Should conservation ecologists learn planning, or planners learn conservation ecology in order to do effective conservation planning? I am not sure about the latter, we tried it on the former.
Over the past several years I have taught a class in Conservation Planning / Conservation Decision- Making. The audience are graduate students in conservation ecology at UC Davis. The class has looked a little different each year. In the initial two years, this was a class in the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation (OS). Matt Muir and Kristy Deiner, both finishing students at that time, helped a great deal, respectively in those two years.
For those classes, we went deep into the OS and created projects with partners while taking the training. Feedback from those classes was that these 1st and 2nd year PhD students were not yet sure where their careers were headed and this might be too deep of a dive into one framework. There were lots of positive comments – but that was the resounding theme of the comments that could improve the experience.
The subsequent two years we used a survey to discuss OS, but also Systematic Conservation Planning, Structure Decision Making, Evidence-based Conservation, Vulnerability Assessment, Scenario Planning, Climate Smart Conservation, etc. This resulted in classes where students got a library of tools, but we did not go deeply into any single tool. Subsequent qualifying exams upon which I have sat where the topic was one of these frameworks has left me unimpressed with the depth with which these were grasped, sad to say. I think that, again, students aren’t clear in their first years how much they will use these tools. Tools we don’t use become litter in our toolbox, and so it was with much of this. Nevertheless, this approach gave a broader view of the variety of lenses through which conservation practitioners view planning or decision making.
In 2016 the class read Conservation Planning Informed Decisions for a Healthier Planet by Craig Groves and Eddie Game. This book follows the latter model: a smattering of a lot of different tools, but couched within a process the authors propose, laid out chapter by chapter. This book is longer on some things (e.g., Structured decision making, Systematic conservation planning) on others (Open Standards, Evidence-based conservation),. Nevertheless, it touches upon the big ideas surrounding planning and lays out a very large toolkit for planners to use.
How did this go? Well, I had a great time. I enjoyed the class discussions immensely. The book is well-written and clear. More importantly, how did the class like it? Well enough to write a blog post about it, which will appear here later this week. Stay tuned.
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