Members in Action: Jeanne Chambers, Director-at-Large
Monday, May 4, 2020
Posted by: Keith MacCallum
Jeanne Chambers is one of the newly-elected Directors-at-Large on SER's Board of Directors. Her two-year term will begin in July. We reached out to her to learn more about some of her current projects, and her experience in the field of ecological restoration.
What’s your current job?
I am a senior scientist and plant ecologist with US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station and adjunct Professor at University of Nevada in Reno, NV, USA. My research focuses on increasing understanding of the effects of global change processes on ecosystems and developing the concepts and approaches necessary for effective restoration.
What projects are you working on right now?
My current projects involve working with research and management collaborators to develop strategic, multiscale conservation and restoration approaches for increasing ecological resilience to disturbances and resistance to plant invasions in dryland regions of the western USA. Nonnative annual grass invasions and woody species expansions are resulting in larger or more severe fires and increasing the risk of conversion of native ecosystems to annual grass dominance and development of annual-grass fire cycles. The consequences are increased fire risks to communities, loss of livelihoods, and reduction of habitat for diverse plant and animal species. In upland areas our collaborative research and management projects seek to increase understanding of wildfire effects, ecosystem resilience or recovery potentials, and probabilities of transitioning to invasive annual grass dominance. We are working to develop landscape indicators of relative resilience to wildfire and resistance to invasive annual grasses, such as soil climate and water balance metrics, that can be used to prioritize management treatments in those areas where they are most likely to accrue the greatest socioeconomic and ecological benefits. We are also evaluating the effectiveness of vegetation management treatments designed to increase resilience and resistance and decrease fuels and fire risk.
In riparian areas our focus is on understanding the geomorphic sensitivity of stream systems and ecological resilience of riparian vegetation to disturbances, including wildfire, human developments, and livestock grazing. We are working to develop indicators of geomorphic sensitivity based on watershed and stream geomorphic characteristics and indicators of ecological resilience based on factors such as vegetation wetland indicator and successional status. We are developing a watershed categorization and assessment protocol that can be used to evaluate the likely responses of stream systems and riparian vegetation to disturbance (their sensitivity and resilience) and determine appropriate management strategies. Both our upland and riparian projects are developing decision-support tools and sharing products through a variety of different publications, websites, field guides, and field workshops.
What do you find most rewarding about working for your organization?
The Forest Service focuses on management of natural resources, which means that a lot of my work is conducted out-of-doors in relatively natural situations. In addition, the Forest Service emphasizes shared stewardship, or working together with partners to do the right work in the right place and at the right scale. The ability to manage our natural resources in an integrated and collaborative manner is essential for maintaining biological diversity and ecosystem services into the future, and working for an organization that advocates that approach is highly rewarding.
How long have you been a member of SER? What’s your best experience thus far?
I joined SER in 1992 and served on the first editorial board as book editor. My best experiences have been meetings and field tours. The exchange of knowledge, experiences and ideas with colleagues always provides new connections and stimulus for future work.
What was your childhood dream job?
I was raised on a small farm and used to ride my horse through the undeveloped Cold Desert shrublands near my home and fish for trout with my grandfather in nearby streams. So my dream job was always some type a position in a natural resources related field.
How did your career get started?
My first real job was as a Range Conservationist working with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. I had just received my master’s degree in Range Science and I co-led a team conducting soil and vegetation inventories.
What’s your favorite moment of your career so far?
The favorite moment of my career stemmed from a joint research and management project. My colleagues and I developed a strategic, multiscale approach for applying resilience and resistance concepts to address threats to sagebrush shrublands and a bird species of widespread conservation concern, Greater Sage-grouse. This work was used to develop fire risk assessments and multi-year programs of work by the agencies responsible for managing most of public land in the region (over 60% of the total area) and helped to prevent the listing of Greater Sage-grouse as an endangered species.
Why would you encourage others, particularly young people, to get involved in this field? Restoration ecology is a highly rewarding profession that allows you to work with a diverse set of partners and stakeholders to improve the ecological conditions of ecosystems and increase their capacity to support both biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Guilty pleasure: What can you not live without?
Dark chocolate. It is the perfect field food.
What is your favourite piece of field equipment?
My GPS and 4-wheel drive pickup. They allow me to find and access our most remote field sites.
Thank you for joining our Board of Directors, Jeanne!