Darci Palmquist

Darci Palmquist

Darci Palmquist is a senior science writer for The Nature Conservancy. Previously she served as editorial manager for nature.org, the website of The Nature Conservancy, as well as for the Conservancy's e-newsletter. She is based in Amherst, Massachusetts.



Darci's Posts

Meet the NatureNet Fellows: Stephanie Wear

Marine scientist Stephanie Wear is on a conservation mission: to save coral reefs and, at the same time, improve the lives of the people living in coastal areas.

Posted In: NatureNet Fellows
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Meet the NatureNet Fellows: Rob McDonald

Conservationists have typically viewed cities as the enemy of the environment — to embrace urban growth is akin to heresy. But that viewpoint is changing by necessity.

Posted In: NatureNet Fellows
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Cool Green Scientist: Dayna Gross

The Conservancy’s conservation manager for the Silver Creek area in Idaho is a Jill-of-all-trades and a master of opposites, blending a love for art and science, of things big and small, of being active and sitting still. Meet Dayna.

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Can Mangroves Adapt to Rising Seas?

Mangroves have had a hard-knock life, with coastal development destroying at least 35% of the world’s tidal forests in recent decades. Scientists have feared that rising seas would be the final blow. But mangroves just might be able to rise above, says a new report.

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Quick Study: What Do New Food Safety Protocols Mean For Habitat and Wildlife?

No one wants to eat a salad full of E.coli. But are new farm-based food safety practices that aim to reduce potential contamination from wildlife really helping? And what impact could these practices have on nature and wildlife?

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The Cooler: Conservation’s Identity Crisis

Teenagers go through it, mid-lifers too — the angst of figuring out who you are. In recent years even conservationists have been grappling with it. What does conservation mean in a world that will soon have 9 billion people?

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2014 NatureNet Fellowships: A Call for Conservation Scientists

The world faces unprecedented demands for food, water and energy — how can we meet these demands without exacerbating climate change and degrading natural systems? The Conservancy’s new fellowship program aims to tackle those challenges by training the conservation scientists of tomorrow.

Posted In: Science
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Cloud Computing: A Key Tool in the Fight Against Invasive Species

iMapInvasives is a cloud-based database and mapping system that tracks and monitors invasive species in real-time. It’s also a great way to get citizen-scientists and conservation volunteers involved in the fight against invasive species. And the use of the tool is spreading fast (much like an invasive species does, you might say).

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The Traveling Naturalist: Swimming with Jellyfish in Palau

Does the idea of snorkeling through a mass of pulsing jellyfish make your heart skip a beat? Our blogger found the experience of swimming with millions of jellyfish in Palau to be both fearsome and awe-inspiring.

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Quick Study: When Can Eating More Fish Actually Benefit Fish Populations and Fishermen?

What effect does consumer demand have on fish populations? If you assumed it would be negative, this case study from Nature Conservancy scientist Sheila Walsh and others might make you re-think your position.

Posted In: Marine, Science
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Cool Green Scientist: Anne Bradley

Anne Bradley is The Nature Conservancy’s forest conservation program director in New Mexico. Find out in this interview why the “sky islands” of the Jemez Mountains inspire her, why singing in bear country is a very good idea, and why conservation has always been about people’s values.

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Quick Study: How Will Climate Change Affect Irrigation of Farm Lands in U.S.?

Quick Study is just what it says — a rapid-fire look at a new conservation science study that might turn some heads.

The Study: McDonald, R. and E. Girvetz. 2013. Two challenges for U.S. irrigation due to climate change: increasing irrigated area in wet states and increasing irrigation rates in dry statesPLoS ONE 8(6): e65589. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065589.

The Questions: Climate change models forecast higher average temperatures that will cause crop-growing seasons in the United States to become hotter and drier. How will this impact the irrigation needs of agriculture in the United States? And how will farmers respond to drier conditions?

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For Some Elephants, an Uncertain — But Not Stressful — Future

In a thick pocket of acacia trees, a group of savannah elephants quietly munch leaves. Tails swing, ears flip and flap. Occasionally one scoops up a trunk full of dirt and tosses it across its face and back, to cool the hide and displace insects.

A few yards away, 3 researchers crouch in the brush, watching and filming. The setting seems peaceful and quiet, but the researchers are tensely aware: wild elephants can charge if frightened or startled. And the last thing a scientist wants is to be charged by the largest land animal in the world — especially while in pursuit of its poop.

Yes, poop.

“We needed fresh dung in order to gather DNA material,” explains grasslands ecologist Marissa Ahlering of The Nature Conservancy. But what for? While collecting dung samples from wild elephants is somewhat dangerous and far from glamorous (see video), the work has been providing useful insight into whether elephant populations in Kenya could live in proximity to people and livestock without stress.

Posted In: Africa, Science
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Quick Study: A California-Style Approach to Sustainable Fisheries

Quick Study is just what it says — a rapid-fire look at a new conservation science study that might turn some heads.

The Question(s): For decades, ocean bottom trawling has been the predominate method for catching groundfish (like flounder, halibut and sole) along the U.S. West Coast. But dragging weighted nets across the seafloor is destructive to bottom habitats and can result in large amounts of bycatch (netting of other species, including some that are ecologically valuable). Could a market-based approach to buy out trawl permits, combined with a collaborative effort to identify and protect ecologically sensitive areas, help protect species and a fishing industry?

Posted In: Fish, Quick Study, Science
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Quick Study: Do Elephants Get Stressed Out When Living Alongside People?

The Study: Ahlering, M.A., J.E. Maldonado, L.S. Eggert, R.C. Fleischer, D. Western and J. Brown. 2013. Conservation outside protected areas and the effect of human-dominated landscapes on stress hormones in savannah elephants. Conservation Biology, 27: 569–575. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12061

The Big Question: In East Africa, savannah elephants are increasingly expanding outside of protected parks and into surrounding areas where people and agriculture dominate. Do elephants experience stress when living alongside human populations — even in situations where they are not being actively poached? The answer, according to this new paper from lead author Marissa Ahlering of The Nature Conservancy and colleagues, can be found… in their poop.

Study Nuts and Bolts: The ability to measure stress hormones in wild animals has improved dramatically in the past decade with the development of fecal metabolite analysis techniques. In this study, scientists compared the levels of glucocorticoid (GC) hormone (which increases in response to stress) of elephants in a community conservation area (CCA) established by Maasai pastoralists with elephants at two nearby protected areas, Kenya’s Amboseli and Maasai Mara National Parks. The elephants in the CCA are exposed to “dense human settlements, agricultural areas, and intense livestock grazing on a daily basis,” while the elephants in the national parks are only exposed to humans through limited ecotourism and research.

To measure the stress hormone, scientists collected fresh dung samples and extracted DNA and hormone samples. The hormone samples were frozen immediately in liquid nitrogen, transferred to Nairobi for storage and then shipped overnight on dry ice to the United States where they were run through a series of metabolic analyses.

The Findings: The researchers found no evidence of chronic stress in the elephants living within the CCA. The stress levels of the CCA elephants were the same as elephants in the nearby protected area of Maasai Mara, although elephants at Amboseli exhibited lower stress than the other two groups.

What it All Means: The results surprised the researchers — they expected the elephants in the CCA to exhibit higher levels of stress due to a higher degree of contact with humans. These findings indicate that elephants can successfully live in human-dominated areas — and suggest that CCAs should be part of the solution in efforts to restore elephants to areas where illegal ivory poaching has decimated their populations.

Editor’s Note: Check back later this week for a more in-depth report on this research. 

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What is Cool Green Science?

noun 1. Blog where Nature Conservancy scientists, science writers and external experts discuss and debate how conservation can meet the challenges of a 9 billion + planet.

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