Category: Measures

People of the Salmon: Haida Tribe Defends Salmon with Science in Alaska

The Haida community on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, have long considered themselves “people of the salmon.” They rely on the fish for their food and culture. Now community members are being trained to become scientists. Their assessments could help get their streams protected under Alaska state law.

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Locally Based Monitoring: Are Scientists at Risk of Losing Their Day Jobs?

Are scientists at risk of losing their day jobs? Well, maybe. A recent study shows that people from remote areas of Papua New Guinea are able to collect quantitative data as accurately as trained scientist, but for a fraction of the cost. This is the second essay in a three-part series featuring blogs by the student prize winners at the University of Queensland’s Student Conference on Conservation Science,

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Debate: Randomized Control Trials in Conservation

In the medical field, randomized control trials (RCTs) are widely used to eliminate bias and demonstrate causality. Does a certain medication actually work, and will it work across all populations of people? To answer these questions, medicine has relied on RCTs for the past 50 years. But are RCTs an effective way to measure the success of conservation strategies? Does conservation need RCTs?

Craig Leisher, senior social scientist, advocates for RCTs, saying they can help show that conservation strategies actually benefit people. Eddie Game, conservation planning specialist, argues that RCTs are unrealistic and unnecessary for conservation.

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Poorly Known Species at Most Risk from Extinction

Our incomplete knowledge of the biological world can have profound implications for the natural world. The less we know about a species, the higher the risk for extinction. Researcher Lucie Bland presents her findings in this essay, the first in a series of three blogs written by winners of the University of Queensland’s Student Conference on Conservation Science.

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Photography as a Conservation Science Tool

More than pretty pictures: Photography is one of the field biologist’s most reliable tools, helping monitor conservation results and helping share stories of people and the land with new audiences. Conservancy scientist Joseph Kiesecker shares his own odyssey with the art and science of field photography around the world.

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Marine Restoration Week: Restoring Blue Forests–Opportunities for Mangroves

Mangroves are tough, opportunistic weeds, says Conservancy senior marine scientist Mark Spalding. But that doesn’t just mean you can restore them anywhere — there’s a narrow line above mid-tide that works, and legalities and laziness cause many restoration projects to fail. Communicate the science of proper mangrove planting, though, and you’ve got one of the most optimistic conservation tools around.

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Marine Fisheries: Does Local Protection Mean Local Benefits?

If a community protects a portion of its fishing grounds, will it actually benefit them?

Or will the young fish produced in protected areas just move hundreds of miles away and benefit communities that played no role in protecting the resource?

These questions were the focus of researchers working in Manus, Papua New Guinea who investigated whether community protection efforts for the squaretail coral grouper (Plectropomus areolatus) actually benefited the community by providing more fish.

Their results, published today in the journal Current Biology, clearly show that local management of this species provides local benefits.

“For years, we’ve been preaching that community-based conservation is a key component to protecting reef fisheries,” says Rick Hamilton, senior scientist for the Conservancy’s Melanesia program and one of the coauthors of the paper. “The idea has been that if we protect some areas, large female fishes will be left undisturbed. They would then produce millions of larvae that spill over into nearby areas open to fishing. But until now that assumption has largely been faith based.”

In Manus, as in many parts of the world, people essentially own the coral reefs near their village. They decide when, where and who can fish in these areas. Some of these areas have no formal designation, but fishers know these customary boundaries. Local communities can thus enact and enforce management and protection efforts.

One of the most important fishes for commercial and subsistence harvest for Manus communities is the squaretail coral grouper. It is also highly susceptible to overfishing. This is in part due to the fact that they form spawning aggregations, where huge numbers of fish congregate in one spot to spawn at predictable times. This makes it easy to overharvest the reproductive population. At night, the aggregating coral grouper sleep in shallow water, making them easy targets for spear fishers.

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Marine Protected Areas: Tokens or Treasures?

It’s a little hard to get your head around what Australia did last November. I live in a country, the United Kingdom, that covers 250,000 km² – not a huge country for sure, but not tiny. Australia declared new marine protected areas that cover almost ten times that area – some 2.3 million km².

Well, as you might imagine, there have been some pretty big celebrations about this, certainly among conservationists, but also among a public that widely supported the declaration.

I’m delighted that Australia has upped the ante for marine conservation everywhere in this way. This sort of move should excite and inspire, in much the same way that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has already done.

They have shown us that large-scale conservation can be done, and can be done with full participation and broad support, and that it can be income-generating – good for people as well as nature.

But not everyone’s happy. Some – including Bob Pressey, a highly regarded conservation scientist in Australia – has called these new sites “residual protected areas.”

He suggests that these sites are not in the best places either for averting threats or protecting diversity. He also says that they don’t really have teeth, and it’s true that, on declaration, the new parks required no immediate changes “in the water” – that ongoing activities such as fishing, and even mineral extraction can carry on.

That’s worrying of course, and might lead to a sense that they aren’t going to do as much good as might be hoped. But it’s an important first step.

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Why and How Conservation Needs to Tackle Human Well-Being: A Conservation with Heather Tallis

Bob Lalasz directs science communications for The Nature Conservancy.

Can conservation make a decisive and systematic contribution to solving social problems and improving the lives of people — especially the world’s poor?

Finding out is Heather Tallis’s job: As a new lead scientist at The Nature Conservancy in charge of the Conservancy’s new Human Dimensions Program, it’s her task to bring “people metrics” to assess the impact of the Conservancy’s work on the ground on people. She’s also charged with integrating innovative economics and social science into the organization’s field work in a way that builds conservation methods and tools that can benefit everyone.

The challenges are many — among them, getting those metrics right (something conservation has struggled to do); designing conservation from the ground up to impact people positively; and helping  policymakers and other decision-makers to recognize the value of conservation for answering many of the big questions facing the planet.

I sat down with Tallis to talk about where she and the Human Dimension Program will begin addressing those challenges:

Why does conservation need an initiative to attack human well-being head-on?

HT: Well, I like the way the folks from the Stockholm Resilience Center say it: “There are no natural systems without people, nor social systems without nature.” This is our reality, especially as the Conservancy moves to thinking about and managing whole ecological systems.

But this is obviously not the way most people see the world, so our personal decisions, our political ideas and our management process are out of synch with this reality. The next 20-30 years will see dramatic change in the face of the planet — and what lives on it or doesn’t — as society decides how to double food production, build hundreds of billions of dollars worth of infrastructure and create more megacities.

Conservation needs to be in those decisions. And we won’t get past the door unless we know and can describe what nature has to do with major social problems, and how nature can contribute to human well-being solutions.

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Forest Dilemmas

Too many deer. Logging one tree to save another. Beavers versus old growth. Welcome to forest conservation in the Anthropocene. Beginning Monday, July 21, join us for a provocative 5-part series exploring the full complexity facing forest conservation in the eastern United States.

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What is Cool Green Science?

noun 1. Blog where Nature Conservancy scientists, science writers and external experts discuss and debate how conservation can meet the challenges of a 9 billion + planet.

2. Blog with astonishing photos, videos and dispatches of Nature Conservancy science in the field.

3. Home of Weird Nature, The Cooler, Quick Study, Traveling Naturalist and other amazing features.

Cool Green Science is managed by Matt Miller, the Conservancy's deputy director for science communications, and edited by Bob Lalasz, its director of science communications. Email us your feedback.

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Can farmers globally both adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change? A new paper answers with a definitive yes. But it won't be easy.

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