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Expert Alert

U of M experts to speak at Ecological Society of America's Annual Meeting

July 26, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (07/26/2013) --The Ecological Society of America’s 98th Annual Meeting, running August 4-9 at the Minneapolis Convention Center, centers around sustainability and how learning from the past will help shape the future. Over 150 University of Minnesota professors will present on topics ranging from sustainability to food production to climate change.

The following are University of Minnesota experts who are speaking at the meeting and can offer applicable insights:

Jonathan Foley
Director, Institute on the Environment
Can Ecology Give Us a Strategic Plan for Managing Planet Earth?
In the conference’s opening plenary presentation, Institute on the Environment director Jonathan Foley will address global strategies for achieving sustainability, focusing on key “planet levers” that can dramatically improve the environment while maintaining the critical flows of food, energy and water resources we depend on.

Emily Cassidy
Graduate Research Assistant, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and Institute on the Environment
Food for the Future
Cassidy will speak about how diet preferences affect global food security. Her research shows that shifting crops away from animal feed and biofuels to 100 percent food could feed an additional 4 billion people, and that even moderate diet changes (not abandoning animal products completely) could provide enough additional calories to feed more than 300 million people.

Jeannine Cavender-Bares
Associate Professor, College of Biological Sciences and Institute on the Environment
When Seeds Sleep
Plant seeds face plenty of life-threatening risks – including, most prominently, the risks of being eaten and of sprouting when it’s too cold or dry for seedlings to survive. Cavender-Bares will discuss how studying legumes from around the world helped her research team uncover fascinating links among seed size, dormancy and survival – with important implications for understanding potential consequences of global change on species survival distribution.

Meggan Craft
Assistant Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine and Institute on the Environment
Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus, Wildlife and Mosquitoes in Minnesota
Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) is a mosquito-borne virus that can spread from wildlife to humans. Craft will present findings related to the presence of the disease in mosquitoes, moose and elk in Minnesota, shedding light on disease dynamics in complex multi-host communities.

Jacques Finlay
Associate Professor, College of Biological Sciences and Institute on the Environment
Land of 10,000 Nitrogen Sinks?
Can lakes help remove polluting nitrogen from rivers before it runs downstream to worsen coastal dead zones? Finlay is exploring the role of lakes in removing nitrogen pollution from the environment, and the factors that change the way different lakes "behave" with respect to nitrogen cycling.

Sarah Hobbie
Professor, College of Biological Science and Institute on the Environment
The Downside of City Trees
Trees bring many benefits to city streets: shade, beauty, wildlife habitat and more. But trees can cause troubles, too. Hobbie will discuss findings of an Institute on the Environment project assessing how leaf litter from trees impairs water quality with implications for using street sweeping to help clean up urban lakes.

Graham MacDonald

Post-Doctoral Associate, Institute on the Environment
Strategic Trade for Agricultural Sustainability
As the global demand for food grows, so does international trade in agricultural commodities. Wherever food ends up, it bears the environmental footprint of the place it was produced. MacDonald will discuss the role of agricultural trade in reducing environmental impacts while enhancing food security in an increasingly interconnected world.

Deepak Ray
Post-Doctoral Associate, Institute on the Environment
Can We Feed the World and Not Destroy the Environment?
Productivity gains in our most important crops have stagnated in large parts of world, making it unlikely we can achieve the doubling of crop production needed to feed our global population in 2050 without a major shift in agriculture. Ray will explore how we might close the demand-supply gap short without compromising natural ecosystems.

Joseph Reid
Institute on the Environment
Finding Win-Win in Less than Three Days
What happens when you take 50 students from diverse backgrounds and throw them at the world's worst environmental problems? Reid will tell how a three-day “Environmental Hackathon” he organized did just that, turning chaos into steps toward win-win solutions for the worlds pressing environmental problems.

Scott St. George
Assistant Professor, College of Liberal Arts and Institute on the Environment
Environmental Gradients
St. George will be presenting on recent controversy surrounding the accuracy of tree-ring dating and the use of tree rings to estimate past changes in global temperature. This talk will be relevant to scientists studying climate change and the effects of volcanic eruptions on global climate.

To schedule interviews with any of these experts, please contact Brooke Dillon, University News Service, at or (612) 624-2801.

The ESA conference is expected to bring 3,000 scientists, policy makers, educators and others from around the world to the Twin Cities.

For more information on the Ecological Society of America’s Meeting, visit

To obtain a press pass for the meeting, please visit

Nationally renowned experts who will present at the meeting include Paul Ehrlich, Thomas Lovejoy and Jane Lubchenco. To schedule an interview, contact ESA media representatives Liza Lester (, 206-553-9964) or Nadine Lymn (

Tags: Institute on Environment, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, College of Liberal Arts, College of Biological Sciences, Academic Health Center

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