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ESF Celebrates Role of Field Science in Society

NYC event puts focus on field stations, research
10/20/2016

ESF was one of several organizations celebrating field science's role in society at an Organization of Biological Field Stations (OBFS) event in New York City Oct. 6.

Stacy McNulty, associate director of ESF's Adirondack Ecological Center and Paul Hai, associate director of ESF's Northern Forest Institute helped organize the event.

McNulty, an ecologist and the secretary of OBFS, said, "Field stations are sentinels for environmental change monitoring and research, places for hands-on training of students and spaces where people gather to explore science-based solutions to community issues. With over 25,000 acres of facilities, top-notch staff and decades of data, ESF has long been a leader in field-based experiential learning."

During the event, Dr. Gene Likens received the Organization of Biological Field Stations Award for Distinguished Service to Field Science by OBFS President Paul Foster. In his acceptance speech, Likens emphasized field stations ignite a lifelong spark of discovery in young people. He conducted research on pH, nitrogen and other environmental variables at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest and ESF's Huntington Wildlife Forest among other sites. Studies by Likens and colleagues led to the discovery of acid rain, ultimately resulting in landmark national policy via amendments to the Clean Air Act of 1990 and improvements in air and water quality across the northeastern United States.

The featured guest, actor Mark Ruffalo, urged the audience of scientists, students and supporters of field stations to "drop your fear" when speaking out about the inclusion of science in policy. An avid activist for clean water and renewable energy, Ruffalo said the old ways of being dispassionate and removed from society aren't working any more and that scientists needed to engage people directly to be effective.

The reception was held at the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) at 7 World Trade Center. David Mordecai from NYAS and the Risk Econ Lab at New York University hosted. Illustrating the power of field stations to provide opportunities for emerging professionals, graduate students from Columbia University and New York University attended and interacted with Likens, Ruffalo and scientists from field stations across the globe.

OBFS is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Its mission is to help member stations be more effective in supporting critical research, education and outreach programs.