Sunday, December 21, 2014


CPEL presented at AGU this year.  With over 24,000 attendees, this is by far the largest scientific conference we have attended.  AGU is an interesting meeting for a coastal lab since there are many physical processes to consider on barrier islands, in addition to biotic interactions.  We spent a lot of time at talks and posters of these physical processes (dune building, shoreline change, hydrological dynamics) and realize that as coastal scientists we need to integrate better the ecological and physical processes.  PI Julie Zinnert gave a talk on cross-scale interactions on barrier islands and analysis of ecosystem state change at the Virginia Coast Reserve over the last 30 years.  PhD student Benjamin Dows presented a poster on the controls between alternate stable states of grassland and shrubland.  In addition to papers by CPEL, VCU was represented at AGU this year with papers by PI Chris Gough (and students) and an undergraduate Environmental Studies student.  It was nice to see other VCU people at the meeting.

As a parent, it is challenging to integrate both work and family; however, most conferences are family friendly (or becoming so) by offering childcare services as well as a general acceptance of children at the conference.  While the number of children at AGU was less than we see at ESA, there were still many parents who toted along their little ones.  It was refreshing to see!  Despite such a rainy week, it was an excellent meeting with lots of motivation for shaping our future research.  It was also nice to see ex-CPEL graduates, Sheri Shiflett (post-doc at UC Riverside) and Steven Brantley (Research Scientist at Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center).  The Old Guard took AGU by storm!

Julie Zinnert and baby A at the poster session.

Ben Dows presents his poster.

The Old Guard (or part of it): Sheri Shiflett, Julie Zinnert, Donald Young, Steven Brantley

Friday, December 12, 2014

Meeting and seminar with Dr. Tony Stallins

Dr. Tony Stallins visited the Coastal Plant Ecology Lab the weekend following Thanksgiving.  It was a very enlightening visit that has stimulated a lot of ideas regarding plant species, feedbacks with physical processes, island stability, disturbance, and scale.  We will continue to pursue these ideas in our research and in an upcoming BIOL693 seminar - Cross-scale interactions.  Barrier islands are ideal systems for studying resilience theory, alternate states and thresholds because of the strong feedbacks between plants and the physical environment.  Dune building vegetation creates different types of dunes, which affects whole island level processes.  Tony's paper "Stability domains in barrier island dune systems" has been very influential in current CPEL research and discusses the role of vegetation in shaping barrier islands.  We are very grateful to Tony for taking time to meet with us and look forward to future collaboration.