Conference call

Tahoe Science Conference

Tahoe’s future depends on the choices of legislation and the decisions of the public.

Tahoe’s future depends on the choices of legislation and the decisions of the public.


For a full schedule of events at the Tahoe Science Conference, visit

In the midst of legislation that will impact the future of Lake Tahoe—such as Senate Bill 271 (“Political science,” May 3)—the basin is torn between interests and agendas. There are those who want to increase its tourism, which can manifest in two ways—ecotourism, which prioritizes the natural landscape and a “leave no trace” mentality, and tourism dependent on development, such as new buildings, hotels and housing. There are those who want to reap the benefits of the lake’s natural resources, and those who want to protect it. But the Tahoe region needs more than just business people and policy makers—it needs scientists who will predict the environmental impact of these choices.

The 2012 Tahoe Science Conference, held biennially, aims to address these challenges and discrepancies in opinion, while using science and research to drive decision making.

“What this is designed to do originally is give the researchers all working on applied research programs a chance to share their scientific findings with the management in the agencies,” says Melissa McCarthy, executive director of the Tahoe Science Consortium (TSC).

The conference, to be held at Sierra Nevada College from May 22-24, is a project of the consortium, a collaborative organization between University of California, Davis, University of Nevada, Reno, the Desert Research Institute, the U.S. Geological Survey and the USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station. This year’s theme is “Environmental restoration in a changing climate.”

“It’s a meeting of scientists and managers to find the best task to move forward, and one of the primary ones is climate change,” says Nicole Shaw, TSC program coordinator.

A series of talks and panels are scheduled for the conference, including the public policy forum on May 24, hosted by South Lake Tahoe mayor Claire Fourtier, and will feature Nevada and California secretaries of conservancy Leo Drozdoff and John Laird, local fire chiefs and other representatives from agencies.

“What they’re talking about is the challenges facing them as managers making policy and having to balance economic well being and environmental restoration,” says McCarthy. “They’re trying to figure out how to continue to protect the environment in difficult economic times. We’ll be trying to tie between science and policy.”

Other topics include sustainable urban agriculture, outcomes of forest fuel management and wildfire ecology. The conference also has an artistic component through a photography exhibit, which opens this week at Sierra Nevada College.

“We put out a call to people across the country and asked for visuals that convey a topic in environmental restoration, using photography as a tool to understand the environment,” says McCarthy. Last year, the consortium curated an exhibit of time sequence photography showing the impact of the 2007 Angora Fire.

Summaries of the panels and abstracts from research and lectures will be available on the TSC website for the public. More than 300 people are expected to attend the conference—the largest attendance since the conference began.

“We wanted to expand the participation of organizations outside of the basin, so they can learn from the science and management activities, and hopefully we can learn new things from people in different areas,” McCarthy says.