Ecologists find rare bush dogs in new northerly habitat

UMass wildlife ecologists who are studying different conservation practices in the forests of Costa Rica recently made a startling discovery on a wildlife camera trap – wild bush dogs documented farther north than ever before and at the highest elevation.  Doctoral student Carolina Saenz-Bolaños is in Costa Rica comparing land use, management techniques, their effects on species presence and abundance, and human attitudes in four different areas in the rugged Talamanca Mountains: a national park, an adjacent forest reserve, an indigenous territory and nearby unprotected areas.  She and her advisor, professor of environmental conservation Todd Fuller at UMass Amherst, with others, report in an article in Tropical Conservation Science the new, repeated sightings of bush dogs (Speothos venaticus) on trailcams well outside the limit of their previously known range on the Costa Rica-Panama border. The dogs are native to South America but are considered rare and are very seldom seen even there, the two ecologists point out.  Fuller says, “They aren’t supposed to be there, but Carolina’s work shows they really are, and they seem...
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Fighting off hungry invaders

Early detection, rapid response key for saving native species down the food chain An international research team led by invasion ecologist Bethany Bradley, environmental conservation, has conducted the first global meta-analysis of the characteristics and size of invasive alien species’ impacts on native species as invaders become more abundant.    For example, as alien garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) invades forest understory in New England, the number of native sugar maple seedlings declines. Invasive purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) in New England wetlands is linked to a decline in the abundance of native red-winged blackbirds and song sparrows, Bradley says. Elsewhere, predatory invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) introduced in Caribbean waters leads to a rapid decline in the abundance of native coral reef fish, and invading Burmese python (Python bivittatus) in the Everglades has caused dramatic losses of natives such as opossum, fox and bobcats.  “On average, invasive pests will cut the populations of native species in half if we don’t prevent or control those invasions.”  Bradley says, “What surprised me most was...
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Field Notes: Sustainability, corporations, and the common good

Chaitrali Ketkale, a graduate student in sustainability science at the School of Earth & Sustainability, has been spending the summer on a fellowship from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), one of the world’s largest environmental advocacy groups.    Ketkale is working in the New York office of Cushman & Wakefield, a global, multibillion-dollar commercial real estate firm. She is set to graduate at the end of the year with a master of science degree in sustainability science, which is designed to create interdisciplinary problem-solvers and prepare students for sustainability-focused positions in industry, government or nonprofits. We asked Ketkale how she has worked toward this fellowship over her academic career.  How did you arrive at corporate social responsibility as a track for your studies and career?  A combination of several factors came together to push me here — primarily my education and family. My father leads sustainability initiatives at Toyota India, which gave me a ringside view to how companies are trying to make a positive change and reduce their carbon footprints. Also, in my undergrad studies in biotechnology, I choose to focus on...
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Transforming agriculture — and poverty — in Africa

Alumna receives prestigious honor for sustainable, science-based leadership  Agnes Matilda Kalibata, who earned a Ph.D. in entomology at UMass Amherst in 2005, has been selected to receive the 2019 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Public Welfare Medal.    Kalibata was chosen for the award based on her work to drive Africa’s agricultural transformation through modern science and effective policy, helping to lift more than a million Rwandans out of poverty and scaling impacts for millions more African farmers.  Since 2014, Kalibata has been president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an African-led organization founded by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that works with public and private partners to promote rapid, inclusive, sustainable agricultural growth and food security.  As president of AGRA, Kalibata leads a staff of more than 200 across 11 priority countries—one of the largest pools of agricultural scientists and specialists in Africa—and works with global, regional, and national partners to drive a portfolio of investments worth more than $500 million.   “Under her leadership, a remarkable agricultural...
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Science ‘for the benefit of society’

Largest graduating class ever enlists as science advocates A record-setting 1,776 new graduates were honored at the College of Natural Sciences Senior Celebration May 11. Addressing a full house of 10,000 friends, families, and community members at the Mullins Center, Dean Tricia Serio emphasized the need for scientists to be communicators and advocates. “The acceptance of scientific knowledge by the public and its integration into policy and practice are both essential components of realizing the potential of our discoveries for the benefit of society,” Dean Serio said. “I call on each one of you to be a public advocate for science by sharing what you’ve learned. Share your knowledge to dispel the perception that science is too difficult for a lay person to understand.”   "The next generation of innovations are yours to make." Graduates from 14 departments and programs were recognized with commemorative medals and celebrated their new status as alumni with a hat toss. “The next generation of innovations are yours to make,” said Dean Serio, “and I can’t wait...
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