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Erik Beever, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center Research Ecologist, Acknowledged by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

On September 8, 2021, Erik Beever was acknowledged in the 2021 Climate Adaptation Leadership Awards by receiving an honorable mention for his research about how species respond to contemporary climate change. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) sponsors the award.

 The Award

Erik Beever
Erik Beever in the Great Basin, one of his research ecosystems. (Public domain.)

Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center Research Ecologist Erik Beever was acknowledged in the 2021 Climate Adaptation Leadership Awards (CALA) virtual ceremony held on September 8, 2021 by receiving an honorable mention in the Federal Government category. “Established in 2016, each year CALA recognizes exemplary leadership by individuals, agencies, businesses, and other organizations to reduce impacts and advance adaptation of the nation's vital natural resources in a changing world” (fishwildlife.org).

Erik was acknowledged for developing and leading a large collaborative network across the country and world studying pikas. The network is one of the largest in the US to explicitly monitor and investigate how a mammal species responds to contemporary climate change at species, population, and individual levels. Erik has subsequently used that research experience and understanding as a springboard to address climate change-related topics of adaptive capacity, ecosystem transformation, niche stationarity (identifying climate-adaptation actions at management-relevant scales), and to inform research on North American porcupines and least chipmunks. As a member of the IUCN Climate Change Specialist Group, Erik works with  colleagues to answer analogous applied questions across the country and globally.

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) sponsors the award and guided the Climate Adaptation Leadership Awards Steering Committee. The committee is composed of AFWA representatives and Federal agencies including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

  • View the original Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies press release here.
  • The full list of 2021 Climate Adaptation Leadership Awardees is available here.
  • Watch the ceremony recording, here. Erik’s research program is introduced and then he briefly speaks in the video starting at about 28:15.

 

A Little More About Erik’s Research

American pika eating plants.
American pika eating plants. This is one of the species in Erik’s collaborative species climate adaptive network. (Public domain.)

Erik has spent many hours over the years in the western U.S. studying the response of American pikas to climate change. As an example of some of his findings, he and his collaborators reported that American pikas are particularly sensitive to temperature, but they can be also flexible in their habitat selection and foraging behavior to mitigate the effects of climate change. In another study in the Great Basin, Erik reported that pika abundance was sensitive to annual precipitation while occupancy was sensitive to moisture content of the snowpack. Erik along with collaborators from over 50 organizations, used over 38,000 records of American pica occurrence throughout their range, presented results showing that variability in the factors important for determining the distribution of American pikas across western North America is governed more by ecoregional (landscape) characteristics than by within-species genetic variation in response to climate. This is a surprising result, because it challenges a common assumption that genetic variation is the key to understanding variation across space and time in a species’ response to climate.

Erik has not limited his research on species response to climate change to American pikas. As an example of Erik’s research into species’ response to climate change, he and his collaborators published a 2017 literature review about behavioral flexibility of animal species globally. They found that flexibility in behaviors related  to reproduction and movement were most commonly reported in response to weather or climate variability. The authors also pointed out that some taxa, such as reptiles and amphibians, and ecosystem types (e.g., aquatic) needed more research attention, and that the vast majority of the studies were observational rather than experimental. Erik has been a lead author or co-author on other  papers that defined and explained the concept of adaptive capacity—the ability of a species to cope or adjust to conditions brought about by climate change. Migratory species, species with complex life cycles (insects that go through metamorphosis when developing from immature stages to adults in this case), ectothermic vertebrate species, and sessile species were collectively used to illustrate that the adaptive capacity framework is useful for species with different life history characteristics. To learn more about Erik’s research, check out the Publications, Science, and News tabs below.

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