Dams, scarcity, and social-ecological resilience

Posted by on Nov 16, 2016 in Blog, Featured | Comments Off

Dams, scarcity, and social-ecological resilience

We know that dams are a paramount driver of hydrological alteration, homogenizing regional river dynamics and biodiversity. However, dams also provide a range of socio-economic benefits, and under scenarios of water scarcity due to climate change and over-allocation of freshwater resources, it is increasingly important to ask how dams may provide engineered resilience to dependent social and ecological systems. I am Albert Ruhi, a community ecologist motivated by applied questions about how freshwater biodiversity is responding to global...

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What makes a species rare?

Posted by on Sep 19, 2016 in Blog, Featured | Comments Off

What makes a species rare?

In a community, it is almost always true that some species are common while most are rare. This pattern is demonstrated by plotting species abundance distributions (see Magurran 2003 or Verbeek 2014 for excellent overviews) observed in many real life communities. Local abundance is not the only facet of rarity – species can also be defined as rare or common in terms of their overall geographic range and its habitat breadth. The late Deborah Rabinowitz, (a professor of Ecology and Systematics at Cornell), was the first to highlight and...

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Share your story: World Fish Migration Day 2016

Posted by on Apr 13, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off

Share your story: World Fish Migration Day 2016

Call for videos – deadline extended to May 7th! Migration plays a central role in the life cycle of many fish species. For feeding, reproducing, or simply completing their life cycle, fish sometimes need to move long distances, within freshwater environments or between marine and freshwater systems. Well-known fish such as eels, salmons, and sturgeons in waters of North America and Europe are only a few examples out of thousands of migratory species, found everywhere from tropical rivers to intermittent streams of Australia. For...

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Niche conservatism: which niche matters most?

Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 in Blog, Featured | Comments Off

Niche conservatism: which niche matters most?

Niche conservatism - or the degree to which plants and animals retain their niches and related ecological traits through space and time – is a classic concept in ecology receiving renewed interest in recent years. This is partly because of its relevance to predicting species’ responses to global change, since a tendency toward conservatism would mean that species have only a limited capacity to adapt to new environmental conditions. Those species would be particularly vulnerable to environmental change. Conversely, conservatism also implies...

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Amazon freshwater fish in a changing climate

Posted by on Sep 2, 2015 in Blog, Featured | Comments Off

Amazon freshwater fish in a changing climate

In general when we think about climate change, most people think about cold water species, but warm water species could be also be affected. The Amazon River Basin is an enormous area expected to be affected by climate change; approximately 7 million km2 of dense river network with the largest number of freshwater fish species anywhere in the world. The Amazon is home to more than 2,000 freshwater fish, including highly unique, economically, and culturally important species. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)...

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The value of volunteering as an undergraduate

Posted by on Mar 10, 2015 in Blog, Featured | Comments Off

The value of volunteering as an undergraduate

Life is busy as an undergrad – why is it worth making the time to volunteer in a research lab? Volunteering in a lab as an undergraduate is a rewarding jump from learning in a lecture hall to learning-by-doing and gaining firsthand experience in the scientific methods used in a research field of interest.  Whether I’m getting my hands dirty scooping plant samples into bags, collecting tissue samples from crayfish, or doing more data and computer-oriented tasks, there are endless opportunities to learn.  One of the most exciting parts about...

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Diversity, stability, and non-native species

Posted by on Nov 7, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off

Diversity, stability, and non-native species

The key to riding out an unpredictable financial market is to diversify your portfolio. By spreading risk across stocks that respond uniquely to market conditions, you’ll likely buffer your portfolio from the fluctuations that any single stock experiences. One loses while another gains, but on average your investment return remains stable. It turns out that this strategy may be as beneficial for fish communities as it is for people. For many decades ecologists have studied how increasing the diversity of a biological community, the number of...

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Super-fishes in disguise: Mudminnow worldwide

Posted by on Oct 1, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off

Super-fishes in disguise: Mudminnow worldwide

If ever a group of fishes were in need of a PR makeover, it’s mudminnows. Everything about the name – from undesirable mud to inconsequential minnow says “nothing to see here”. But these unassuming species are veritable Clark Kents of the fish world: small size and mild appearance disguise super-fish able to withstand dangerously low oxygen levels and defend spawning territories equivalent (if they were human) to two football fields. These are a few of the biodiversity secrets brought to light in a recent lab paper that reviews...

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Go with the flow: novel methods for establishing flow-ecology relationships

Posted by on Jun 5, 2014 in Blog, Featured | Comments Off

Go with the flow: novel methods for establishing flow-ecology relationships

Perhaps the greatest challenge for water managers around the world is maintaining reliable water supplies and healthy river ecosystems.  There can be direct trade-offs between these goals because surface and groundwater extraction and regulation of river flows can lead to dramatic declines in native fish assemblages. This dichotomy has led to the burgeoning field of environmental flows where managers – using tactics such as managed releases from dams or extraction limits – allocate river flows for the benefit of the river itself, not...

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Flood of opportunities below dams

Posted by on Apr 20, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off

Flood of opportunities below dams

When author Edward Abbey famously wrote “The Monkey Wrench Gang” in 1975, he was roundly condemned for portraying eco-terrorists plotting to blow up Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. Forty years later, the aging of the world’s dams, coupled with increasing awareness of their environmental costs, has brought dam decommissioning and re-operation to the attention of the scientific community, management agencies, and the general public. Just last month, a historic pulse of water released from the gates of Morelos Dam on the U.S.-Mexico...

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