The first 5 years of the GCP partnership have been very productive, and our partnership has seen many collaborative successes. We are building on that momentum by adding a new member to our GCP team, and continuing the transition of Cynthia Kallio-Edwards’ responsibilities in science and coordination.
I am pleased to announce and introduce Benjamin Kahler as the new Science Coordinator for the Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative. Ben will be joining us at the National Wetland Research Center in Lafayette, Louisiana by mid-August, bringing us the added element of technical expertise in modeling and landscape conservation design.
Ben brings more than ten years of modelling and spatial analysis experience to the LCC. He comes to us from the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture, where he worked with partners to design research and monitoring efforts, and created decision-support tools to deliver habitat restoration, enhancement, and protection objectives that achieve population goals for birds in the Midwest. He earned a B.S. in natural resource management and a B.A. in anthropology from The Ohio State University before serving in the U.S. Peace Corps in Vanuatu. There, he collaborated with private landowners and government agencies to strengthen food and livelihood security in rural communities, and to establish the country’s largest land management area. Returning to Ohio State after his service, he earned a Master of Science studying landscape habitat associations of breeding rails and bitterns. Whether in the field with farmers and land managers, or in the office with scientists and landscape planners, Ben has a passion for working with others to lead and facilitate change towards a shared vision. When he’s not building predictive spatial models or answering emails, you can find him with his wife, Jessica, engaging their two young children by encouraging their sense of wonder, creativity, and independence, and answering the question “why” for the umpteenth time.
With the addition of Ben, we are well positioned for the future to expand our Science efforts; Cynthia Kallio-Edwards, our Science Coordinator since 2013, will be continuing on the team. Cynthia’s role will expand, as she will not only be mentoring Ben, but working with me side-by-side to ensure the GCP LCC is well aligned with Southeastern LCCs (especially the GCPO LCC), the Southwest LCCs (Great Plains and Desert), and the Gulf Coast partnerships. She will also be providing strong coordination and support for our Steering Committee.
In a landscape that includes the complexities of the Gulf Coast (Deepwater Horizon, RESTORE ACT, and Restore Council), expanding bi-national efforts with Mexico, and ongoing water and landscape pressures in our rapidly urbanizing southern plains (not to mention the southern migration corridor for monarchs), Cynthia’s agricultural economics education and experience will be important. As the GCP moves toward cultivating conservation through integration of human dimensions and ecosystem services, Cynthia will continue to be a valued leader.
In closing -- I am very optimistic about our future; we are well positioned with strong science support and am looking forward to our next steps in GCP LCC conservation.