EcoPress

Ecosystem Science for the 21st Century – Celebrating NREL’s 50th anniversary

NREL50thwideThis year marks the 7th International Colloquium hosted by Colorado State University,which will be held in the Lory Student Center on November 14th and 15th. This year’s theme is Ecosystem Science for the 21st Century, motivated by the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory’s 50th anniversary.

The Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL), established in 1967, is one of the first institutions in the world devoted to the inherently interdisciplinary field of ecosystem research.  During the early years, the NREL established a rigorous tradition of systems research conducted by scientists across a diverse range of disciplines, a practice which is integral in moving science toward an understanding of the natural world and all its complexities. Under the leadership of Diana H. Wall in the 1990s, the NREL continued to evolve and recognize that solving complex environmental problems requires collaboration beyond the natural and physical sciences; the institution grew and engaged with social scientists and practitioners, emphasizing the need for ecological knowledge to be made accessible to citizens and policy-makers. Present day NREL is led by John C. Moore, a passionate educator who led the creation of the department of Ecosystem Science & Sustainability, which has contributed new undergraduate and graduate programs to the Warner College of Natural Resources and has drawn new and talented faculty and staff from around the world.

This year’s International Colloquium will include fast-paced and exciting “ignite” talks, poster sessions highlighting research from all levels of NREL, and engaging panel discussions. Topics will range from citizen science in ecological research to the impacts of the Fukushima reactor accident on the local environment in Japan to applications of ecosystem science to real-world challenges.

MFirestone

Dr. Mary Firestone (above). Her work has been recognized by a range of disciplines, reflecting the breadth of areas comprising ecosystem sciences; she is a fellow of the Soil Science Society of America, American Academy of Microbiology, Ecological Society of America, and American Geophysical Union.  Mary  was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in May 2017.

This year, Dr. Mary Firestone of University of CA, Berkley will be awarded the 2017 NREL Ecosystem Science Award. Mary is a microbial ecologist who has worked extensively on the role of soils in terrestrial ecosystem function. In particular, her work on microbial nutrient transformation has advanced the understanding of carbon and nitrogen cycling in our field. Currently, Dr. Firestone’s lab is working on a diverse suite of projects such as sustainable biofuel production in switchgrass systems and understanding microbial ecological in the Eel River Critical Zone, CA. Mary’s research group is multidisciplinary and bears expertise from biogeochemistry, community ecology, and microbiology; her work is complimentary to the mission of the NREL in tackling globally-important questions related to climate change, land use change, and sustainability challenges of the 21st century.

In addition to researchers from CSU and various Colorado agencies, the symposium will also host renowned researchers from various institutions across the country. For example, Dr. Serita Frey, an influential soil scientist, will join us from the University of New Hampshire and present on the links between microbes and ecosystems.  Additionally, Dr. William H. Schlesinger, 2014 NREL Ecosystem Science Award Recipient and President Emeritus from The Carey Institute of Ecosystem Studies will talk about the potential of global soil stocks to sequester carbon.

Please join us in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory. We encourage participation by all and welcome a diverse range of perspectives, particularly in our scheduled panel discussions. For a full schedule of events, please see the official symposium website.

EcoPress is a website highlighting the science and scientists of the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University. Connect with EcoPress on social media: like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, @nrel_science, for the more stories and news.

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