Video of Jesse’s Nierenberg Prize lecture on “Peak Human?”

In this 54″ video made 13 October 2022 Jesse Ausubel, awarded the 2022 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest, discusses whether the human species can continue to improve—much like cars, computers, or other technology—or whether our species has reached its peak.

Our paper on eDNA as bioassay of Anthropocene published

The new journal based in China, The Innovation, has published the Thaler-Ausubel-Stoeckle paper on Human and domesticated animal environmental DNA as bioassays of the Anthropocene in their “Out of the Box” category, where we like to be. We also post the pdf.

We thank Song Sun and Ke Chen for editorial assistance.

Summary: Human and domesticated animal sequences, commonly detected in environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding studies, are routinely excluded from analysis. Here we suggest that reporting human and domesticated animal eDNA results might open new lines of investigation. For example, the relative abundance of human and domesticated animal eDNA as compared to that of wild vertebrate species might provide an index of human impact on local biota. Such an index could be applied to sites ranging from urban harbors to remote villages, and possibly to analyze historical samples. Various potential sources of contamination complicate the picture, but it should be possible to develop procedures that minimize risk of DNA introduction during collection and processing. Our near-term recommendation is to encourage inclusion of human and domesticated animal data in eDNA publications as an incentive for discovery, to lift quality controls, and to collectively contribute to new vistas that eDNA science might open.

Passing of Paul Waggoner

Our great friend and colleague, agronomist Paul E. Waggoner, died on 1 November 2022 in Seattle, surrounded by family and friends.   Paul’s wrote a crisp memoir of his own life, from Appanoose to Connecticut.  Jesse offered a tribute: Thriving Thrift: On the Occasion of Paul Waggoner Appreciation Day, 2013.

Jesse and Paul first met in 1981 during the work of the Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee for which Paul wrote brilliant far-sighted chapters about “Agriculture and a climate changed by more carbon dioxide” and about “Effects of a carbon dioxide-induced climate change on water supplies in the Western United States.”  Jesse and Paul continued contact through the 1980s through the periodic seminars on climate change at Yale by William Nordhaus. 

Paul and Jesse also did most of the writing and editing for the section on Adaptation (pp. 499-657) in the 1992 NASEM report “Policy Implications of Global Warming.”

In 1992 Jesse asked Paul the question “How much land can 10 billion people spare for Nature” and this led to a superb, lengthy answer (PE Waggoner. How Much Land Can Ten Billion People Spare for Nature?  Task Force Report #121, Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, Ames IA 1994) and two decades more work on land-sparing and related issues of intensity of use of resources on land and in the sea. Paul was a universally helpful critic and editor as well as creative researcher and, perhaps most important, our best teacher about actual farming and plants.

Some papers we wrote together:

 JH Ausubel, IK Wernick, and PE Waggoner. Peak Farmland and the Prospect for Land Sparing. Population and Development Review 38 (Supplement): 217–238, 2012

Rautiainen, IK Wernick, PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel, PE Kauppi. A National and International Analysis of Changing Forest Density . PLoS ONE 6 (5): 2011

JH Ausubel, DT Crist, and PE Waggoner (eds.). First Census of Marine Life 2010: Highlights of a Decade of Discovery. CoML 2010

JH Ausubel, PE Waggoner. Dematerialization: variety, caution, and persistence . Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 105 (35): 12774–12779, 2008 10.1073/pnas.0806099105 D

PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. Quandaries of forest area, volume, biomass, and carbon explored with the forest identity . Pp. 13 pp in Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 1011 2007

PE Kauppi, JH Ausubel, J-Y Fang, AS Mather, RA Sedjo, PE Waggoner. Returning forests analyzed with forest identity . Pp. 17574–17579 in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A vol. 103, 2006 10.1073/pnas.0608343103

JH Ausubel, PE Waggoner, IK Wernick. Foresters and DNA . Pp. 13–31 in Chapter 2 in Landscapes, Genomics and Transgenic Forests pp. 2006 CG Williams (ed), Published by Kluwer, Dordrecht

JH Ausubel, IK Wernick, AM Barret, PE Waggoner. Industrial ecology for leverage to let loose less cadmium. Prog Ind Ecol 3 (6): 522–537, 2006

MY Stoeckle, PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. Barcoding Life, Illustrated: Goals, rationale, results (PDF). Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) 2005

MY Stoeckle, PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. Barcoding Life: Ten Reasons (PDF). Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) 2004 Brochure

PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. A Framework for Sustainability Science: A Renovated IPAT Identity (PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U S A 99 (12): 7860–7865, 2002  (See also a series of 6 Supplements at https://phe.rockefeller.edu/research/impact/)

PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. How Much Will Feeding More and Wealthier People Encroach on Forests?.  Population and Development Review 27 (2): 239–257, 2001

CR Frink, PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. Nitrogen on the Land: Overcoming the Worries – lifting fertilizer efficiency and preserving land for nonfarming uses Pollution Prevention Review 11 (3): 77–82, 2001

IK Wernick, PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. The Forester’s Lever: Industrial Ecology and Wood Products Journal of Forestry 98 (10): 8–14, 2000

CR Frink, PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. Nitrogen fertilizer: Retrospect and prospect. Pp. 1175–1180 in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A vol. 96, 1999

IK Wernick, PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. Searching for Leverage to Conserve Forests: The Industrial Ecology of Wood Products in the United States Journal of Industrial Ecology 1 (3): 125–145, 1997

PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel, IK Wernick. Lightening the Tread of Population on the Land: American Examples (PDF). Population and Development Review 22 (3): 531-45, 1996

Jesse Ausubel to receive 2022 Nierenberg Prize

Jesse Ausubel will be honored with the 2022 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest. This award is presented annually by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and the Nierenberg Family to honor the memory of William A. Nierenberg, an esteemed physicist and national science leader who served Scripps Oceanography as director for two decades. Previous awardees include atmospheric scientist Warren Washington, biochemist and Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna, filmmaker Sir David Attenborough, and primatologist Dame Jane Goodall, among others.

Podcast with Jesse Ausubel

Jesse reflects on decarbonization, dematerialization, land-sparing, industrial ecology, industrialization of the oceans, biological traces of fishes and of Leonardo Da Vinci, and the Seven Deadly Sins in an 83″ podcast with Robert Bryce, author of Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: and A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations.

The Podcast is also on YouTube where you get to see who sings Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

Plant and animal diversity is declining, but what about microbial diversity?

Spurred by PHE Guest Investigator and microbiologist David Thaler’s publication, “Is global microbial biodiversity increasing, decreasing, or staying the same?” , David and Jesse Ausubel co-author a 900-word essay raising the question of what’s happening to microbes in RealClear Science.