Ailene Ettinger

As an ecologist and conservation biologist, I am inspired and fascinated by the diversity of species on Earth, how species interact with their environment and other organisms, and what role we humans can play in helping them thrive. Much of my work focuses on how climate change and urbanization affect populations to ecosystems, including the benefits we  experience from nature and how those benefits are distributed. 

I have broad interests and have worked in diverse systems ranging from Pacific Northwest forests and tropical bee communities in coffee farms to urban forests, mangroves, and peatlands around the world. I use field experiments, observational monitoring, meta-analysis, and statistical models as my primary research tools, and am committed to open and inclusive data practices and research approaches.

News & Updates

February 2024: Our first publication from Greening Research In Tacoma, a community-based research initiative focused on environmental and human wellbeing effects of urban trees, is out! Check it out!

April 2023: There is a great need to incorporate climate change resilience science and practice into forest management on the ground, but research isn't always done at local scales, making this challenging. Our publication Applying climate refugia to forest management and old-growth restoration, uses remote sensing approaches to identify climate change refugia and integrate climate change adaptation with other management. 

July 2022: The timing of southern resident killer whale occurrence in the inland waters of Washington state (the central Salish Sea, near the San Juan Islands) has shifted much later in recent decades. Why? And why do phenological shifts like this matter? Read our paper on this, just out in Endangered Species Research.

April 2022: As a scientist at a conservation organization, I'd love to see more phenology research that overlaps with conservation strategies we can take to bolster climate change resilience- see more on this in the latest issue of Nature Climate Change.

September 2021: Don't forget to do the basic stats stuff you learned in your introductory stats class! In our new GCB paper, led by Lizzie Wolkovich, we show that observed declines in phenological sensitivity with warming may be a statistical artefact of fitting linear models to nonlinear processes.

July 2021: Flooding has inequitable impacts in Washington state (and elsewhere). Our study of inland flooding, led by Mathis Messager, shines a light on patterns of environmental injustice occurring at multiple scales: for example, Latinx residents comprise 8% of the state's population, but 16% of residents in flood zones.

March 2021: Climate change will cause shifts in the photoperiod that organisms experience- what are the implications of this? Check our paper in New Phytologist for more!

January 2021: Prioritizing conservation actions can be difficult; see our paper on one approach for identifying high-priority areas  for preservation and restoration to benefit coho salmon.

December 2020: Photoperiod undoubtedly affects spring phenology, but teasing out its role and how it interacts with temperature is difficult with observational data since both cues increase linearly during the spring in many temperate areas. See an interesting paper on the timing of wood growth onset and a response I wrote with Sarah Elmendorf for more on this.

October 2020: I'm excited that our paper on how temperature and photoperiod drive tree budburst is available in Nature Climate Change. Check it out and let me know what you think! If you want to learn some of the backstory, read our Behind the Paper piece and Lizzie Wolkovich's more extensive musings on the work, which is ongoing in her lab.

June 2020: I urge you to consider participating in #ShutDownAcademia#ShutDownSTEM!

April 2020: It's spring, which  is a great time to observe phenology, especially since we are all at home, social distancing. I bet there's a lot happening, even in your backyard!

October 2019: I'm thrilled to have started a new position as the Quantitative Ecologist at The Nature Conservancy in Washington state!

January 2019: Thinking about doing a field experiment to understand biological effects of climate change?  You should check out our new paper on how climate change experiments actually alter climate 

October 2018: Happy Autumn!  I always think about phenology this time of year (wait, I think about phenology all times of the year!), so now is a great time to check out our new article in AJB about how early season events affect late season events. Thank you Arnold Arboretum for being a great place to do this research!

June 2018: At the end of August, I will be moving to Seattle, where I have accepted a NRC Research Associateship to work at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center with Jameal Samhouri. I'm looking forward to being back in the Pacific Northwest, and to studying marine systems!

March 2018: I had a great time out west for the Temporal Ecology Lab's OSPREE Retreat in British Columbia- beautiful place, great people, productive work!

July 2017: The Wolkovich Lab, of which I am a (mostly) remote member, came to D.C. to work on a lab research project! It was great to see everyone in-person for a change!

March 2017: Are tree ranges likely to consistently and evenly shift up with warming? Our research says probably not, due to a switch from competitive to facilitative interactions between trees across the range. Read about it in Global Change Biology!

January 2017: Our paper on conifer regeneration in a Seattle urban forest is available at Urban Ecosystems! 

December 2016: I attended the AGU fall meeting for the first time and really enjoyed the mix of biology and physical science there! I presented our Arnold Arboretum work, written up here by science writer Ula Chrobak.

November 2016: Our paper on modelling death in orchids is available at Journal of Ecology! Sounds morbid, perhaps, but it’s not- I promise!

August 2016: I spent much of July traveling, including to my home state of Maine, where my family was so pleased to attend the dedication of a new Kennebec Land Trust preserve in memory of my mom. I didn’t get to botanize there as much as I would have liked, though...

April 2016: I thoroughly enjoyed working with other climate change biologists for our Radcliffe Exploratory Seminar on “Predicting Future Springs”!

December 2015: Happy Holidays! Among other things, I enjoyed exploring Washington, D.C. and New York City over the holidays with my family. A couple of botanical highlights of the season: 1) visiting model train exhibits at the U.S. Botanic Garden and the NY Botanic Garden- both gorgeous and the perfect places for a botanist and her train-obsessed three-year old, and 2) seeing cherry trees blooming on the national mall- a result of the wacky warm weather we had this December.

November 2015: Fall observations of phenology are winding down, and I had a chance to look at some of the phenology data collected by volunteers for the first year of the Tree Spotters program at Arnold Arboretum. Here’s a short summary available at the Temporal Ecology Lab blog

October 2015: I’m thrilled that our paper on community science was cited in a White House memo! Check out the Huffington post article, if the memo is too much for you...

September 2015: I’ve recently begun to collaborate with Andy Royle, who is my new mathematical mentor for my postdoctoral fellowship. Looking forward to learning more Bayesian hierarchical modeling techniques from him, as well as exploring the wildlife refuge where his office is located!

Contact Information:

Ailene Ettinger, PhD

Quantitative Ecologist

The Nature Conservancy, Washington