From the mountains to the sea

18 07 2008

The theme of this year’s Society for Conservation Biology annual meeting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA.

The positives: I was fortunate to meet some great established and up-and-coming conservation biologists that I had not yet met face to face; the people were friendly; the organisation was efficient; and many of the talks were good, solid science.

The negatives: I truly felt a lack of excitement or passion at the conference. There was nothing to suggest that we are in the midst of a conservation crisis; perhaps we as scientists have seen and heard it so much that the ‘crisis’ tone has been lost in our delivery. Have we given up? The quality of the the research and the dedication of those involved suggest otherwise, but I can’t help think that there is a spark missing from those responsible for convincing the rest of the world that we are in serious trouble. It’s almost as if we’ve come full circle – the early days of conservation biology (the discipline) struggled to find its place among the more classic scientific research fields, but over 50 years of excellent and ground-breaking research has secured its place among the most relevant of today’s scientific endeavours. Conservation scientists began to take on bolder roles as advocates in addition to being purely objective information providers. The world’s sad state has ratified the importance of what we do like never before, but it would be sadder still if we slipped back into the passionless role of mere data providers.

I hope the next conference inspires me more. No offence intended to the conference organisers – my statements reflect the apparent laissez-faire of all of us.





InVEST for ecosystem services

18 07 2008

I’m currently attending the Society for Conservation Biology‘s Annual Meeting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA and blogging on presentations I think are worth mentioning.

A great talk that I had the pleasure of moderating was given by Taylor Ricketts of the World Wildlife Fund. He and an impressive team of conservation scientists have recently put together some spatially explicit software – InVEST – that quantifies the values of ecosystem services and compares those to biodiversity values (richness, endemism, etc.). A clever way to find the right balance between ecosystem functions that benefit humans and species preservation, this software and approach appears to be a great way to optimise land use in our changing environment. Definitely one to watch. The first paper describing this is by Erik Nelson and colleagues (including Ricketts) and will be appearing shortly in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

CJA Bradshaw





Realistic conservation investment

18 07 2008

I’m currently attending the Society for Conservation Biology‘s Annual Meeting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA and blogging on presentations I think are worth mentioning.

In a surprise shift from the previously planned final plenary talk, Prof. Helene Marsh of James Cook University gave a nice example of how good research can be melded with non-technical opinion to weight threatened species for recovery investment. Using a north Queensland example, she described how technical assessments of relative threat risk combined with weightings from non-technical policy makers can provide the most realistic and relevant conservation investment when used simultaneously. Based on their paper in 2007 (‘Optimizing allocation of management resources for wildlife‘), Prof. Marsh outlined a quantitative approach to meld these decision-making components with real-world outcomes. I’d like to see some of the real outcomes in terms of recovery of north Queensland threatened species, but at least the State appears to be on the right track by using this tool.

CJA Bradshaw