Author: jamie hansen

Ecosystem services: critics and defenders debate

It seemed like a case of perceptual vigilance, where suddenly the cool thing you just learned about appears to be everywhere. From a Wikipedia article on pollination to a widely-read Wired Science story on bats, the concept of ecosystem services, the subject of our blog, popped up frequently this month. That when, half a year ago, this ignorant journalism student had never heard of it.

As I asked around, however, it seemed less a case of perceptual vigilance and more that awareness of ecosystem services is on the rise. Natural Capital Project co-founder Pater Kareiva agreed that the concept has gained a lot of traction recently, with non-profits and governmental agencies ranging from the Wildlife Conservation Society to NOAA embracing it.

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Road Map: explaining the Natural Capital Project and refining our story

Back at school and shaking off the accumulated inertia of spring break, Julia, my co-blogger, and I sat down to talk about Science, Upstream. “We should post a blog soon, huh?” said Julia, looking more ready to play ultimate frisbee than start reporting. I reluctantly agreed. During our two weeks of traversing the country reporting for other projects, job hunting, attending weddings and finishing final exams, our blog about the Natural Capital Project had stayed quietly in the back of our minds, like the burble coming from the fish tank you know you need to drop feed into but figure it can wait another day or two.

But now, it had been too long. The fish seriously needed to be fed and the noise had boiled up to the front of our minds, nagging us both. But neither of us were prepared to sit down and produce something profound and informative.

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Out of the field, but still experimenting

Midnight sun in Barrow, by MarmotChaser,

When Mary Ruckelshaus, managing director for the Natural Capital Project, began her career as a biologist more than 20 years ago she would arrive at Washington’s San Juan Islands in the middle of the night. Lighting the world with a massive headlamp and armed with buckets of gear, she’d venture out into the sulfur-scented murk of the low tide to see what she could discover.

But last week, when she flew from her home in Seattle to visit Stanford for a fast-moving two days, the ocean was only an abstract thought. Ruckelshaus doesn’t get outside much any more during the workday—or at least, not unless she’s dashing across campus from one meeting to another.  Rather, she was hustling back and forth between two offices. Fighting a cough, she headed from fundraising meetings to lunchtime planning sessions and face-to-face meetings with the staff she normally communicates with over the phone.

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Field Trip: A first foray into real-time science reporting

The wind was whipping as we stood on a ridge two thousand feet over Stanford University, fiddling with video equipment and preparing to talk environmental conservation with an economist.

Julia, my partner in this experiment, was worried about our audio quality. I, on the other hand, was focused on the time. We had to get our subject, Marc Conte, an economist with the Natural Capital Project, back to Stanford for a seminar by noon. It was 10:30 a.m. Already, we’d spent an hour-and-a-half winding six miles up Alpine Drive and hiking through the winter slop to reach a vista that could illustrate the important points of Conte’s work on ecosystem services.

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