On Wednesday, April 25th, GNCE alum Charles Van Rees (Class of 2010) returned to campus to give a talk in the Biology Seminar. Charles has just completed his PhD in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at Tufts University. He has also just received a Fulbright grant to continue his work on bird conservation next year in Seville, Spain. Charles's dissertation research focuses on the Hawaiian gallinule (or `alae `ula), an endangered waterbird with very specific habitat preferences. The birds live in fragmented coastal wetland areas on the island of Oahu, areas that are threatened by coastal development and likely sea level rise. Charles's research uses a combination of methods--including banding and direct sighting, genetic sequencing, and GIS mapping--to try to understand the relationships among those seemingly isolated populations. One finding that he reported was the the birds seem to like to travel along freshwater pathways, such as canals and drainage ditches. Charles is also an advisory ecologist with a non-profit conservation group, Livable Hawaii Kai Hui.
At Connecticut College, the new Fran and Otto Walter Global Commons provides a great space for sharing research and talking shop. Nine of our seniors recently represented the GNCE at an all-Centers research session the most representation of any Center! They offered updates on projects ranging from urban forestry in New London Connecticut to the history of anti-nuclear activism at Rocky Flats, Colorado.
In February 2017, we brought in four guests for a symposium on Sustaining Pollinators - our first ever Lear-Conant Symposium. Our title, "Sustaining Pollinators," was a double entendre: we wanted to spend the day learning about how pollinators sustain us, but also what we can do to help sustain the pollinators that we depend on.
Alexandra Harmon-Threatt, an entomologist and ecologist at the University of Illinois, spoke about her research on prairie restoration, and how to design restoration projects that are maximally beneficial for pollinators. Rachael Winfree, a pollinator researcher at Rutgers University, shared some of her findings about pollinator diversity and what it means for agricultural crops. Sam Droege, who works with the US Geological Survey, described his experience trying to set up a native bee inventory and monitoring program. Droege is also an incredible photographer, and we enjoyed some exquisite images of bees. Finally, Simon Potts, Director of the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research at the University of Reading, UK, brought an international perspective on pollinator conservation strategies. Potts was a contributor to a major recent report on pollinators by the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). It was an intense day, capped off by a panel discussion and a banquet. Thanks to our fabulous guests, as well as support from friends on campus and beyond, the symposium was a wonderful success. We especially appreciate having so many guests from New London and Southeastern Connecticut.
Left to right: Alexandra Harmon-Threatt, Simon Potts, Sam Droege, Center Director Jane Dawson, Associate Director Derek Turner, Rachael Winfree
"Cyber security is high stakes for everyone -- but you have to keep calm," says Raymond Palmer '13. At a digital forensics and cyber security company, Palmer manages sales partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region, strategizing with his partners, while switching from Mandarin to Japanese at the drop of a hat. Educating local salespeople in 20+ countries, from New Zealand to India, Raymond swoops in as needed to create consensus among his partners and customers. While his favorite part of the job is traveling, Palmer also secures funding and organizes trade shows in Asia to promote his company's products. Outside of work, he tutors at the Los Angeles Public Library, helping adult Angelenos read. "I know it's cheesy, but literacy is power. I see their eyes light up when they recognize a word, and I know I'm doing the right thing."