Today I note the publication of an editorial by Eddie Game, myself and Andrew Knight in Conservation Letters. Andrew is the former Editor-in-chief (EiC). Eddie is the current EiC. When Andrew was at the helm and Eddie and I were associate editors we got to talking about what it means to do policy relevant conservation science. After all, the mission of Conservation Letters is to publish policy relevant science. Recognizing the role of luck and happenstance, we acknowledge that scientists often do conservation science with no notion, a vague notion, or perhaps a clear notion of how this science could become policy relevant. Often this has to do with policy windows that open up, allowing the opportunity to change how some resource is managed through international agreement, domestic law, agency policy, or managers adopting a common practice. We consider all of these to be ‘policy’ in the broad sense. Despite this, our collective impression is that our conservation science community very rarely enters a project with a mind to actively design the science to be policy relevant. Admittedly, this can be difficult. The pace of science is slow relative to the pace of policy. Science pretty much needs to be road ready by the time lawmakers address a law in order for the science to matter. Management practice may be more forgiving, waiting for the science in order to inform management practices.
Have you wandered to the California coast lately? Have you witnessed the up-close encounters with marine life, especially humpback whales? More importantly, have you pondered the ecologic benefits of what these and other visiting marine creatures leave behind? During these fall months, you have the opportunity to do all these things, and can reflect on the role of, yes, poop, in the connectivity of the web of life.
When I'm not being a graduate student, I also get to work with the folks at the Southwest Climate Science Center on our collective efforts to provide useable and useful climate science. Next week (November 2nd and 3rd), we'll be holding the Southwest Climate Summit here in Sacramento. We hope this will be a chance for folks to see all of the great work that's been going on in our region. More than that, we hope we'll get a chance to learn more about what people really need from us and our collaborators. If you're interested, please take a look at the agenda. I'll be there. I hope you will be too! If you're reading this and you're planning on attending, leave us a comment and we'll see if we can catch up with you in Sacramento!!
Wildfires in the West, especially what are being termed “mega-fires” can be terrifying and destructive events. Terms such as “environmental disaster” and “moonscape” are often heard in media reports discussing the effects of such conflagrations, further feeding such fears of fire in the West. These terms are symptomatic of a collective emotional response to wildfires. An emotional response we are encouraged to feel as small children. Perhaps the most memorable example of this indoctrination is the lovable Smoky the Bear who has been scaring children straight about wildfires since the 1940s. These stories along with dramatic images of charred trees and blackened soil reinforce the notion that burned forests are completely destroyed, essentially converted to desolate wastelands for decades to come. But what do these landscapes actually look like if we continue watching long after the smoke clears? The Rim Fire, a mega-fire started by a hunter in August of 2013, dramatically burned through the Toulumne River watershed into Yosemite National Park. The Rim Fire burned through an area approximately twice that of Lake Tahoe and is, to date, the largest wildfire in Sierra Nevada history and the third largest ever recorded in California. The fire encompasses huge swathes of land with near-total mortality of pre-fire vegetation and has undoubtedly left a huge mark on the landscape. Certainly these fires can be tragic to the people who depend on these forests for their livelihoods, but is this truly an environmental disaster?
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