Juliann Aukema has experience with large and small projects—from overseeing all elements of entire research projects to supporting organizations by completing specific portions of projects. Examples of projects she has worked on are below:
Invasive Forest Pests and Pathogens
Climate Change Adaptation
Tree Communities and Conservation Planning in the Puerto Rican Karst
Biodiversity Pathways in Managed Forests
Spatial Ecology of Mistletoes and Seed-dispersing Birds
Conservation of the Sierra Bermeja
Future Scenarios for Puget Sound
Ecuadorian River Turtle Conservation
National Natural Landmarks
Statistical Analysis and Consultation
Invasive forest insects and pathogens threaten the productivity and diversity of forest ecosystems. Nonindigenous pests and pathogens continue to become established in the United States and continue to pose new threats to forest and urban forest ecosystems and to the people and industries that depend on them. Understanding the economic and ecological impacts of these pests and the costs and benefits of policy alternatives is important to developing informed regulations and policies.
At the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), Aukema coordinated and led a $500,000 project to assess the economic and ecological impacts of nonindigenous forest pests and pathogens in North America and to evaluate how alternative policy or management scenarios might reduce future impacts. Aukema convened a steering committee and three working groups, one of which she led, and coordinated a distributed graduate seminar. Aukema worked with more than 40 resource economists, ecologists, forest pathologists, entomologists, and policy experts from academia, agencies, private industry and NGOs.
The working groups examined the economic impacts of forest pests and pathogens using a novel Bayesian modeling approach, and the effectiveness and economic costs and benefits of policy alternatives to controlling these pests. Nearly a dozen manuscripts have been published already, a large database of invasive pests has been made public. This work has been presented our work at conferences and to agency representatives. This work has gained attention in the media as well, including US News and World Report, Miller McCune, Conservation Magazine, WOSU, Scientific American, Consumer Reports, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TIME magazine, Washington Post, and LA Times, among others. This work was also referenced by Senators Akaka and Feinstein in their introduction to the Safeguarding American Agriculture Act of 2011.
Back to top
Ecosystems provide an array of goods and services to people, from water filtration to storm protection to food provision. Recognizing these benefits can help make conservation more relevant. Furthermore, if we explicitly incorporate ecosystem services and human well-being goals in conservation strategies, we have a greater chance of achieving long-term, sustainable conservation.
At The Nature Conservancy, Aukema led a $500,000 project to map ecosystem services in Mexico, Washington, and California using the InVEST model. Project partners are currently using the mapping work to influence policy and conservation design. Aukema presented this work to government agencies and multi-stakeholder groups in Mexico (in Spanish; Comisión Nacional Forestal) and the U.S. (Puget Sound Partnership, Washington Biodiversity Council, Pacific Coast Joint Venture) at their invitation. In addition, with her team, she published a review of freshwater ecosystem services tools, tested and improved the InVEST model, and contributed chapters to the user guide. She conducted workshops and trainings on ecosystem services for TNC staff (TNC China field office, Washington field office, Webinar for Asia-Pacific staff, Webinar for Central Science staff) and on the InVEST tools in China (Society for Conservation Biology workshop) and Washington.
Ecosystem services is a highly interdisciplinary field and Aukema worked closely with hydrologists, economists, finance and policy specialists; and coordinated activities with other units within the organization and with state, federal, foundation, and NGO partners.
The importance of mangroves as providers of ecosystem services was highlighted in an article in Nature Conservancy Magazine “The Mystery of Mangroves“.
Aukema also researched and wrote a white paper on the impacts and dependencies of the beverage industry on biodiversity and ecosystem services for the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) and The Nature Conservancy.
Back to top
Climate change itself poses a serious threat to conservation efforts, but the consequences of human response, such as increased habitat loss, are likely to be at least as severe. Ecosystem-based adaptation (using nature to help people adapt to climate change) offers an approach to addressing both the direct and indirect effects of climate change while explicitly working to improve human well-being.
At The Nature Conservancy, Aukema worked closely with field programs and partner organizations to incorporate climate change resilience and adaptation into payments for watershed services projects in Colombia and Mexico and into coastal conservation work in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The grant proposal for work in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands was funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) for approximately AU$1 million.
Aukema also received a Coda Global Fellowship to work with TNC’s Climate Change Adaptation Team to help strengthen the application of ecosystem services in climate adaptation projects. Aukema served as a peer reviewer at TNC’s Climate Adaptation Clinic in Salt Lake City in September 2009.
Back to top
An important component of biological diversity, particularly for conservation applications, is distinctiveness of sites. In conservation planning, there is an implied assumption of relative equivalency within coarse scale ecosystem targets. The moist karst region of Puerto Rico is an area under threat from development, with particularly high species diversity and aquifers that are critical sources of drinking water.
As a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow (North Carolina State University and International Institute of Tropical Forestry), Aukema examined the distribution of plant species and communities in the karst of Puerto Rico. She identified and mapped distinct woody plant communities in the moist karst forest of Puerto Rico in order to help prioritize sites and inform conservation planning efforts in the region. She demonstrated that the moist karst region should be considered as three different regions for planning purposes.
Her research contributed to the work of Ciudadanos del Karso, the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF), the Puerto Rico Gap Analysis Project, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources, and The Nature Conservancy’s Caribbean Ecoregional Planning team.
Back to top
Old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest are characterized by high biological diversity and by heterogeneity in horizontal and vertical structure and physical properties, such as microclimate and sun flecks. Due to intensive logging, young forests now make up nearly half of Federal forested lands in Washington state. Forest management has been proposed as a tool to accelerate the development of second growth forests into forests with some of the characteristics (e.g. biocomplexity) of old growth forests, and to improve their capacity to maintain ecological services while providing long-term sustainable economic benefits to communities.
At the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, Aukema worked on two long-term experiments in western Washington examining the efficacy of using variable density thinning and other management techniques to achieve these goals. She studied the response of the understory vascular plant community and microclimate to variable density thinning nine years after implementation. She managed a budget of more than $200,000 and supervised 5 employees.
She also participated in outreach efforts to promote communication and collaboration among environmental activists, forest managers, local community stakeholders, and scientists. She was science advisor for the Gifford-Pinchot Forest collaborative working group. In addition, she was invited to serve as an evaluator of land acquisition grant proposals (more than $45,000,000) for the Critical Habitat Projects of the Washington State Interagency Committee’s 2002 Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. And she was invited to serve as a panelist on the ecological and economic considerations of commercial thinning for a symposium “Looking Ahead: Models for Protecting National Forests Symposium”.
Back to top
Mistletoe species abound in diverse landscapes around the world, and the mistletoe–host–vector system is ideal for examining parasitic and mutualistic interactions in a spatial context. In addition, these plants are believed to be keystone resources for animals in many ecosystems.
Aukema examined the dispersal and distribution of desert mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) in the Sonoran desert at multiple scales. Using GPS and GIS mapping, geostatistics, and maximum likelihood modeling, she was able to examine parasitic and mutualistic interactions in a spatial context. Aukema found that mistletoe aggregations are hierarchically nested and that seed-dispersing birds (primarily Phainopepla nitens) were responsible for these patterns at two scales. Her work demonstrated the importance of mutualistic interactions in generating spatial patterns.
Back to top
Sierra Bermeja is a range of hills in the arid southwest of Puerto Rico. It has great conservation value due to its high biological diversity and endemism, geological significance, and comparatively low urbanization. It is part of the Important Bird Areas Program and is a focus for conservation groups. Aukema wrote and edited a conservation proposal, the preliminary work to a conservation plan, for the Sierra Bermeja in collaboration with Birdlife International, the Puerto Rican Ornithological Society, and the American Bird Conservancy. This work
is being used to influence conservation efforts in the area.
Back to top
For the U.S. Geological Survey, Aukema identified projects that are looking at different future scenarios that incorporate climate change, hydrology, land use, policy, management, ecosystem services, or vegetation change. Through a combination of interviews and library research, she compiled an annotated bibliography of published and unpublished projects underway.
Back to top
For the Field Museum, Aukema worked on a river turtle (Podocnemis expansa and P. unifilis) conservation project with the Cofan, an indigenous group in Ecuador. She collected and reviewed literature in Spanish and English and made recommendations for their research program.
Back to top
For the National Natural Landmarks program of the National Park Service, Aukema wrote and edited descriptions of National Natural Landmarks.
Back to top
Aukema provided statistical analysis and consultation for the University of California, Santa Cruz on a study of mercury poisoning in California Condors; for the University of Montana on the Milltown Dam restoration monitoring and maintenance plan; and for Lewis and Clark College on a study of changes in spider communities on Mt. St. Helens following the volcanic eruption.
Back to top