement of why the term or idea is important, and some suggestions of additional sources of information on the topic.  Importance can reside in intellectual or practical realms.  Many of our concepts in fact have a dual life – as fundamental idea and as practical
application.  A figure, map, graph, or photograph may also accompany the entries.

How to Find a Term.

The BES Urban Lexicon takes the form of a web log, so the entries appear in the order in which they were posted.  In order to see an alphabetical list of the terms, users should consult the navigation pane to the left hand side of the web page.  Clicking on the term in the navigation pane reveals the entry.

Do You Want to See a New Term In the Lexicon?

If members of the BES community or the readership at large would like to see additional terms defined by us, please send suggestions to our Project Facilitator (  We can’t promise that we will find an author for all terms suggested, but we’ll give it a try.  If you are a member of the BES community and wish to define a term, send it to us in an e-mail following the format of terms already posted. 

We hope this collection of ideas and terms appropriate to contemporary urban ecological science is useful.