1 Tahrcountry Musings: November 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

For all those wanna be conservationists who did not make it

Conservation Biology through the Lens of a Career in Salmon Conservation


Conservation Biology

Volume 25, Issue 6, pages 1075–1079December 2011
Article first published online: 9 NOV 2011

Here is a very interesting and thought provoking paper. It is for conservationists and wanna be conservationists who did not make it. What I immensely liked about the paper is the fact that it drives home the point that it is never too late to pursue your childhood dreams.

According to the author what is described here are the personal reflections on the state of the field and thoughts on a potential way forward for conservation biology from a grant maker who came to conservation science late and from an unusual starting point.

The author starts his paper like this In primary school, I fell in love with a drop of pond water under the microscope and from then on thought I would grow up to be a biologist. Somewhere I lost my way and ended up a businessman. I cannot remember exactly how it happened, but eventually I was trained in what is known as the Catholic church of capitalism, Harvard Business School, and then capitalism's U.S. Marine Corps, McKinsey & Company, the management consulting firm. After McKinsey, my partners and I started or acquired several well-known internet companies, which prospered despite market ups and downs.
When we sold the companies in 2001, however, I had a crisis of identity and meaning. I knew I did not want to start another company, but after many years of intense focus on business, I no longer really knew what was important to me.
I stumbled into helping some friends at The Nature Conservancy, who had just acquired Palmyra Atoll and needed assistance with financial modeling of the Conservancy's future science and conservation operations for the atoll. Palmyra is a remarkable jewel in the middle of the Pacific, with a mostly intact terrestrial and marine ecosystem. Working in this incredible environment helped reawaken my childhood fascination with biology and rediscover the wonder of a well-functioning ecosystem. I also learned that analytical and economic skills could be useful tools in leading conservation projects. My work with The Nature Conservancy led to a role with the newly formed Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, which had funded part of the Palmyra project, where I was asked to help set up their new wild salmon ecosystems initiative. And so began my new life as conservation professional.”

Read the rest of the paper in Conservation Biology. It is available free there

Monday, November 28, 2011

People's attitudes towards parks, wildlife tourism and park management.

Local residents’ perception of benefits and losses from living around protected areas in India and Nepal
Krithi K. Karanth • Sanjay K. Nepal
Environmental Management
DOI 10.1007/s00267-011-9778-1

Here is an interesting paper that looks at people's attitudes towards parks, wildlife tourism and park management. The paper offers interesting insights to improving conservation and park management policies.

The researchers say overall, local residents value the existence of Protected Areas despite incurring losses from crop and property damage and livestock predation. However the attitudes of the locals to towards PA staff pose a major challenge to implementing conservation strategies.

Another interesting observation is that local residents generally perceived little benefit from the rapidly growing wildlife tourism in PAs. Top-down management efforts that assume the same factors are relevant across all PAs are likely to be less successful than management efforts tailored to individual places.

On the whole this is a very interesting paper. Recommended reading for wildlife managers.

I thank Dr Ullas Karanth for being gracious enough to send me a copy of the paper

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The battle for survival goes mobile

News release from IUCN

              UK wildlife charity and IUCN Red List Partner, Wildscreen, has released a new threatened species gaming app to inspire the conservationists of tomorrow. Designed to spark children's curiosity for the natural world and raise awareness amongst young people about the world’s most threatened animals, ‘Survival’ is packed full of stunning wildlife imagery and fascinating facts about the threatened species.

Did you know, for example, that the blue whale has a heart the size of car? Or that polar bear skin is actually black? These and other intriguing facts await discovery in this immersive, interactive and educational mobile game. Kids (and adults!) can have a whale of a time as they race against the clock to tap, pinch, drag, scroll and swipe their way through a series of mini-games that test four key survival skills: speed, agility, endurance and intelligence, whilst learning about the world’s threatened species.

Wildscreen works to promote a greater public appreciation of the world’s biodiversity and the conservation of nature, through the power of wildlife imagery. Wildscreen’s flagship initiative, ARKive is a unique online collection of the very best films and photographs of the world’s wildlife, providing a stunning audio-visual record of life on Earth, freely accessible to all.

Richard Edwards, Wildscreen Chief Executive, said: “Wildscreen's mission is to use the power of wildlife imagery to inspire us all to appreciate, value and protect our natural world. We are always exploring new and innovative ways of reaching greater audiences, and by launching the Survival gaming app, on both iOS and Android platforms, we're looking to reach the younger generation and inspire the conservationists and environmental stewards of tomorrow.”

By bringing the natural world to young people on the platforms in which they are most comfortable and familiar, Wildscreen hopes to entertain and educate the next generation of conservationists. "What a brilliant idea! It's a fun way to learn about endangered species - though I have to admit I was too slow to beat my eight-year-old goddaughter." Mark Carwardine, Zoologist and wildlife TV presenter.

And the learning doesn’t stop there. Children are encouraged to continue their learning journeys on the ARKive website, which is packed full of over 14,000 multimedia species profiles containing fascinating animal and plant fact files, over 80,000 photos and videos and engaging and fun educational activities and resources for all ages.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fine-tuning preparations of ecological connectivity maps

Toward Best Practices for Developing Regional Connectivity Maps
Conservation Biology
Volume 25, Issue 5, pages 879–892, October 2011

Prerequisites needed by people involved in ecological connectivity works are, coarse-grained maps to serve as decision-support tools or vision statements and fine-grained maps to prescribe site-specific interventions. Research has by and large focused on fine-grained maps (linkage designs) covering small areas.

Here the researchers devised 7 steps to coarsely map dozens to hundreds of linkages over a large area, such as a nation, province, or ecoregion. They provide recommendations on how to perform each step on the basis of their experiences with 6 projects: California Missing Linkages (2001), Arizona Wildlife Linkage Assessment (2006), California Essential Habitat Connectivity (2010), Two Countries, One Forest (northeastern United States and southeastern Canada) (2010), Washington State Connected Landscapes (2010), and the Bhutan Biological Corridor Complex (2010).

The researchers say the 2 most difficult steps are mapping natural landscape blocks (areas whose conservation value derives from the species and ecological processes within them) and determining which pairs of blocks can feasibly be connected in a way that promotes conservation.

The researchers point out that decision rules for mapping natural landscape blocks and determining which pairs of blocks to connect must reflect not only technical criteria, but also the values and priorities of stakeholders. They recommend blocks be mapped on the basis of a combination of naturalness, protection status, linear barriers, and habitat quality for selected species. They describe manual and automated procedures to identify currently functioning or restorable linkages. Once pairs of blocks have been identified, linkage polygons can be mapped by least-cost modeling, other approaches from graph theory, or individual-based movement models. The approaches the researchers outline make assumptions explicit, have outputs that can be improved as underlying data are improved, and help implementers focus strictly on ecological connectivity.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Discovery - The only orchid known to consistently flower at night

Dutch researcher, Ed de Vogel, on an expedition to New Britain, an island near Papua New Guinea has discovered a new orchid, Bulbophyllum  nocturnum, the first known species of orchid that exclusively flowers at night.

The remarkable flowers open a few hours after dusk and remain open until a few hours after sunrise.

The findings appear in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.

Attempts to forge an artificial consensus among conservationists may be counterproductive

Value Plurality among Conservation Professionals
Conservation Biology
Volume 25, Issue 2, pages 285–294, April 2011

Here is a very interesting paper that I read  recently. The authors emphasize the practical importance of plurality among conservation professionals.

The authors’ start off saying debate on the values that underpin conservation science is rarely based on empirical analysis of the values conservation professionals actually hold.

The researchers used Q methodology to investigate the values held by international conservation professionals who attended the annual Student Conference in Conservation Science at the University of Cambridge (U.K.) in 2008 and 2009. The Q methodology offers a quantitative means of examining human subjectivity. It differs from standard opinion surveys. Here the individual respondents record the way they feel about statements relative to other statements, which forces them to focus their attention on the issues they believe are most important. The analysis takes in the diverse viewpoints of the respondents. Factor analysis is used to reduce the viewpoints to a smaller set of factors that reflect shared ways of thinking.

 The researchers say the junior conservation professionals attending the conference did not share a unifying set of core values. They clearly held a complex series of ideas and a plurality of opinions about conservation and how it should be pursued. The researchers conclude that this diversity of values empirically challenges recent proposals for conservation professionals to unite behind a single philosophy. Attempts to forge an artificial consensus may be counterproductive to the overall goals conservation professionals are pursuing.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A right to grow up in a wildlife-rich environment

 I read this excellent article titled "A right to grow up in a wildlife-rich environment" in Scottish Wildlife Trust news.

The article starts with this sentence"Wildlife is important to everyone, whether they realize it or not. Regular access to a wildlife-rich environment has been proven to reduce rates of obesity, heart disease, depression and even short-sightedness". Read the full article HERE

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Recommendation

Cumulative Effects in Wildlife Management: Impact Mitigation
Editor(s):  Paul R Krausman, Lisa K. Harris

 Here is a good book for wildlife managers. The authors say without a conscious knowledge of what is happening around us, we will not be able to incorporate an effective land ethic, and natural resources will be the ultimate loser.

The main features of the book are
  • Addresses efforts to mitigate impacts of human activities on wildlife and wildlife habitats
  • Explains environmental assessment processes, monitoring frameworks, and strategic land use planning
  • Concludes each chapter with a case study demonstrating cumulative effects on wildlife populations
  • Presents research on cumulative effects across both spatial and temporal dimensions
  • Integrates wildlife population distribution and abundance in the context of human modified landscapes   ISBN:   9781439809167     ISBN 10:  143980916X
    Publication Date:  March 09, 2011
    Number of Pages:  288

Friday, November 18, 2011

A never-before-seen footage of protected marine life caught as bycatch and then killed

A video that speaks louder than words
On slow connections the video might take couple of minutes to load 

Carnivores and the relevance of food quality

Is food quality important for carnivores? The case of Puma concolor

Gómez-Ortiz, Yurianna Monroy-Vilchis, Octavio,Fajardo, Víctor, Mendoza, Germán DUrios, Vicente

Animal Biology, Volume 61, Number 3, 2011 , pp. 277-288(12)

Here an attempt is made to assess the importance of food quality for carnivores. The researchers analyzed the composition and energetic content of puma (Puma concolor) diet in Sierra Nanchititla Natural Reserve (SNNR), Mexico. They collected 183 scats, where 27 components were identified by occurrence (88.07% mammals).

The major composition of puma's diet was armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus, 40.33%), white-nosed coati (Nasua narica, 11.93%) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus, 6.17%).

Energetic analysis of prey indicated that the puma shows a preference for diet with higher energetic content (kcal/kg). The prey with the most energetic content is armadillo (2398.70 kcal/kg). Next came white-nosed coati (2225.25 kcal/kg) followed by white-tailed deer (2165.52 kcal/kg).

The researchers say the differences in energetic content between prey species were statistically significant. The number of individuals’ killed/year on average to support a puma was 51 armadillos, 16 white-tailed deer and 7 white-nosed coatis.

 The results clearly indicate a preference by Pumas for prey that provides more kilocalories and it has management implications.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Landscape level conservation - Need for multispecies framework

A Multispecies Framework for Landscape Conservation Planning
Conservation Biology  Volume 25, Issue 5, pages 1010–1021

 Landscapes across the world are changing rapidly. This emphasizes the need for quantitative methods for conservation assessment and planning.

Here the researchers devised and tested a multi-species framework for conservation planning to complement single-species assessments and ecosystem-level approaches.

Their framework consisted of 4 elements
1) Sampling to effectively estimate population parameters.
2) Measuring how human activity affects landscapes at multiple scales
3) Analyzing the relation between landscape characteristics.
4) Individual species occurrences, and evaluating and comparing the responses of multiple species to landscape modification.

The researchers applied the approach to a community of terrestrial birds across 25,000 km2 with a range of intensities of human development. The researchers say human modification of land cover, road density, and other elements of the landscape, measured at multiple spatial extents, had large effects on occupancy of the 67 species studied.

Forest composition within 1 km of points had a strong effect on occupancy of many species and a range of negative, intermediate, and positive associations. Road density within 1 km of points, percent evergreen forest within 300 m, and distance from patch edge were also strongly associated with occupancy for many species.

The researchers used the occupancy results to group species into 11 guilds that shared patterns of association with landscape characteristics. They say their multi-species approach to conservation planning allowed them to quantify the trade-offs of different scenarios of land-cover change in terms of species occupancy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bridging the gap between biology and engineering.

Dr Rolf Müller, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech is an exponent of bridging the gap between biology and engineering. His research is focused on getting to know how biological sensory systems can achieve their best performances.    His latest research is another step in this direction and it has uncovered the acoustic effect of non-rigid ear deformations in bats. His associates are Li Gao of Shandong, China, a Ph.D. student with Müller, Sreenath Balakrishnan of Thrissur, Kerala, India, a master's candidate with Virginia Tech's Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Weikai He and Zhen Yan, of the School of Physics at Shandong University.

The researchers discovered that within one tenth of a second, certain bats are able to change the shape of their outer ear from one extreme configuration to another in order to fine-tune their hearing. In about 100 milliseconds certain bats can alter their ear shape significantly in ways that would suit different acoustic sensing tasks. By way of contrast a human blink of an eye takes two to three times as long. Using computer analysis of the deforming shapes, the researchers found that the ultrasonic hearing spotlights associated with the different ear configurations could suit different hearing tasks performed by the animals.

Journal reference
Ear Deformations Give Bats a Physical Mechanism for Fast Adaptation of Ultrasonic Beam Patterns
Li Gao, Sreenath Balakrishnan, Weikai He, Zhen Yan, and Rolf Müller
Phys. Rev. Lett. 107, 214301 (2011) – Published November 14, 2011

Great news from Ireland - Eurasian Cranes sighted 300 years after presumed extinct

Here is something that is sure to warm the cockles of the heart of wildlife enthusiasts round the world. I got the info from my Ireland contacts.300 years after they became extinct in Ireland,  a flock of 15 Eurasian Cranes has been sighted. The sighting was over Castle town roche, north Cork.

Cranes have not bred in Ireland since the early 18th century. The bird breeds across northern Europe, Russia and the Ukraine.

Eurasian crane has spiritual significance in Irish lore. Druids, a member of the priestly class during the Iron Age, believed in transmigration of the soul and the cranes were believed to carry the spirits of the dead. Irish name for the crane “corr” is found in hundreds of place names across Ireland.

Conservationists in Ireland believe that restoration of breeding population in Ireland is possible on restored peatland and wet meadows. They are obviously very excited.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Photographic capture–recapture sampling in elephants

Optimizing individual identification and survey effort for Photographic capture–recapture sampling of species with temporally variable morphological traits
V. R. Goswami, M. V. Lauretta, M. D. Madhusudan& K. U. Karanth
Animal Conservation. Print ISSN 1367-9430

Here is a good paper on ‘Photographic capture–recapture sampling’ in elephants.

Reliable monitoring of endangered large mammal populations’ is very important in devising appropriate conservation strategies. Against this backdrop Photographic capture–recapture (CR) techniques have opened up exciting new windows for population monitoring of individually recognizable large mammal species.

The authors of this paper say efficient application of CR techniques can be constrained by challenges in reliably identifying individuals arising from the use of multiple, and potentially variable traits, as well as issues of temporal sampling of populations in the field. They address these key problems by describing an automated process of rapidly identifying individual Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) from photographs, and comparing resultant CR-based population parameter estimates with those obtained using supervised visual identification of individuals. They also assess the temporal effort necessary for robust estimation of demographic parameters in the study of population.

Morphological traits that maintain constancy over time, including variations in tusk characteristics, and ear fold and lobe shape, proved the most reliable for individual identification and subsequent estimation of population parameters. The use of temporally variable traits contributed to high probabilities of misidentification and biased estimates of population size. The researchers found a minimum of seven sampling occasions necessary for reliable population estimation.

The researcher say their study contributes to design issues for CR studies by providing insights into optimality of sampling effort such that precision of parameter estimates are not compromised while minimizing survey costs. They demonstrate the importance of accurate individual identification in the context of such studies and recommend the use of fixed morphological traits as the optimal individual identification strategy for species where animals are distinguished on the basis of multiple attributes, including some that may be variable over time.

I thank Dr Ullas Karanth for graciously sending me a copy of the paper

Monday, November 14, 2011

Provisional results of ‘Seven new natural wonders’ of the world

The foundation New7Wonders founded by filmmaker Bernard Weber in Zurich, has announced provisional results of the world's new seven wonders of nature.

The list includes Amazon rainforest, Vietnam's Halong Bay, Argentina's Iguazu Falls, South Korea's Jeju Island, Indonesia's Komodo, the Philippines' Puerto Princesa Underground River and South Africa's Table Mountain.

The findings are based on a poll from December 2007 to July 2009. People from round the world had opportunity to put forward their proposals. More than a million votes were cast. Sites like Mount Kilimanjaro, the Dead Sea and the US Grand Canyon were eliminated in the process.

Final results will be announced formally early next year

Time taken by Loggerhead turtles to reach maturity

Here is a big surprise. Scientists have learned that Loggerhead turtles take almost half a century to reach maturity. This is in stark contrast to what was presumed previously. The previous estimate had put the age of maturity anything from 10 years to 35 years.

The new information has come out as a big surprise and it has several implications for the conservation of Loggerheads. The hatchlings released from hatcheries are not as safe as is presumed. Many of them might be caught in fishing net deliberately or accidentally as they travel thousands of kilometers.

The scientist had to resort lot of marking and recapture to chart the animals' growth rate. It was not an easy task.

The study focuses on the need to maintain vigil for decades to ensure success of conservation measures. International cooperation is an absolute must for this.

Journal reference
Scott, R., Marsh, R. and Hays, G. C. (2011), Life in the really slow lane: loggerhead sea turtles mature late relative to other reptiles. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2011.01915.x

Monday, November 07, 2011

No update for one week

As I am travelling to areas with no internet connectivity there won't be any updates for one week

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Green Websites

This weekend over a drink, I was discussing with my friend Ramesh, the list of Green Websites picked by Times recently. Ramesh thinks it would be a good idea to publish the list here in Tahrcountry. So here comes the list.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

For a rapidly declining population simultaneously tackling multiple threats are necessary

Using integrated population modelling to quantify the implications of multiple threatening processes for a rapidly declining population
Jonathan R. Rhodes, Chooi Fei Ng, Deidré L. de Villiers, Harriet J. Preece, Clive A. McAlpine, Hugh P. Possingham
 Biological Conservation
Volume 144, Issue 3, March 2011, Pages 1081-1088

Population decline of threatened species could be due to threats from multiple sources. To come up with an appropriate conservation strategy estimates of the impact of each of these threats, on the rate of population decline is sine qua non. But it is a stark reality that for the vast majority of species this information is lacking.

In this paper the researchers demonstrate the application of integrated population modelling as a means of deriving robust estimates of the impact of multiple threats for a rapidly declining koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) population in South-east Queensland, Australia. This approach reduces uncertainty and bias by formally integrating information from multiple data sources into a single model. It substantially reduces uncertainty.

The researchers sign off with following words “Strategies for simultaneously tackling multiple threats are necessary; a situation that is likely to be true for many of the world’s threatened species. This study provides an important framework for quantifying the conservation requirements of species undergoing declines due to multiple threats.”

Friday, November 04, 2011

Interpol launches new Tiger conservation initiatives

Interpol on Wednesday launched a new initiative to coordinate the global fight against tiger poaching.

Interpol's new Project Predator is designed to help coordinate efforts of police, customs and wildlife officials in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

According to INTERPOL tackling tiger crime requires an enforcement response that employs advanced, intelligence-led methods of investigation and the engagement of the whole criminal justice system. The response must target the individuals who control this lucrative trade, bring them to justice, and seize any assets obtained through their crimes. The Project has three aims: organize collaborative, high-level international efforts to improve political will; transform this will into departmental support, and train officers in the necessary skills. Activities will focus on capacity building, intelligence management, operational initiatives and advocacy. Police, customs and wildlife enforcement seminars will help develop departmental support. The Project will also call upon countries to establish National Tiger Crime Task Forces that will be connected regionally and internationally through the INTERPOL National Central Bureaus. Through these task forces, the Project hopes to encourage the use of modern intelligence-led enforcement practices for tiger conservation.  
This is an ambitious on-going project continuously seeking support from individuals, organizations and institutions.
If you are interested in helping INTERPOL please click HERE

Noninvasive sampling - Optimized protocols designed to reduce the costs and effort

Optimized methods for high-throughput analysis of hair samples for American black bears (Ursus americanus)
T. Kristensen, K. Faries, D. White, Jr and L. Eggert
Wildl. Biol. Pract., 2011 June 7(1): 123-128

 Traditional methods of studying wildlife are being increasingly replaced by noninvasive sampling particularly for the study of species that are difficult or dangerous to study. Genotyping large numbers of samples is prohibitively costly and labor intensive. Here is a paper that would be of great interest to you, if you are dealing with noninvasive sampling. The methodology holds great promise.

Here the researchers describe optimized protocols designed to reduce the costs and effort required for microsatellite genotyping and sex determination for American black bears (Ursus americanus). The methodology adopted by the researchers here might come in handy for other animals also.

The researchers redesigned primers for six microsatellite loci, designed novel primers for the amelogenin gene for genetic determination of sex, and optimized conditions for a nine-locus multiplex PCR.

The researchers sign off with following words “Our optimized methods will reduce the time and costs of analysis for the larger number of samples that will become commonplace in studies of wild populations of elusive species. For American black bears, they will provide important data that will assist population managers as they attempt to anticipate and reduce levels of human-wildlife conflict.”

Thursday, November 03, 2011

New UNEP report tracks the changing global environment over the past two decades

The new UNEP report, Keeping Track of our Changing Environment: From Rio to Rio+20, focuses on the urgent need to curb resource depletion and ensure human activities do not destroy the very environment that supports economies and sustains life.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said the report was a timely reminder for world leaders of the areas that continue to need urgent attention such as the rapid build-up of greenhouse gases, the erosion of biodiversity and the use of natural resources, which increased by 40 per cent from 1992 to 2005, a much faster pace than population growth.

The report is part of UNEP’s Global Environmental Outlook-5 (GEO-5) series, which assesses the state and trends of the global environment. The full GEO-5 report will be launched next May, one month ahead of Rio+20.

Read the 111-page report HERE. On slower connection it might take couple of minutes for the report to download

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

IUCN - arborvitae Issue 44 - Forests: a legal challenge

This issue of arborvitae, produced in conjunction with IUCN’s Commission on Environmental Law and the IUCN Environmental Law Centre, looks at how forest law is impacting local forest management around the world and how reforms are progressing in several countries.
The issue also includes a set of three articles examining forest law in India from different perspectives. IUCN says many of the challenges of forest law enactment and enforcement are well illustrated by India’s experience."
Click HERE to read it

Conservation planning: using only one habitat model (even if validated), as the foundation of a conservation plan is risky.

Comparison of statistical and theoretical habitat models for conservation planning: the benefit of ensemble prediction

D. Todd Jones-Farrand, Todd M. Fearer, Wayne E. Thogmartin,Frank R. Thompson III,Mark D. Nelson, and John M. Tirpak
Ecological Applications  Volume 21, Issue 6 (September 2011)

In conservation planning process selection of a suitable modeling approach is a very important step.

Here the researchers look at two statistical and three theoretical habitat modeling approaches These represens those currently being used for avian conservation planning at landscape and regional scales: hierarchical spatial count (HSC), classification and regression tree (CRT), habitat suitability index (HSI), forest structure database (FS), and habitat association database (HA).

The researchers focused their comparison on models for five priority forest-breeding species in the Central Hardwoods Bird Conservation Region: Acadian Flycatcher, Cerulean Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Worm-eating Warbler. They used two approaches to compare models: rank correlations among model outputs and comparison of spatial correspondence.

The researchers found that rank correlations were significantly positive among models for each species. This is an indication of general agreement among the models. Worm-eating Warblers had the highest pairwise correlations, all of which were significant (P < 0.05). Redheaded Woodpeckers had the lowest agreement among models, suggesting greater uncertainty in the relative conservation value of areas within the region.

The researchers assessed model uncertainty by mapping the spatial congruence in priorities (i.e., top ranks) resulting from each model for each species and calculating the coefficient of variation across model ranks for each location. This in turn allowed identification of areas more likely to be good targets of conservation effort for a species, those areas that were least likely, and those in between where uncertainty is higher and thus conservation action incorporates more risk.

The researchers sign off with the following words “Based on our results, models developed independently for the same purpose (conservation planning for a particular species in a particular geography) yield different answers and thus different conservation strategies. We assert that using only one habitat model (even if validated) as the foundation of a conservation plan is risky. Using multiple models (i.e., ensemble prediction) can reduce uncertainty and increase efficacy of conservation action when models corroborate one another and increase understanding of the system when they do not.”

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A Q-method study that explores ecologists' thought processes as they evaluate the merits of potential research topics.

What research should be done and why? Four competing visions among ecologists
Mark W Neff
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment  Volume 9, Issue 8 (October 2011)

Research on various aspects of our planet depends, in part, on the questions scientists ask regarding the natural world. The authors of this paper say asking other questions might lead to different innovations and alternative understandings of policy problems and their potential solutions.

We have infinite number of potential study subjects. Then why do we zero in on a specific subject in spite of limited resources with which to study them?

In this paper the researcher present a Q-method study that explores ecologists' thought processes as they evaluate the merits of potential research topics. The study underscores four competing visions that ecologists have for their discipline.

On the basis of his findings, the researcher contend that ecology might be more effective in informing policy if priority setting were a more deliberative process and open to insights from individuals and institutions outside of ecology.