Author: julia james

Science, Upstream: The maternity shuffle

The Cure by Deb ~*~,

A little more than a month ago, I was listening in on a Natural Capital Project marine team conference call when Anne Guerry, the lead scientist facilitating discussion, made an offhand comment about the group’s “maternity leave shuffle.”

Jodie Toft, a Stanford fisheries ecologist, had recently returned to work after taking a few months off to have a child. But her reappearance coincided with the departure of Katie Arkema, a Stanford marine ecologist, who at the time of the call had just given birth to a baby girl.

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Science, Upstream: On board games and resource management

Presencia sagrada en las alturas by Aztlek,

The hexagonal world of Die Siedler von Catan, with its little wooden cities and its alluring rock quarries and wheat fields, first appeared on my radar in 2006, when I was a senior in college.  Since then, the English version of the board game has exploded in popularity, and I’ve spent countless nights in Portland, Ore., and the Bay Area negotiating transactions around limited imaginary resources – with the consistent goal of monopolizing them and thereby hosing (technical term) my Settlers compatriots.

Juan Sebastian Lozano Velásquez, an ecologist with The Nature Conservancy in Bogotá, Colombia, doesn’t share my passion for Settlers.  In fact, until we met on the Stanford campus a few weeks back, he’d never heard of the game.  But he was introduced to what you might consider a real-life application of it while he was an undergraduate student at the Javeriana University in his native country.  There, he helped run an economics experiment looking at how people make decisions about common-pool resources, such as fisheries, when they have actual money at stake.

“It was a mess,” he says.  “Everyone was of course harvesting very high” to maximize individual profit, rather than moderating their impact on the ecosystem to achieve some theoretically possible collective benefit.

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Science, Upstream: Balancing Trust in Embedded Journalism

Vancouver Island Pacific Rim by backpackphotography,

I’ve always been fascinated by the social dynamics of staff meetings – the little affirmations, both spoken and gestural, that build conversational momentum; the inevitable off-key comments that bring it all crashing down; the subtle maneuvering, by the natural diplomats in the crowd, to restore that office-talk sweet spot. As often as not, we see this act unfold under fluorescent lights, around an elongated table, usually in an uncomfortably small, aseptic meeting room.

The geographically disjointed marine division of the Natural Capital Group is spared this particular workplace beast– but they’re captive to its cousin: the conference call. Every Friday morning, their disembodied voices unite over various phone conferencing platforms to talk through simple, logistical matters, as well as to establish a consensus position on the big, who-are-we and what-do-we-stand-for questions they face.

These calls, over the last month, have centered on two major themes. The first: the Valentine’s Day the launch of the team’s keystone product, a software program called Marine InVEST [pdf], which they are making available to policy makers and stakeholders for the first time. (The program is free and accessible online for use by anyone who has the requisite skill set.) The second, a question: Given excitement in the conservation and land management communities over the software, how open should the team be to forging new collaborations and commitments?

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