My early career focused on testing hypotheses derived from fundamental ecological theory in marine and stream ecosystems. Given dramatic declines in the health of these, by the late 1990’s I began working closely with natural resource managers to better understand how my research could contribute to the conservation and restoration of running-water systems. This ultimately led me in 2010 to propose creation of a National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) which now serves the broad community of social, natural, and computational scholars, policy makers, business leaders, and other stakeholders in co-developing solutions to difficult problems at the interface of humans and nature. At SESYNC, I am leading efforts to: use novel approaches for accelerating progress by the highly heterogeneous, transdisciplinary teams we serve; advance the science of team science; and, enhance the computational and cyber skills of scholars.
Aside from my current work with the SESYNC community and my lab group’s research, I remain very active in working with nonprofits to provide scientific input on the impact of coal mining on running-water systems in the Appalachians and in Alaska and, most recently how to restore mined lands and their streams.
MARGARET A. PALMER is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, and director of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center. Her research has focused on coastal and freshwater ecosystems with an emphasis on restoration of rivers, streams, and wetlands. She is an international leader in restoration ecology, has > 150 peer-reviewed articles and co-edited Foundations of Restoration Ecology, a widely used text that is in its second edition. Palmer is also known for her work at the interface of science and policy, having served as a technical advisor and as an innovator that helps build solution-focused teams to solve problems that have social, legal, policy, and scientific aspects. She co-designed and now directs a unique national synthesis center (SESYNC) that has championed new approaches to fostering research collaborations between social and natural scientists on problems at the interface of people and the environment. Palmer’s work has been supported primarily by the National Science Foundation with additional funding from other federal agencies and foundations. She serves on numerous scientific advisory and editorial boards including Conservation International, the Water Sciences & Technology Board of the National Academies of Science and the journals Restoration Ecology and Science. Her awards include AAAS Fellow, Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, Ecological Society of America (ESA) Fellow, Lilly Fellow, the Society of Freshwater Science (SFS) Award of Excellence, the ESA Sustainability Science Award, SFS Fellow, and the Ruth Patrick Award from the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography. She has been an invited speaker in numerous and diverse settings including regional and international forums, science-diplomacy venues (e.g., in North Korea), and popular outlets such as the Colbert Report.