Learn the Past and Create the Future: The Role of Natural History in a World of Innovation

The Western Society of Naturalists was founded by biologists who were interested in understanding biological systems and their natural history. At the time of the first meeting in 1916, one can imagine that few members of the society would have been able to envision the world that we live in today. We live in a time marked by unsustainable rates of resource extraction, environmental degradation, pollution, and a changing climate. We also live, however, in a time of technological innovation, increased social equity, collaboration, and changing attitudes towards the environment. Understanding the natural history of our earth, is important now more than ever as we attempt to solve the complex problems that we face. This year’s symposium will highlight the development of new techniques, out-of-the box thinkers, and creative solutions with applications in conservation and in understanding changes in natural systems. As we attend the 100th meeting of the Western Society of Naturalists, this symposium will celebrate the collaboration and innovation in our field which will enable us to effectively approach the problems created by high levels of anthropogenic pressure and a rapidly changing world.


Harnessing Historical Data for Marine Conservation

Dr. Loren McClenachan Colby College, Waterville Maine

I am a marine ecologist interested in long term changes to marine animal populations. My research focuses on historical ecology and the applied use of baselines,  fisheries conservation, and marine extinction risk and consequences. I aim to quantify ecological change and identify conservation success over centuries and across large geographic areas in order to halt declines and promote recovery of marine animals and ecosystems.


Building New Nets for Old Questions: the Hope, Hype, and Practice of Using Environmental DNA to Understand Ecological Communities

Dr. Andrew Olaf Shelton Northwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA, Seattle, Washington

Andrew Olaf (Ole) Shelton is a research ecologist at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) in Seattle. At the NWFSC he has developed and applied statistical methods to a range of management relevant problems including understanding the spatial distribution of US west coast groundfish, Pacific herring population dynamics, the oceanic distribution of Chinook salmon, and trends in eelgrass populations in Puget Sound. Recently, he has been working with collaborators at NWFSC and elsewhere to understand how environmental DNA might be used in ecological and fisheries settings. Prior to joining NOAA, he was a post-doctoral scholar at University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Center for Stock Assessment Research with Dr. Marc Mangel (2009-12). Ole received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago’s Department of Ecology and Evolution in 2009. At Chicago, he researched the reproductive biology, population dynamics, and community ecology of surfgrasses (Phyllospadix spp.) with Cathy Pfister.  Ole has a B.A. in Biology from Brown University.


Natural history from above: confronting the problem of pattern and scale in ecology with remote sensing

Dr. Kyle Cavanaugh University of California, Los Angeles

Dr. Kyle Cavanaugh studies the drivers and consequences of changes in the distribution and abundance of coastal foundation species such as giant kelp forests and mangroves. Much of his research utilizes remote sensing to document ecological change over large space and time scales. Recently Dr. Cavanaugh has been using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to expand the scale of in situ surveys. He believes that technological advances in remote sensing provide a powerful observational tool that can be used to improve our understanding of the natural history of ecosystems.