By Christine Harrison

Stanford Woods Senior Fellow Elizabeth Hadly provided a sobering view from the front lines of climate change to readers of The New York Times' Dot Earth blog last week, when she was featured as a guest writer.

Hadly has been doing fieldwork in Nepal's Himalayan highlands focused on the impact of climate change on small mammals. Prominent sustainability blogger Andrew Revkin saw her quoted about an article she co-wrote about "Earth's Tipping Point" and invited her to write the Dot Earth piece, which he calls a "stunner."

Her account describes a violent encounter in an otherwise peaceful Himalayan village. The incident was directly tied to resource depletion -- in this case, firewood used for cooking: "I witnessed firsthand the escalation of tensions that result from depleting critical resources. Was this a glimpse of civilization's past, or into our world of the future?" she wrote.

Hadly, the Paul S. and Billie Achilles Chair of Environmental Biology, credits the training she has received as a Leopold Leadership Fellow with enhancing her ability to communicate with a broader audience about her work.

The Leopold Leadership Program at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment provides outstanding academic researchers with the skills, approaches, and theoretical frameworks for translating their knowledge to action and for catalyzing change to address the world's most pressing sustainability challenges. It places a premium on developing scientists' communications skills so they can more broadly share their findings and foster dialogue about solving environmental problems.

"Although I was in Nepal to conduct research on pikas, every day there I lived as part of the Himalaya, which includes the cultural, physical and biotic environments," Hadly said. "The training was key because it taught me to view the environment differently and to speak directly about my experiences, using my own voice," she added.

The window into Hadly's work extends far beyond the Times' blog post to her Twitter feed, the website for her Lab and her team's blog on Tumblr. The interconnected communications platforms provide photographs and narrative accounts that bring the Hadly Lab's work to life.

"The Leopold training encourages fellows to seek out forms of communication about science that we might never have thought of before," Hadly said. "For example, I am using Twitter in a way that focuses my scientific perspective toward a new community. Another example is that I worked with an artist in my lab (Lily Li) to produce an illustration (see left) that we are circulating with press releases and other discussions of our Nature paper. The illustration is a perfect example to me of my Leopold training at work: that image says what the paper does in a visual way."

Christine Harrison directs communications at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.


Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Elizabeth Hadly with her colleague from NCBS Bangalore, Uma Ramakrishnan, Ph.D.