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News & Events

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illustration frequent droughts
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In a new paper published in Nature, research assistant professor Christopher Schwalm of Northern Arizona University’s Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss) shares the results of a study investigating the impact of more frequent droughts on ecosystem resiliency and how this phenomenon could endanger the land carbon sink. Read the full NAU article here. Illustration by Victor Leshyk
norma rivera core from aspen tree in alaska
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Nitrogen isotopes in tree rings record the history of the nitrogen cycle—the critical nutrient that limits growth in many US forests.  ECOSS faculty member Michelle Mack, along with colleagues from seven other institutions, recently published a paper that shows nitrogen availability in US forests declining over the past century, with cool, wet forests demonstrating the greatest declines. The paper is open access and can be accessed here: www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-08170-z. NAU Biology major Norma Rivera takes a core from an aspen tree in Alaska. Photo credit: Samantha Miller.
victor leshyk laptop of recent illustration
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A brand new staff member at Northern Arizona University’s Center for Ecosystem Science and Society, Leshyk’s charge is to use the power of art to help interpret and communicate science produced by the center's researchers as well as others at the university. It’s a unique opportunity to highlight fascinating science that may otherwise get lost in the fray as well as a challenge to not lose sight of the core facts, Leshyk said.   Read the full article by AZ Daily Sun here.
science on tap poster
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Tonight at 6:30 PM, please join us at The Green Room for "Accurate Passion: Metaphor and Meaning in Scientific Art" with Victor Leshyk and Dr. Bruce Hungate. In this image-heavy presentation which shares a multiyear portfolio of his artwork, Scientific Illustrator Victor Leshyk discusses the challenges and goals of modern science communication.  
above flight paths illustration
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On a 10-meter-square plot of frozen soil in central Alaska, Ted Schuur is creating a window to the future. Schuur, an ecologist at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff, is intentionally warming this patch of permafrost to see how much of its carbon— now locked in frozen plant matter buried for centuries or more—will thaw, decompose, and escape to the atmosphere, where it will make an infinitesimal contribution to global warming. Read full article here.
leshyk illustration combat antibiotic resistance
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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are widespread and are increasingly associated with human infections.  Inappropriate antibiotic use – both in people and in animals raised for food – drives the evolution of multi-drug-resistant pathogens and threatens a post-antibiotic era – one in which minor infections can kill. The majority of antibiotics are actually sold for use in food animals, rather than in people, and as a result, farms are major sources of many new types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.“We clearly need to use antibiotics more responsibly,” says Ecoss researcher Ben Koch.  “However, limiting the spread of antibiotic resistance also requires knowing the extent to which antibiotic-resistant microbes move among farms, the environment, and people.” Koch, along with Ecoss colleagues Bruce Hungate and Lance Price, published a study in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment that examined the potential for merging ecology and genomics to better understand those microbial movements. They found that combining ecological principles with newly available genomic data on antibiotic-resistant bacteria...
Tents at the Delta Campsite in Alaska
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Dr. Michelle Mack will be discussing the future vulnerabilities to Alaskan ecosystems and tools for permafrost assessment during the next resource conservation and resiliency webinar that will be hosted on Thursday, June 29! The webinar is part of the SERDP and ESTCP webinar series, which was launched to promote the transfer of innovative, cost-effective and sustainable solutions developed through projects funded in five program areas. The webinar series targets Department of Defense and Department of Energy practitioners, the regulatory community and environmental researchers with the goal of providing cutting edge and practical information that is easily accessible at no cost. Learn more about the webinar and register on this  website: https://serdp-estcp.org/Tools-and…/Webinar-Series/06-29-2017
View from an airplane of the smoke and blackened land in the Anaktuvuk River area in Alaska due to a wildfire.
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How healthy will Earth's ecosystems be in 2027, 2067 and beyond? It's an important question to ask, especially on World Environment Day, June 5. To find answers, scientists affiliated with the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) network came together this spring at an NSF LTER mini-symposium. "Arctic ecosystems are undergoing rapid and surprising changes," said Michelle Mack of Alaska's Bonanza Creek and Arctic LTER sites. "Our job is to try to understand when ecosystems will recover, and when they will shift to new states." Mack studies ecosystem resilience to the wildfires that have recently swept through parts of the Bonanza Creek and Arctic sites. "With warmer and drier weather in the Arctic, wildfires are becoming more frequent," Mack said. "At Bonanza Creek, fires have been common for the past 10,000 years, but fires at the Arctic site...
leaf still from ascent of sap rap video

The latest Ecoss artistic product, "The Ascent of Sap Rap", by George Koch and students from his "Plants and Climate" class. View the full video here. See lyrics below: For plants on terra firma it’s a struggle to stay wet We’ve talked a bit about it, but you may not get it yet. Transport in the xylem is because of upward tension caused by capillary forces in the leaves, did I mention? The liquid water’s drawn into tiny cell wall spaces and pulls on the water column like you do with your shoe laces. If it’s dry things get tense, the plant must close its stoma, ‘else the water column breaks and sends the leaves into a coma. But protection from this fate, slams a door, shuts a gate So carbon gas, it cannot pass, barred from making sweet synthate...
leshyk illustration biochar
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Biochar illustration by Victor O. Leshyk Scientists believe that biochar, the partially burned remains of plants, has been used as fertilizer for at least 2,000 years in the Amazon Basin. Since initial studies published several years ago promoted biochar, farmers around the world have been using it as a soil additive to increase fertility and crop yields. But a new study casts doubt on biochar’s efficacy, finding that using it only improves crop growth in the tropics, with no yield benefit at all in the temperate zone. "We saw a huge boost for crops grown in the tropics, but zero results for crops in the temperate zone," said Dr. Bruce Hungate, Director of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at Northern Arizona University and co-author on the study. "Given all the talk about the benefits of biochar, we were...
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