Christopher Adlam and the UC Davis 2016 Conservation Planning class
Does conservation planning now have a curriculum? Does it need a certification system?
The UC Davis Conservation Planning class of 2016 represented a sample of graduate students with diverse backgrounds in ecology, but all united by the hope of making informed decisions about the conservation of global biodiversity. In Conservation Planning: Informed Decisions for a Healthier Planet, authors Craig Groves and Edward Game provide a roadmap for how this can be achieved. For those of us steeped in research, this pragmatic decision-making manual offered a glimpse into unfamiliar fields (i.e., collaborative problem-solving, project management, and social-ecological systems). This post explores some of these Conservation Planning themes that we discussed at the conclusion of our conservation decisions class.
Several of us noted that the book was a beneficial read because it presented a solid framework to tackle problems that sometimes seem daunting or too complex. Collaboration is a necessary foundation for many conservation efforts, including those with conflicting interests. Fortunately, there is now a template for effective and efficient decision-making - Conservation Planning. This book helps expose assumptions that may be held by the decision-makers, which can also help improve conservation plans or facilitate collaboration among stakeholders. Furthermore, crafting agreements that meet everyone’s needs might be difficult, but at least a framework exists to make optimal trade-offs.
Difficult choices must sometimes be made in conservation planning, especially at the intersection of ecological and social objectives. These two domains have often been portrayed as being in unavoidable conflict, yet the framework offered by Game and Groves attempts merge these targets. Considering social-ecological systems as a whole, rather than both aspects in isolation, may lead to more creative solutions for conservation planning problems. This work therefore serves to contextualize the valuation of ecosystem services and social-cultural objectives as part of conservation.
The work of conservation planners is not the same as that of researchers, but both entities must be aware of each other. To an audience of researchers, this book was an introduction to the methods involved in planning, but also an opportunity to reflect on how to craft science that will be useful to decision-makers. To make policy-relevant science, researchers must be aware of what is going on in “the real world”. Science that is conducted without looking at the needs of conservation planners will likely go unused. Instead, we should be in touch with decision-makers and stakeholders throughout the process, although this might be challenging -- especially considering relatively short duration of research projects for graduate students.
One area of the book that was both enlightening and challenging was the array of methods that can be used at every step of the conservation planning process. There are entire schools of thought on how to plan for conservation, and the nuances between them are a little challenging to discern after reading this book. Some of the tools used by conservation planners are well explained (e.g. Miradi), while others are complex and may be intimidating to novice conservation planners. After reading Conservation Planning we wonder how the authors fared when they were just starting to practice the multi-faceted art of conservation planning, and presumably possessed more limited experience and a restricted toolbox.
The cast of characters: Chris Adlam, Mickey Agha, Alicia Bird, Rob Blenk, Eva Bush, Amy Collins, Allison Essert, Frank Fogarty, Emily Graves, Erik Grijalva, Jordan Hollarsmith, Aviv Karasov-Olson, Jennifer Metes, Jacob Montgomery, Mark Peaden, Ryan Peek, Clark Richter, Shannon Skalos, Kate Tiedeman, Eric Tymstra, Allie Weill, and Mark Schwartz
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