On the Road to ESA: A Q&A with Case Studies in the Environment Section Editor Cynthia Wei

Cynthia Wei is a Section Editor for the Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation section of UC Press’s new peer-reviewed journal, Case Studies in the Environment, as well as Associate Director of Education at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), based in Annapolis, Maryland.

We caught up with Cynthia as she made her way to the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), held this year in Portland, Oregon.

Cynthia Wei, Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation Section Editor

Cynthia, not only are you a Section Editor for an environmental journal which takes a case study approach, but you also developed and lead SESYNC’s short course, Teaching Socio-Environmental Synthesis with Case Studies. What is your background and how did that lead to an interest in case studies?

Cynthia: My background is in animal behavior, and when I used to tell people about my research on honeybees and birds, I found it easy to engage with non-scientists about what I did. But inevitably, the conversation would circle around to the question: “So how does your work help humans?” With some degree of exasperation, I’d often shrug and say: “Why does everything have to be about humans?!” I would have a different response now as I’ve come to realize that the human dimension is inescapable; we are hard-pressed to think of an environmental issue, ecosystem, or species that is not influenced by humans in some substantive way. These days, my work focuses more on helping students to learn about the relationships between humans and nature, particularly through the use of environmental case studies in the classroom. For me, case studies are a natural fit for teaching in the environmental arena. Understanding and addressing environmental problems involves many complex, abstract theories and concepts, and case studies help students to learn these by providing detailed examples that tangibly illustrate these difficult ideas. Furthermore, the problems presented in cases are often very compelling to students.

Why are case studies important for ecology?

Cynthia: As an experimental biologist, as many ecologists are, the concept of publishing a case study was somewhat foreign to me, and the idea of publishing a single example of a phenomenon ran counter to my trained instincts (i.e. that’s an anecdote!) However, like natural history monographs, I think there is great value in publishing research-based, detailed descriptions of a single subject, event, or issue. Because environmental problems are often deeply complex and require a systems perspective, case studies illuminate the roles and relationships between various factors in a socio-environmental system or problem in a detailed, nuanced way. Thus, case studies that can illustrate the roles of ecological factors and their relationship to other factors in a system are important for helping us understand and address a particular environmental problem involving that system.

Would you encourage ecologists to submit their own case studies to Case Studies in the Environment?

Cynthia: Absolutely! In the section that I am responsible for (along with Martha Groom, University of Washington, and Tuyeni Mwampamba, UNAM) we have already published some interesting case studies, including material on Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco, a dry tropical forest reserve in Ecuador; on an Australian woodland rehabilitation project; and an analysis of a massive data set on human-bear conflicts in New Jersey; with additional case studies coming soon on an eco-hotel in Costa Rica and on environmental justice, indigenous peoples, and development in British Columbia. I would encourage any colleagues at ESA to talk with me about case studies (you can likely find me at the SESYNC booth in the exhibit hall), or to get in touch via the journal at cse@ucpress.edu.


Case Studies in the Environment is a journal of peer-reviewed case study articles, case study pedagogy articles, and a repository for editor-reviewed case study slides. The journal aims to inform faculty, students, educators, professionals, and policymakers on case studies and best practices in the environmental sciences and studies.

Through December 31, 2017, all Case Studies in the Environment content is available free. To learn more about the journal, including guidelines for prospective authors, please visit cse.ucpress.edu.


7 New #OpenAccess Articles from Elementa

An open access scientific journal, Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene’s mission is Open Science for Public Good. With the ultimate objective of publishing original research that accelerates solutions to challenges presented by this era of human impact, Elementa is uniquely structured into six distinct knowledge domains, led by six Editors-in-Chief.

Check out 7 new #OpenAccess articles from Elementa, and consider becoming an Elementa author! Visit elementascience.org to see Calls for Papers from each knowledge domain.

Major impact of climate change on deep-sea benthic ecosystems
Andrew K. Sweetman, et al.
Domains: Earth & Environmental Science, Ecology, Ocean Science

Analysis of local-scale background concentrations of methane and other gas-phase species in the Marcellus Shale
J. Douglas Goetz, et al.
Domain: Atmospheric Science
(Part of a Forum: Oil and Natural Gas Development: Air Quality, Climate Science, and Policy)

Scape goats, silver bullets, and other pitfalls in the path to sustainability
D. G. Webster
Domain: Sustainability Transitions
(Part of a Special Feature: Envisioning Sustainable Transitions)

Legacies of stream channel modification revealed using General Land Office surveys, with implications for water temperature and aquatic life
Seth M. White, et al.
Domain: Ecology

Leveraging agroecology for solutions in food, energy, and water
Marcia DeLonge, Andrea Basche
Domain: Sustainability Transitions
(Part of a Forum: Food-energy-water systems: Opportunities at the nexus)

Ten-year chemical signatures associated with long-range transport observed in the free troposphere over the central North Atlantic
B. Zhang, et al.
Domain: Atmospheric Science

Want to browse more recent content from ElementaClick here for recently published articles, and follow Elementa on Facebook and @elementascience for the latest updates.

Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene Call for Papers: Ecology

We invite you to submit your next paper to the Ecology domain of Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, a trans-disciplinary, open-access journal whose mission is Open Science for the Public Good.

Elementa publishes original research with the ultimate objective of accelerating scientific solutions to the challenges presented by this era of human impact. Structured into six distinct knowledge domains, the Ecology domain will consider research centered on the ways in which humans are intentionally and unintentionally altering the conditions for life on Earth and the resulting ecological implications. These anthropogenic effects manifest at molecular levels and can cascade into physiological, population, community, ecosystem, landscape and global responses. Elementa will report new breakthroughs across these levels of ecological organization as well as for all domains of life.

For the full Aims & Scope of the Ecology domain, please click here.

In addition to innovative features including a value-sharing business model and an article-promotion partnership with Kudos, Elementa articles are highly used and downloaded (see highlighted articles below). For the full Elementa story, visit our website at elementascience.org.

For Elementa news and updates, be sure to follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

There has never been a more important time to ensure that transparent, evidence-based, peer-reviewed research has the widest and most impactful dissemination as possible. Please consider submitting your ecological science papers to Elementa or developing a Special Feature or Forum, and feel free to get in touch with Donald R. Zak, University of Michigan, Editor in Chief for Ecology, should you have any questions.

Recent Special Features from the Ecology domain

New approaches to understanding urban aquatic ecosystems

High-impact Ecology content from Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 

(All metrics from March 23, 2017)

Warming, soil moisture, and loss of snow increase Bromus tectorum’s population growth rate
Compagnoni A, Adler PB. 2014.
Total usage: 23,947 views/downloads since original publication on Jan 08, 2014

Quantifying flooding regime in floodplain forests to guide river restoration
Marks CO, Nislow KH, Magilligan FJ. 2014.
Total usage: 21,709 views/downloads since original publication on Sep 03, 2014

Biotic impoverishment
Naeem S. 2013.
Total usage: 20,328 views/downloads since original publication on Dec 04, 2013

Towards a general theory of biodiversity for the Anthropocene
Cardinale BJ. 2013.
Total usage: 17,863 views/downloads since original publication on Dec 04, 2013

UC Press Wins AAP PROSE Awards + Design Recognition from the AAUP

UC Press is proud to announce and congratulate recipients of this week’s Association of American Publishers‘ 2017 PROSE Awards, as well as the honorees of the Association of American University Press‘ 2017 Book, Jacket, and Journal Show.

About the PROSE Awards:

“The PROSE Awards annually recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in 53 categories.

Judged by peer publishers, librarians, and medical professionals since 1976, the PROSE Awards are extraordinary for their breadth and depth.”



Ecosystems of California

Edited by Harold Mooney and Erika Zaveleta






Collabra: Psychology

Editors Simine Vazire, Rolf Zwaan and Don Moore



About the AAUP 2017 Book, Jacket, & Journal Show:

“Judging for the 2017 Book, Jacket, and Journal Show took place January 26-27 at the AAUP Central Office in New York City.  This year, 241 books, 2 Journals and 320 jacket and cover designs were submitted for a total of 563 entries.  The jurors carefully selected 50 books and 50 jackets and covers as the very best examples from this pool of excellent design.

The 2017 Book, Jacket, and Journal Show will premiere at the AAUP Annual Meeting in Austin, June 11-13, 2017. Afterward, the show will be exhibited at member presses around the country from September 2017 through May 2018. Forms to request the show for exhibit at your campus or institution will be available in the summer.”


Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

Designer: Lia Tjandra

Production Coordinator: Angela Chen

Acquiring Editor: Niels Hooper

Project Editor: Dore Brown



The Principia by Isaac Newton, translated by Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman

Designer: Lia Tjandra

Production Coordinator: Angela Chen

Art Director: Lia Tjandra



Three Knowledge Domains Explore Geoengineering

kd-sustainable-engineering@2x kd-earth-environmental-science@2x kd-ecology@2x

“As a discipline, geoengineering is even younger than the Anthropocene and knowledge is scant.”

Having arrived at the Anthropocene by accident, humans now have conscious and intentional decisions to make that will determine the state and fate of the planet and everything on it. Geoengineering – the coaxing of the earth’s physical and natural systems at very large scales for the purpose of countering climate change – is full of such questions. Should it be done? Who should do it? When is it appropriate? How should it be done? How much will it cost? What are the consequences? As a discipline, geoengineering is even younger than the Anthropocene and knowledge is scant. Just knowing where to begin is a challenge. But begin we must, and three separate Commentaries recently published in Elementa are helping to launch the thousands of science and engineering inquiries that must follow.

Columbia University’s Wally Broecker makes a case for carbon capture and sequestration in ‘Does air capture constitute a viable backstop against a bad CO2 trip?’ Answering his own question in the affirmative, Broecker describes the technology, at global scale, that could meet the anticipated need while also addressing many of the most serious criticisms likely to surface in response.

In ‘Geoengineering Redivivus‘, Brad Allenby from Arizona State University challenges us to think beyond the “reductionist frameworks that pull climate change out of the complex network of systems within which it resides.” Indeed, even thinking of these systems as being reversible may be a mistake. As we begin to consider geoengineering then – and Allenby notes that there are actually many more options that could fall under the geoengineering umbrella than have been considered up to this point – we will have to extend discourse across disciplines and develop a level of analytical sophistication among them that is not currently present within them.

Finally, the University of Alaska – Fairbanks’ Stuart Chapin and Stanford University’s Erica Fernandez urge their colleagues to practice ‘Proactive ecology for the Anthropocene.’ Now in an epoch where others openly discuss geoengineering, Chapin and Fernandez advocate for “a shift in ecology and other disciplines to a more proactive leadership role in defining problems and possibilities in a rapidly changing world rather than being relegated to a reactive role of trying to fix the problems.”

These perspectives offer a valuable contribution to the topic of geonengineering, and help to fuse together discussions between scientists and technologists in their approach to finding new ways to mitigate and adapt to global change.

Why should authors publish with Elementa? Ecology Associate Editor Jessica Hellmann provides insights…


“Researchers should publish in Elementa if they want their work to have the seal of scientific approval – of peer review – and they want their work to reach as many potential users and consumers as possible.”


Please tell us a little bit about your position at the University of Notre Dame and your areas of research.

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame. I also lead the Climate Change Research Program in the Environmental Change Initiative, an interdisciplinary institute at Notre Dame focused on “science serving society.” My long-term research interest–and the foundation of my research program–is organismal biology and ecology. My students and I study how climate and other human-caused environmental change affects species and ecosystems. We also work hard to see our science used to design sound strategies for managing nature. I also engage in research involving climate science, political science, and economics. For example, members of my group are studying how to make better climate models for local and regional resource planning. And we are building innovative tools for climate change adaptation including an index that ranks countries for how prepared they are to deal with climate change and an online community where researchers and managers can design management strategies for climate change.


Why did you decide to become an Associate Editor for Elementa’s Ecology domain?

I decided to join Elementa on the advice of its fearless Ecology leader, Don Zak. I knew when Dr. Zak was joining the project that the journal would be well-managed and its objectives were well-crafted. The editorial board in ecology also is very strong, and I’m honored to be in good company.


Why do you believe research surrounding human/nature interactions within the epoch of the Anthropocene to be of significance?

We are living in an era of unprecedented change. Some of this change is positive, extending human life and expanding our understanding of the universe, for example. But some of the change has dangerous side effects, undermining the fabric of life on which humanity depends. It is difficult to know which solutions can reduce the side effects, which insights are the ones to convert side effects into sources of good. We need to stimulate research in many directions and provide new ways of putting that science in the hands of people who need it. I’m not so naive as to think that science alone can solve all of humanity’s challenges, but I do know that it’s an essential ingredient.


Are you an advocate of open access?  If so, why?

I think that open access can be important and transformative when done well. We need scientific information that is accessible in all corners of the world, in the places where innovators need insight to take action. But we also need to make sure that information is well-vetted and up to the standards of modern science. In this era of social networking and widespread Internet distribution of information–and disinformation–we need venues that are both accessible *and* trustworthy.


Do you think it is important that Elementa is a nonprofit publication?  If so, why?

The fact that Elementa is non-profit helps it achieve the virtues of open access, broad accessibility and high quality. A number of for-profit entities have blazed the trail of open access, but now is the time for a non-profit, community-driven venue that is open access.


Why do you think researchers should consider publishing in Elementa?

Researchers should publish in Elementa if they want their work to have the seal of scientific approval – of peer review – and they want their work to reach as many potential users and consumers as possible.