Conservation needs innovative science, but it also needs articulate scientists who can convey the full impact of their work to a wide variety of audiences.
The Nature Conservancy’s Science Impact Project draws together Conservancy scientists from around the world to implement relevant, impactful research projects that advance our on-the-ground conservation efforts. At the same time, each class of conservation science leaders participates in a series of targeted trainings in topics as diverse as storytelling, leadership, donor fundraising, and key scientific skills.
The 2017 SIP scientists will tackle conservation problems as diverse as cocoa agroforestry, blue carbon, and grasslands for climate adaptation in the regions of Asia, Oceania, and North & South America. Read summaries of their projects below, and stay tuned for in-depth coverage on Cool Green Science in the coming months.
Timothy Boucher (Conservation Geographer, Chief Scientist's Office)
Biodiversity and forestry in Myanmar
Over the next 10 years, Myanmar will undertake a nationwide reforestation program to restore biodiversity, invigorate its timber industry, and promote sustainable carbon sequestration. Boucher previously used bioacoustics — where recordings of forests sounds estimate biodiversity — to assess conservation efforts in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. He will now use this innovative technique in Myanmar to measure and monitor the biodiversity of these reforestation projects. His results will help provide guidance so that reforestation can be done in a manner that prioritizes biodiversity alongside other ecosystem
Delon Marthinus (Forestry & Climate Change Specialist, Indonesia)
Blue carbon for climate mitigation in Indonesia
Mangrove forests are one of the key sources of blue carbon — atmospheric carbon stored in ocean and coastal systems — and previous research has shown that they will be critical to meeting international commitments towards climate mitigation. Indonesia contains 23 percent of the world’s mangrove forests, yet many are being converted to meet the demand for aquaculture. Marthinus will assess carbon fluxes in mangrove ecosystems due to aquaculture conversion. His results will help determine exactly what impact this disturbance will have on mangrove carbon stocks and on Indonesia’s efforts to mitigate climate change.
Priya Shyamsundar (Lead Economist, Chief Scientist's Office)
Technological solutions to air pollution in South Asia
Every year, a cloud of atmospheric pollutants rises over farm lands in South Asia as farmers burn crop stubble, causing air pollution in distant cities, changes to rainfall patterns, and glacier melts in the Himalayas. Shyamsundar’s project will investigate why a simple and successful technological solution — a machine that can sow wheat after rice without the need to burn stubble — is slow to be adopted by farmers and what needs to be done to change their behavior.
Edenise Garcia (Deputy Science Manager, Brasil)
Cocoa forests for wildlife corridors in the Amazon
The Nature Conservancy’s Cocoa Forest Initiative is promoting the restoration of degraded pasturelands with agroforestry systems on small properties in the Amazon. Planting cocoa helps reconnect habitat and bring back wildlife, including pollinators and seed dispersers, to the restored areas. Garcia’s project will help solidify the role of these agroforestry systems as wildlife habitats and corridors by working with local communities to monitor biodiversity using innovative and accessible information and communication technologies.
Diego Navarrete (Carbon Specialist, NASCA Program)
Estimating forest carbon in Colombia
Land-cover change is the second most important source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, but key data is often missing to understand how conversion alters net carbon stocks. In Colombia, little is known about forest carbon stocks and their dynamics under land-cover conversion to productive systems like agriculture, forestry outputs, or other land uses. Navarrete will accurately estimate carbon stocks and changes, CO2 emissions and captures, and CO2 emission intensity associated with land-use conversion to productive systems in Colombia, in support of Colombia’s efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and mitigate climate change.
Amy Smith Kyle (Coastal Conservation Project Manager, Louisiana)
Oyster reef restoration in the Gulf of Mexico
Oyster reefs are one of the most imperiled marine habitats on the planet, threatened by everything from direct removal of oysters to changes in water quality and quantity. Efforts are underway to restore oyster reef habitat in the Gulf of Mexico, and elsewhere. Smith Kyle’s research will help make those efforts more effective by gaining a better understanding of how reef inundation under the water’s surface (both timing and duration) affects the survival, growth, and health of oysters. Her results will ensure that conservationists can properly site reef restoration projects to maximize their success.
Leandro Baumgarten (Lead Scientist, Brasil)
Forest loss commitments in Brasil
Agriculture is the largest driver of deforestation, and between 2001 and 2011 the production of palm oil, soy, cattle, and wood accounted for 40 percent of global forest loss. To help curb forest loss, The Nature Conservancy’s Brasil program is implementing strategies to promote commitments of zero-deforestation by soy traders and slaughterhouses. Baumgarten will assess the effectiveness and the impact of these commitments on slowing the loss of habitat in Brasil’s Amazon, Cerrado and Chaco regions.
Kerry Metlen (Forest Ecologist, Oregon)
Landscape-scale forest restoration in Oregon
America’s western forests provide abundant clean water, clean air, and other benefits to human communities; but they are threatened by destructive fires catalyzed by climate change, a century of fire exclusion, and destructive logging practices. Metlen will clarify the costs and benefits of landscape-scale forest restoration, setting the stage for managed fire that will increase landscape resiliency, wildfire safety, and economic activity for local communities. His effort will produce a structured decision-making framework that will accelerate forest restoration, implementation, and monitoring, and also aid more effective community engagement.
Marissa Ahlering (Lead Prairie Ecologist, Minnesota)
Innovative strategies for climate-smart grassland restoration
Emerging climate-change strategies for grasslands — like enhancing the genetic diversity of flowering plant species — stretch the limits of the current dogma that “local is best,” potentially restricting the adaptability of our current and future grasslands. Ahlering will first synthesize current science and policy on seed sources for grassland restorations. She will then develop concrete recommendations for how to implement climate-smart restoration practices.