New publication: The Present and Future Status of Ecosystem Services for Coral Reefs

Members of the Conservation Innovation Lab, led by Assistant Research Professor Katie Cramer, published The present and future status of ecosystem services for coral reefs in Elsevier, as part of Imperiled: The Encyclopedia of Conservation. 

Coral reef ecosystems are among the most imperiled globally from human impacts. Although the ecological and socioeconomic importance of coral reefs has been relatively well-documented, the impacts of coral reef degradation on ecosystem service provisioning are less known. In this manuscript, we review the range of ecosystem services currently provided by reefs (provisioning, regulating, and cultural), the human activities that threaten these services, and the future prospects of reef ecosystem services given the projected combined effects of local human disturbances and climate change. We then propose promising policy and management interventions to promote the maintenance of key coral reef ecosystem services into the future.

New publication: Integrating animal behavior into ecosystem services

Members of the Conservation Innovation Lab, led by PhD candidate Katie Surrey, recently published “Refining the Ecosystems Services Model: Integrating Animal Behavior into Ecotourism Management”, in Elsevier, as part of Imperiled: The Encyclopedia of Conservation. The paper presents a framework for considering animal behavior as a variable when assessing ecosystem service values, and highlights the increased need for more thorough understanding of the current wildlife-based ecotourism models and how they might become better adapted into the future.

Access the full manuscript here!

Congratulations to our new MSc graduates!

Congratulations to Kesha Cummings and Infynity Hill who are graduating with their Masters in Biology! Kesha’s applied project was based on her fellowship position with the Phoenix Zoo and focused on camera trap fieldwork and analysis for riparian sites within the Verde Valley. Kesha currently works in the energy industry and plans to use her experience to support and assist corporate compliance with federal wildlife laws and advocate for policy that protects and conserves natural resources and wildlife.

Infynity aimed to better understand plastic use and management by the American public. Using a nation-wide survey she explored how much plastic people by and how they dispose of various projects. Infynity currently runs her own second-hand store Infynitethreads and hopes to follow her passion for teaching moving forward!

New publication: Graduate student perspectives on transforming academia

In partnership with students from around the nation, Ph.D. candidate Olivia Davis recently published, Graduate Student Perspectives on Transforming Academia, in Conservation Science and Practice.

As the scale and complexity of socio-environmental problems has grown, there has been a renewed debate about the role that academic institutions should play in developing solutions and how institutional structures should be redesigned to encourage greater interdisciplinarity. This paper (1) presents a graduate student perspective on this debate, (2) identifies challenges facing interdisciplinary graduate student researchers, (3) suggests ways for institutions to better prepare graduate students to be the next generation of leaders in this arena, and (4) outlines models for transformational change that will ensure research is focused on solving socio-environmental problems.

This work emerged from her participation in a Beyond the Academy workshop hosted at UCLA in January 2020.

The value of information for biological evaluations of pesticides possible impacts on listed endangered species

Check out our new manuscript from members of the Conservation Innovation Lab and the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, The value of increased spatial resolution of pesticide usage data for assessing risk to endangered species!

The EPA is responsible for registering pesticides before they can be sold and regularly reviewing pesticides. As part of this process, they must consider the risk pesticides pose to species protected by the Endangered Species Act. In this recently published paper, we explored the value of high resolution pesticide usage data for increasing the efficiency and transparency of the biological evaluation process.

This research was funded by Bayer. 

New publication on market-based instruments for fisheries

This week members of the Conservation Innovation lab, Erin Murphy, Dr. Miranda Bernard and Dr. Leah Gerber, published ” Evaluating the role of market-based instruments in protecting marine ecosystem services in wild-caught fisheries,” in Ecosystem Services. This work emerged from a partnership between the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes and Dr. Kevin J. Dooley, of The Sustainability Consortium.

The movement from single-species to ecosystem-based fisheries management indicates the importance of ecosystem-level thinking for achieving sustainable fisheries; however, it is not clear that fishery-specific market-based instruments effectively align with the principles of the ecosystem-based approach. In this study, we review the written indicators of seven market-based instruments to evaluate the level of protection they provide to marine ecosystem services that may be impacted by fisheries. We found that many of the ecosystem services, which may impact during their operations, are not completely protected by the instruments written indicators. Through this analysis we hope to promote a dialogue between scientists and decision-makers to encourage the use of ecosystem service indicators in market-based instruments used to promote sustainable fisheries.

This work was funded by the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes.

Costing plastic pollution interventions

Members of the conservation innovation lab recently published “A decision framework for estimating the cost of marine plastic pollution interventions”, in Conservation Biology. This paper, published with members of the Plastic Pollution Emissions Working Group, presents a framework for evaluating the net cost of marine plastic pollution interventions. We also applied the framework to two quantitative case studies and four qualitative case studies to explore how context of implementation influenced net costs.

Download the paper here: Murphy et al. 2021

Good luck Dr. Bernard!

The lab sent Dr. Miranda Bernard off to the Duke Marine Lab to start her Smith Fellowship this week. Though her passion and supportive nature will be missed in the lab, we are all very excited to see what this next chapter of her career brings. Good luck Miranda! We love you!

Summer 2021 Graduate Grants – Request for Proposals (RFP)


Figure. The three core values embraced by the ESSA community will have a ripple effect from the student to the global scale.

The Earth System Science for the Anthropocene (ESSA) community has a call for Summer Graduate Grant proposals! Any interested graduate students currently enrolled at ASU who need summer support for research, materials, hiring undergraduate research assistants, stipends, etc. are encouraged to apply!

See the request for proposals here.

And contact for more details.

New publication on sustainable fisheries

Lab members Erin Murphy, Leah Gerber, and Miranda Bernard published a new paper, Applying a jurisdictional approach to support sustainable seafood, in Conservation Science and Practice. Seafood certification and ratings systems have established strong benchmarks for sustainability, but alone they are not sufficient for ensuring sustainable seafood consumption. In this paper, the authors propose that market‐based approaches and ecosystem‐based governance initiatives are integrated using a jurisdictional approach. Jurisdictional approaches are place‐based initiatives deployed in key commodity producing regions to drive sustainability through aligned incentives among government, market, and producer actors.

This research emerged from the Conservation International-ASU partnership.


Citizen scientists help document ASU flowers and pollinators

Bumble bee approaching white flowerThroughout April, which is also Earth Month and Citizen Science Month, the ASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes invites the ASU community and the entire state of Arizona to participate in a citizen science project to help us document flowering plants and pollinators on ASU’s Phoenix-area campuses.

Watch the promo video.

Pollinators are vital to healthy ecosystems. Birds, bats, butterflies, bees and many other species are necessary for the health of flowering plants, food crops and the global economy.

We simply could not live without them.

As part of this initiative, citizen scientists will use their smartphones to snap and load photos of flowering plants and pollinators via the iNaturalist app.

Continue reading

Article: The Inequities of Access to Nature

Landscape photo of a wetland with flowers on a sunny dayIn January 2021, Katie Surrey (PhD student, Biology and Society) and Zackary Graham (PhD candidate, Animal Behavior) published a piece on Medium that outlines the racial inequalities behind the concept of accessing nature, and how the benefits derived from being in the outdoors are unequally experienced by all members of the population. The piece emerged as the result of the graduate seminar course that is offered by the Animal Behavior department every semester. This year the class focused on reviewing and discussing urban wildlife ecology studies through the lens of racial inequities, as highlighted in a recent paper published by scientist Dr. Christopher Schell, (et. al., 2020). Katie and Zack wanted the important and relevant discussions being held in the seminar to extend beyond the (virtual) classroom walls and conceived of this piece as part of their final class project. With input and support from colleagues, the final article supplies a brief summary of the existing scientific literature on the many physical and psychological benefits of regular access to nature and emphasizes how future studies need to consider the implications of racial discrepancies and historical disenfranchisement in the form of redlined cities. Continue reading

New Paper Published on the Impacts of Whale Watching in Panama

Lab students Arielle Amrein and Katie Surrey on a boat in Panama

Lab students Arielle Amrein and Katie Surrey on a boat in Panama. Photo credit: Dr. Leah Gerber

Two Conservation Innovation students (Arielle Amrein, MS and Katie Surrey) co-authored a paper that was recently published in Frontiers in Marine Science, presenting the results of their pilot study that was conducted last summer in Las Perlas archipelago, Panama. The study was a result of the ASU collaboration with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), and the research team and co-authors included Dr. Leah Gerber (Center for Biodiversity Outcomes), Dr. Hector Guzman (STRI) and Dr. Susana Cardenas (USFQ). The project assessed how local whale watching activities were affecting the behavior of the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) population. 

Whale watching is a popular ecotourism activity around the world and is a significant source of income for local communities, and provides financial and educational support for conservation efforts.  However, as the sustainability of whale-based ecotourism depends on the behavior and health of whale populations, it is crucial that ecotourism industries consider the impact of their activities on whales. Previous research has determined that animals experience stress due to high frequency and proximity of human activity, and although Panama implemented regulations in 2007 that prohibits whale-based tourism from disturbing whales, (which is explicitly measured by changes in whale behavior), there is no systematic monitoring of whale watching activity to enforce the regulations, and as a result there is currently little compliance from tour operators and tourists. The unmonitored activities of these boats often bring them in close range of the whales who are usually breeding mothers with calves, which may have long-term effects on the overall survival of the individuals and thereby threaten the conservation of the species. Continue reading

Contributing to the Development of an Anti-Racist Biology Cirriculum

Over the past few months, the ASU RISE (Research for Inclusive STEM Education) Center has held workshops and seminars aimed at addressing racial inequities within academic biology. The purpose was to help the ASU community identify many of the existing inequities that are perpetuated on academic campuses, and to work on producing innovative research on ways to make undergraduate STEM classrooms more inclusive, as well as educating STEM faculty about how they can better serve all students. Several of the participants, including Conservation Innovation lab graduate student Katie Surrey, and organizers collaborated to write this summary of the important discussion points that emerged from the discussions.