Events

February 1, 2019 at 5:45 pm

Sustainability | Urban Ecosystems: A Conversation about Mitigating Climate Change, Feb. 26

 

Urban Ecosystems: A conversation about mitigating climate change

The Sustainability Studies Theme presents Dr. Erin O’Brien on “Urban Ecosystems: A conversation about Mitigating Climate Change” on Tuesday, Feb. 26, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in Alden Library 319 (Friends of the Library Room).

Worried about urbanization and the loss of natural environments? Come learn about how preserving and restoring natural ecosystems in cities can help maintain ecosystems AND mitigate the effects of climate change.

O’Brien is a visiting professor in the Biological Sciences Department at Ohio University and studies forest ecology and entomology.

Erin O'Brien, outdoors portrait

Dr. Erin O’Brien

Abstract: Worried about urbanization and the loss of natural environments? Come learn about how preserving and restoring natural ecosystems in cities can help maintain ecosystem services AND mitigate the effects of climate change.

O’Brien always knew that she wanted to teach, and that she was interested in conservation because of formative experiences whale watching and studying bald eagles in school. Her evolving interest in forest conservation led her to her current position as a visiting professor in the Biological Sciences Department at Ohio University. She teaches the ecology and evolution portions of BIOS 1710 and continues her research on ash conservation in areas invaded by emerald ash borer.

Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, O’Brien conducted research in the pesticide lab, testing the efficacy of insecticides. Her work with various beetle species, including emerald ash borer and Asian long-horned beetle, guided her to a Ph.D. in forest entomology. This shifted her focus from singular species to forests and habitats as a whole. At the Ohio State University, she studied the emerald ash borer. The goal of the project was to determine whether insecticides could be used to protect tree species from invasive ash borers and maintain ash tree reproduction.

While she is still interested in forest ecology and invasion ecology, she is reframing her ideas to include the importance and urgency of climate change. Climate change is impacting forests and the status of invasive species, forcing new species invasions as ranges of southern species shift northward as temperatures increase globally. Specifically, O’Brien is interested in how cities can respond to climate change.

Her talk on Feb. 26 revolves around the value of natural ecosystems in climate change mitigation.

O’Brien plans on continuing her research on ash tree populations. She also plans on looking at the genetics of ash, analyzing how the genetic variation of seedlings has changed throughout the invasion process of emerald ash borers. She hopes to resume this research in the summer of 2019, working with undergraduate students. “That’s one of the things that attracted me to this job, was that I had the ability to mentor and conduct research with undergraduates,” she said. “That’s one of the things that I’ve been looking forward to doing. Teaching in that capacity is something that I am anxious to get started on.”

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