Members of the Heffernan Lab and our colleagues in the Duke River Center made the trek to Portland last week to participate in the first ever Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting, which convened members of the four largest freshwater scientific societies. Jim Heffernan demonstrated that the Everglades has alternative stable landscape states and (filling in for Martin Doyle) discussed the timescales of reservoir management. Anna Braswell presented evidence that local feedbacks influence continental scale distribution of salt marshes. Chelsea Clifford presented her research on artificial streams in California. Megan Fork used an interactive poster to show how DOC concentrations and fluxes are changing across the US. Heffernan Lab Alumni were out in force as well: Ewan Isherwood talked about vegetation distinctness in the Everglades, Alison Appling talked about greenhouse gas concentrations in Northeastern Lakes, and Meredith Steele somehow wove together urban hydrography and Mermaids. Work from the Heffernan lab was also mentioned in two of the Plenary sessions, via presentations by Laurel Larsen and Pat Soranno. We capped off a succesful meeting by having lunch with members of the Sponseller lab. Now, back to work!
Tim Covino, along with McGlynn Lab grad students Kendra Kaiser and Erin Seybold, organized a demonstration day at our field site in New Hope Creek. The New Hope Creek project involves continuous monitoring of water chemistry and other variables to understand processes going in the terrestrial watershed and within the stream itself. Tim, Kendra, and Erin, along with many other members of the River Center, took this opportunity to educate members of the community about the things we measure, how we measure them, and why.
Kris Voss of the Bernhardt lab helped find and identify stream invertebrates.
As you can see, the recent rains had NHC running pretty high and turbid. One of the things we are hopnig to understand at NHC is how these floods influence metabolic processes and nutrient cycling.
Chelsea Clifford has accepted an offer to enter the PhD program at the Nicholas School as a member of the Heffernan lab. Chelsea is a graduate of Carleton College, has worked on Chesapeake Bay restoration and land use effects in central Florida, and is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Congratulations Chelsea, and welcome to Duke, the River Center, and the Heffernan Lab!
Anna Braswell, PhD student in the lab, has received a grant from the Garden Club of America to support her research on land use history and the structure and resilience of coastal wetlands. Way to go Anna!
Virtually everyone who submits papers for publication in peer reviewed journals will have some of those papers rejected. This is particularly true if you are submitting work to prominent journals, so developing a thick(er) skin is essential for a life in research. Early in my career, rejection was really hard to deal with. Since I didn't have a record or experience to fall back on, it felt as if any rejection was a step backwards professionally. Rejection of my work also stung personally. I worked hard on that! How can these reviewers and editors think I am not good enough?
As I have advanced in my career, it is easier to recognize rejection (or acceptance) of a specific paper as a judgement on that piece of work, rather than on me personally. A recent review request really brought this home to me. The editor who requested the review from me had recently handled a paper I submitted to the same journal, and ultimately rejected it. (After submitting to another journal, that paper is now in revision, and I hope and expect will be accepted there.) The paper I reviewed was on a related topic and had some interesting ideas, but ultimately had some substantial flaws and I recommended it not be accepted. In his letter to the authors, the editor referred to both reviewers as experts in the subject of the paper. So despite having recently rejected my work, this editor nonetheless sought out my opinion on a closely related paper. If his rejection of my paper had
Relationships between young scientists (undergraduate and graduate students, post-docs, even junior faculty) and their mentors are complicated and varied, in terms of how and how well they work, how influential a particular relationship is on one's career, and in countless other ways. But most of us are deeply shaped by the people who help us mature as scientists. The particular importance of one's PhD advisor is reflected in large and small ways. One example is that NSF considers students and their PhD advisors to be in life-long conflict of interest, which means that I can never review one of my advisor's or students' grants. Another indicator how important these relationships are is the interest of scientists (and other scholars) in their academic geneology, or who begat whom. I recently kick-started documentation of my own academic family, which you can see here. I am hoping that my friends and colleagues will be able to help build this into a reliable database on the academic history of limnology.
The danger of delving into academic lineages is that can (and sometimes does) reinforce insider-ism, distinguishing those with and without prominent scientists in their academic roots. One might certainly object to delving into history because of this possibility. Can't we just measure contemporary scientists by the novelty and rigor of the work they do? Vanity aside, is there a good reason to think about these things?
While it would be dishonest of me to deny any pride in my own academic heritage, which includes some very prominent scientists, I think the answer to the latter question is, Yes. Academic lineages help us remember that we are all of us standing on the shoulders of giants. They remind us that many ideas and approaches are old, and that the history of ideas, and the people who developed and evaluated them, continue to shape contemporary science. And they help us understand where whole disciplines and strains of thought arise. After all, 100 years ago ecology was barely a scientific discipline. Who were the (then mostly) men who shaped the application of scientific rigor to the study of natural history? Some lineages in ecology trace back to early physiologists, chemists, even theologians. How often do cross-overs occur in more recent times? With the present emphasis on interdisciplinarity, isn't this something we want to know more about?
So while it is crucially important to separate our assessment of scientists from assessments of their academic lineages, it is also essential to our understanding of how science and mentorship work to understand the basic facts of our own academic history.
This brief tour of Durham in the NY Times gives some sense of how much is going on here. And they didn't even do it during baseball season. I'll also say that 36 hours is not nearly enough time to visit all of the great places to eat in town. But they do mention some of my favorites.
Some overdue news prior to the start of the semester:
Last year, the Bernhardt Lab initiated the greatest idea ever - Lab Olympics - and invited your humble PI to serve as assistant judge (under the mentorship of young Hannah Bernhardt). This year, we build on that storied tradition with the first ever inter-lab Lab Olympics. This year's events included the ever-popular Awkward Field Equipment Carry; Ecology Concepts Charades; and Speed Soil and Litter Sampling. Taking Tests for Fun made its debut as a full event after many years as an exhibition event. Participants were drawn from all four River Center labs (Bernhardt, Doyle, Heffernan, and McGlynn), plus the Wright Lab was invited for some reason. The Bernhardt lab played the role of Greece (founding nation) and the Wright lab starred as East Germany (Lab Olympic automatons). The Doyle and McGlynn labs were beset by injuries, pride, and holiday travel plans, so their members defected as dictated by numerical balance. I think that makes the Doyle Lab Cuba, and the McGlynn Lab might be Romania. Sadly, the Heffernan lab was cast in the role of Moldova, plagued by bitter disappoinment at the podium. Your humble PI, in particular, was even more so at the end of the day. Nonethless, a good time was had by all. Full results here.
This past week, Ewan Isherwood passed his qualifying exams and defended his research proposal, entitled 'Effects of hydrologic modification on Everglades vegetation communities.' Ewan is a Master's student at FIU, and is planning to complete his thesis this coming spring. Congratulations Ewan!
Megan Fork successfully defended her MS thesis on June 12, 2012. Megan's thesis, 'Direct and indirect effects of organic matter sources on denitrification in Florida Rivers,' uses natural variation in dissolved organic matter (DOM) to assess the roles of terrestrial and aquatic sources of organic matter as fuels for denitrification. Her research shows that, as terrestrial organic matter becomes more abundant, organic matter actually becomes more limiting to denitrification. This counter-intuitive result reflects two features of terrestrial OM: first, the complex organic molecules that make it up are not very bioavailable. Second, the tea color of complex OM reduces light and therefore primary production within the river. Our previous work in Florida springs has shown that this aquatic productivity fuels a lot of denitrification, so by reducing aquatic productivity, terrestrial OM reduces the amount of bioavailable OM that can drive denitrification.
Megan will officially graduate from FIU's Department of Biological Sciences at the end of the summer, but she is already in Durham looking for another exciting questions to serve as a dissertation topic. Congratulations Megan!
This is the homepage of the Heffernan Lab at Duke University. Here you can find all sorts of information about our research, teaching, and outreach. If you have any questions, contact Dr. Heffernan.
Dr. Jim Heffernan
I am an Assistant Professor in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. My research is focused on the causes and consequences of major changes in ecosystem structure, mostly in streams and wetlands.
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