Tag: Eddie Game

Understanding Global Environmental Indicators: What’s Behind Australia’s Rankings Rise?

Australia has hardly been a bastion of progressive environmental policy over the past two years. Yet the country rose from 48th place to 3rd in the Yale Environmental Performance Index. What’s going on here? Blogger Eddie Game explains.

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Quick Study: Counterinsurgency, Anyone? How Conservation Can Better Prepare for ‘Wicked’ Problems

Conservation still uses a straightforward, engineering mindset that’s inadequate for tackling today’s complex problems, argues a new paper from Conservancy scientist Eddie Game. So what can we learn from counter-insurgency, business, psychology and other fields?

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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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Fishing for Clues: Investigating Fisher Behavior in a Tropical Purse-Seine Fishery

How do fishers decide when, where and how to fish? How does this influence fishery management and protection? Tim Davies presents his research on how tropical purse seine fishers make their decisions, and the implications for conservation. 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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Quick Study: Six Common Mistakes in Conservation Planning

Quick Study is just what it says — a rapid-fire look at a new conservation science study that might turn some heads.    

Study: Game, E.T., P. Kareiva, and H.P. Possingham. 2013. Six common mistakes in conservation priority setting. Conservation Biology 44(4):1-6.

The Big Question: Environmental problems are big, but resources for conservation are tiny — so conservation groups are constantly prioritizing what they do and recommend so as to allocate those resources better. So why isn’t conservation making more of a dent?

Study Nuts and Bolts: In this think piece, Game and co-authors argue that, while conservation presents its priority setting as science-based, conservation planners too often ignore or misapply decision science — the combination of mathematics, economics, philosophy, and psychology that is used by engineers, health, the military and business to help them make better decisions. And that systemic lack of decision science, the authors say, leads to six big mistakes that blunt conservation’s impact.

The Findings: Here are the six big mistakes (which you might also group under the broad headers “Timidity in Language” and “Fuzzy Math”):

1) not acknowledging conservation plans are in fact prioritizations (and thus recommendations);
2) not being precise about the problem they’re trying to solve;
3) prioritizing not actions, but species, habitats or locations (thus leading to inaction);
4) using arbitrary numerical values to arrive at prioritization arithmetic;
5) allowing look-up tables to hide priority-setting value judgments; and
6) failing to acknowledge the risk of failure for some conservation actions, which leads to skewed cost/benefit analyses.

What’s It All Mean? While Game et al. do say that conservation is generally moving in the right direction in how it sets priorities, most individual planning makes at least one of the above mistakes — leading to misspending and declining public confidence in conservation when the public finds out that those priorities weren’t chosen all that scientifically.  So, time to bone up on those decision science skills, says Game.

“We conservation scientists prioritize a lot — but we’re not typically trained in the formal skills of prioritization that many other fields depend on,” he told me. “That’s a recipe for wasting our precious resources.”

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Eddie Game: Why Tanzania is Wrong to Pursue ‘Fortress Conservation’ with the Maasai

Maasai milking a cow, Tanzania. Credit: mar is sea Y/Flickr through a Creative Commons license.

Maasai milking a cow, Tanzania. Credit: mar is sea Y/Flickr through a Creative Commons license.

The recent move by Tanzania’s government to seal off 30,000 Maasai people from access to 1,500 square kilometers adjacent to the Serengeti in the name of wildlife conservation has drawn intense protests from both the Maasai and non-governmental organizations working in the country. The government will prevent the Maasai from grazing their cattle on a choice grazing area in the Loliondo Highlands — which the Maasai consider ancestral lands — but will allow a “Dubai-based luxury hunting and safari company” access to the land, reports The Guardian. The argument is that Maasai grazing practices are harming wildlife.

Eddie Game, conservation planning specialist at The Nature Conservancy, has written a blog post for the Australian site The Conversation arguing that the Tanzanian government’s tack is an example of “fortress” conservation that is “unnecessarily blunt and crude.” While Maasai grazing practices have reduced long-lived grass species prevalence in Tanzania in favor of seasonal species with deleterious effects for wildlife, Game says northern Kenya provides a shining example of “how pastoral livelihoods and wildlife conservation can be compatible.” Money quote:”

Through the agreement of community-run conservancies, sections of communal pastoral lands in northern Kenya are set aside as grass banks. These areas are reserved for wildlife to graze but can be used by traditional pastoralists as emergency grazing lands for cattle in times of drought.

The grass banks are complimented by establishing rotational grazing practices that encourage pastoralists to graze their animals together and in a systematic fashion, allowing land to rest ungrazed for a period each year. Regular treatment of cattle for disease (a concern also in the Maasai lands) is provided as an incentive for collective grazing. A guaranteed price and safe transport of livestock to markets gives pastoralists the security to reduce their herd sizes. And the rapid spread of mobile connectivity and mobile banking technology is providing an alternative avenue for savings in remote rural areas.

Tourism is also thriving in these community-run conservancies, notes Game — with tourists clamoring to see both wildlife and pastoralists at work. “It is sad indictment of the Tanzanian government that the international public are being presented with an overly simplistic and unnecessary choice between wildlife and the traditional lifestyle of the Maasai,” Game concludes.

Read his full post here.

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Expedition to Northern Tibet, Part 2: Where the Wild Yak Roams

Kiang live up here.

We’re in the highest, most desolate section of Tibetan Plateau; a place no one lives and very few visit. And yet even here we’re accompanied by oddly domestic shapes. Kiang, or Tibetan wild ass (Equus kiang), are a strikingly coloured relative of the donkey; their red-brown backs contrasting sharply with white flanks, belly, legs, neck and muzzle.

They can survive more arid conditions than any other large mammal on the plateau, and like their less-wild cousins, are masters at finding food where there appears to be none. Their equine shape and canter are familiar even to someone who has spent very little time with horses.

As we struggle with our bike and trailers, slouching exhausted every couple of hundred meters, the domestication of equines seems like one of our species smartest achievements.

A big part of the Chinese government’s motivation for creating these nature preserves (Kekexili and Aerjinshan) was protection for the endangered Tibetan antelope or chiru (Pantholops hodgsoni). With slender arched horns the colour of ebony, chiru are an attractive antelope. But it is their pelts that are the cause of their decline. To deal with extreme cold, chiru have an extraordinarily fine and soft undercoat, known as Shahtoosh. Considered among the most luxurious and prized of all animal fibres, a shawl made of Shahtoosh can supposedly be passed through a wedding ring.

Poaching of these antelope – dramatized in the haunting film Kekexili Mountain Patrol – has pushed the small remaining population to the highest and most remote parts of the Tibetan Plateau.

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Why Climate Change Denial May Not Be as Common as You Think

Scientists are such bad communicators, which is why the majority of the public doesn’t believe in climate change despite scientific consensus.

Does this drum beat sound familiar? I can almost hear science communicators Randy Olson and Nancy Baron whispering it in my ear.

Well, Zoe Leviston and colleagues from CSIRO in Australia offer at least some relief. In work published this week in Nature Climate Change, Leviston and coauthors report evidence of a strong “false consensus effect” around climate change belief in Australia.

Essentially, people who believed that climate change was “not happening” grossly overestimated how prevalent that same opinion was in society, whereas those who did believe in climate change (the vast majority) underestimated how common their views were.

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Expedition to Northern Tibet, Part 1: The Land of Charging Blue Bears

Why is it that when you are trying to be the quietest, you inevitably drop or bang something noisy? Well, at least that’s my experience.

The ice that just cracked under my foot was like a window breaking.

The bear sleeping on the bank of the river exploded with a roar.

Within a few seconds it was covering the frozen ground towards us at break-neck speed. My friend Hamish and I raised our airhorns above our heads and squeezed. The bear kept coming. Then just as the horns started to wheeze their last exhale of compressed air, the bear registered the sound and pulled up.

Standing less than 80 feet from us was one of the rarest bears on the planet, the Tibetan blue bear (Ursus arctos pruinosus).

We didn’t speak, there wasn’t anything to say. We both knew that our air horns were exhausted and that in retrospect we should have had a plan to let off one then the other.

The bear stared at us with lips curled back. We stood frozen holding our bikes. It wasn’t more than a few seconds – time enough to process the gravity of the situation – before the bear turned and retreated. Twenty feet at first, then all the way to the bank, then half way up the sand dune, at each point turning to observe and perhaps reevaluate its decision to retreat, then finally over the top of the dune and out of sight. This was the first bear we had seen on the expedition.

“Holy [expletive].”

“These air horns just saved our lives.”

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Parasites, Poverty and Biodiversity

Conservationists lamenting the diminished focus on biodiversity in an increasingly ecosystem service dominated field can take succour from a study by Matthew Bonds and colleagues published in PLoS Biology.

The interesting take-home, which is actually a side event in the paper, is that the loss of biodiversity (species richness of plants, mammals, and birds), increases the burden of vector-borne parasitic diseases amongst a country’s human population, which in turn increases poverty.

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Carpooling to Recycling: Conservation and Self-Interest

There is a well-drummed mantra in conservation that the route to conservation success lies in convincing people that it’s in their best interest to protect the environment.

You have almost certainly all seen this logic in action: the money savings of energy efficiency around the home, the financial benefits companies will reap for environmental stewardship, and even the cost savings countries can expect from taking immediate action on climate change.

In opposition to this logic is much psychological research into social values which suggests that promoting values of self-interest (such as financial gain) reduces people’s willingness to behave in ways that consider the greater good.

This fundamental conflict suggests that even if campaigns focused on self-interest are effective on the target issue, they may, in the long-run, be diminishing our collective will to solve bigger-than-self issues.

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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 21st century. Join us for a provocative 5-part series exploring the full complexity facing forest conservation in the eastern United States.

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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