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Restoration Science Center

Restoring Ecosystems

Core team: Colin Beier, Stewart Diemont, Terry Ettinger, John Farrell, Danny Fernando, Tom Horton, Robin Kimmerer, Chuck Kroll, Silje Kristiansen, Cathy Landis, Don Leopold, Greg McGee, Dylan Parry, Bill Powell, Neil Patterson, Matthew Potteiger, Michael Schummer, Theresa Selfa, John Stella, Elizabeth Vidon, Philippe Vidon, and Tim Volk

This initiative will lead a hands-on transdisciplinary restoration effort to regain ecological function from degraded systems, restore threatened and endangered species, and rebuild our cultural relationships with the land using adaptive methodology and science. Our students and scientists will work side-by-side with research partners and communities to test, develop, and apply novel technologies to deliver ecosystem restoration, incorporating biocultural and food system restoration while drawing strongly on indigenous knowledge and land stewardship practices.

Degraded ecosystems are a substantial global challenge and a stark reality of long-term neglect in the Anthropocene. So why are we optimistic? With the ecological, environmental, social, and economic service potential in our natural and built landscapes, an untapped transformation awaits through comprehensive restoration. The ESF Restoration Science Program (RSP) seeks to lead a hands-on transdisciplinary restoration effort to regain ecological function from degraded systems and rebuild our natural heritage using adaptive methodology and science. Through completion and study of a network of noteworthy demonstration projects, designed to bring back lost and damaged ecological gems for societal benefit, ESF will serve as the catalyst for positive grassroots change while training the next generation of environmental leaders.

Our proposal draws on the expertise at ESF in integrating student education with public and private partnerships to restore degraded aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. As part of this effort, we will develop new degree and certificate programs. We propose to: 1) select demonstration projects, 2) lead work with community groups and partners, 3) build research and monitoring programs, 4) use demonstration projects as the basis for new academic programs where students under guidance of coordinators (faculty and hired professionals) will engage in service learning, and 5) use program products (data, restored sites, science and management outcomes) to generate a restoration science information base. Our proposal expands geographically and thematically on ongoing restoration programs envisioned as a participant network of activities. Examples include ESF's Fish Habitat Conservation Strategy (FHCS), a multi-agency and non-government (NGO) partnership operated by the Thousand Islands Biological Station that led to an expansive and diverse set of restoration projects in the St. Lawrence River ecosystem. The FHCS effort is guided by adaptive research and management and has informed policy makers (e.g. Great Lakes Fishery Commission, DEC, USFWS and the International Joint Commission). The FHCS has provided extramural support to ESF (~$5M) and training for undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. Other team project examples include: restoration and monitoring of Onondaga Lake; ecological assessments of restoration at the Montezuma Wetlands Complex; partnerships with stakeholder agencies to identify water stress indicators for riparian woodlands to support implementation of California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (The Nature Conservancy); critical habitat for TES species (U.S. Department of Defense); research and development of remediation of industrial sites with willow biomass (Honeywell, Inc.); assessing past and future priority planting strategies for NYC Parks and Recreation and the USDA Forest Service in the Bronx.