27th August 2018 – Paul Julian, University of Florida

Paul JulianI’m Paul Julian (@SwampThingPaul), a recent PhD graduate from the University of Florida Soil and Water Sciences Department in Gainesville, FL. During my PhD studies, I was also working full-time (and continues to work post-PhD) at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) supporting Everglades Restoration efforts. In addition to working at FDEP I am also a Postdoctoral Associate in the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience at University of Florida under Dr Todd Z Osborne.  My PhD research focused on understanding biogeochemical processes within the Everglades Stormwater Treatment Areas (wetlands) including nutrient spiraling, nutrient stoichiometry, aquatic productivity and carbon dynamics.  Generally, I have diverse and varied research interests (webpage link) all revolve around aquatic ecosystems biogeochemistry, ecology and management. My current research interests are split between marine and freshwater wetlands studying the effects of climate change, eutrophication, ecosystem management and restoration on ecosystem function. I like to say that my research spans the aquatic continuum from fresh to marine aquatic ecosystems.

My other academic achievements pre-PhD include obtaining a BSc of biochemistry from Benedictine College (Atchison, Kansas, USA) and MSc of Environmental Science from Florida Gulf Coast University (Fort Myers, Florida, USA). My masters work involved studying Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi) habitat selection and home range dynamics in response to exotic plant removal and management within Big Cypress National Preserve (Florida, USA). Post-bachelor’s degree I immediately entered the work force studying coastal water quality, estuarine dissolved organic matter dynamics and harmful algae blooms in southwest Florida. After several years I decided it was time to purse an advanced degree and took a detour studying something outside of my existing background (wildlife ecology). I was a rather un-traditional student and while working full-time I pursed my master’s degree. After obtaining my master’s degree I moved onto studying seagrass ecology and later to Everglades restoration with a focus on water quality which led me to the wetland biogeochemistry lab at University of Florida where I (un-traditionally) achieved my PhD.

Outside of work and school I like to get lost in nature by going on long hikes through the bush, document my adventure with photography (Flickr), snorkel and scuba dive, cook vegan meals, exercise and be overall active.

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August 24th 2015 – Rebecca Barak, Northwestern University/Chicago Botanic Garden

I am a PhD candidate in Plant Biology and Conservation at Northwestern University and Chicago Botanic Garden in Illinois, USA.  I study restoration ecology, the science of rehabilitating degraded ecosystems. In particular, I study plant community ecology in the tallgrass prairie. The prairie – native grassland dotted with colorful wildflowers – once covered the Midwestern United States. Restored prairies are built to regain habitat lost to farming, but they aren’t as diverse as remnant prairies, they have fewer coexisting plant species. Diverse prairies are more functional, supporting more wildlife and fewer weeds. What makes restored prairies diverse? To answer this question, I study the effects of management, like seed mixes and prescribed fire, on multiple measures of plant biodiversity, including phylogenetic and functional diversity. I also study seed biology to learn which seed traits may impact establishment of planted species in restored habitats. I work in the field, greenhouse and lab to better understand the connections between restoration decisions and plant biodiversity.

For my week on Biotweeps I’ll be tweeting about PLANTS!!! I’ll also tweet about restoration ecology, the prairie ecosystem, seed biology, citizen science, and highlights from summer field research in restored prairies in and around Chicago. You can find me on twitter (@BeckSamBar) or at my website (http://www.plantbiology.northwestern.edu/people/students/becky-barak.html).

May 11th 2015 – Kirk Mantay, South River Federation

Kirk MantayI’ve never had any doubt that I wanted to work in the marsh, and I’ve always been amazed at how water’s behavior fuels so many changes on the landscape.   I attended Virginia Tech, where I received a BS in Wildlife Biology focused on bird and herptile responses to habitat disturbance, as well as a BA in Geography focused on the remote sensing of habitat change.   After working as a wildlife technician on a US Army Base, I continued my education at Appalachian State University, where I received my MA focused on analyzing remote sensing tools that can measure habitat functional values.

I studied as a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland, focusing on invasion ecology (or invasion biogeography) and attempted to establish remote sensing tools that could identify high-risk areas for invasion by non-native plant species, specifically Common Reed (Phragmites australis).   During that time, I was also employed as a wetland impact specialist for a consulting firm working on high profile highway and airport projects.   I began studying the science, history, and ecology of wetland and stream formation, and these studies ultimately derailed my interest in an 8-10 year Ph.D. attempt focused on Phragmites.

Ultimately frustrated with industry “snapshot” approaches to wetland and stream restoration and ecology, I began working in 2005 for non-profit organizations who are voluntarily creating, restoring, and repairing habitats in ways that lead to landscape sustainability. Designs account for (or at least attempt to account for) succession, rising sea level, erratic climate patterns, potential future plant invasions, changes in herbivore density, and other factors.   Not surprisingly, it turns out that some of our most special and endangered habitats are actually the most resilient to change.

For the last decade (and for four years at the South River Federation), I have been working to create, repair, and restore sustainable habitats with high ecosystem values – baldcypress swamps, headwater springs and bogs, vernal pools, and salt marshes. SRF both performs science to evaluate the value and net benefits of these projects and use new science from other partners and colleagues to better inform our project and program decisions.   I am currently spearheading a $15 million effort to restore one coastal creek by 2016, the site of numerous historic wetland dumps and currently 55% paved. Over 30 individual habitat projects are involved – 26 of them completed. The data collection for this effort already spans nearly a decade, and the results will inform us of the efficacy of different habitat approaches in both reviving fish and wildlife populations and decreasing toxic sediment loads to the tidal portion of the creek. If successful, we’ll then know how to restore coastal tributaries of the urbanized Chesapeake Bay.

During my biotweeps week I will tweet about current research on changing species ranges, invasion ecology, and frontiers in habitat restoration. Please ask questions – I’ll do my best to answer.

I tweet as @chesmud . I direct the habitat restoration efforts of the South River Federation (http://www.southriverfederation.net) who tweet as @SouthRiverFed .