UGA to host national conference on water, drought and environmental justice

UGA to host national conference on water, drought and environmental justice

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia will host a conference called “Water-Ecosystem Services, Drought and Environmental Justice,”on Nov. 9-12.

The conference is being co-chaired by Ted Gragson, head of the department of anthropology at UGA, and Steward Pickett of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, which is in Millbrook, N.Y. It will be held at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education Conference Center and Hotel.

The conference will be sponsored by UGA, the Ecological Society of America Millennium Fund, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, the USDA Forest Service and the UGA President’s Venture Fund.

The meeting will bring together ecological and social scientists and students to explore the development of scientifically and socially sound solutions to water allocation in times of drought. The ultimate objective is to reduce conflicts among water users, enhance environmental justice and more effectively manage public responses to water scarcity.

While attendance will be primarily by invitation, live webcasts of all keynote speakers will be available at http://www.esa.org/millenniumconf/2009/index.php, the website for the conference.

“Our goal in this ESA Millennium Conference is to bridge our knowledge of the biophysical and socioeconomic processes underpinning the local-to-regional provision of water-ecosystem services,” said Gragson. “This will be the basis for analyzing the mechanisms for managing socio-ecologic vulnerability to drought in order to enhance environmental justice. Many significant questions will be addressed during the conference.”

Ecology has the tools and methods needed to measure and predict the impacts of drought on ecosystem services related to water and in turn to help analyze the magnitude and social distribution of those impacts, conference organizers said. They noted that social science can provide tools to understand how human institutions affect and respond to drought.

While the combined knowledge and approaches of ecology and social sciences are required to solve the increasingly pressing problem of drought, said Gragson, the two disciplines have pursued the research on drought largely independently. Understanding the implications of drought for water and other related ecosystem services is key to effective forecasting and education about the role of drought in socio-ecological systems, he said.

For further information, contact Aleta Wiley, Science Program assistant at ESA, 202/833-8773, ext. 218 or aleta@esa.org.