Pen has been honoured for his science outreach work, winning the 'Science Postgraduate Excellence in Outreach Award'. The award recognises outstanding contributions to public engagement with science. Pen has been involved in many outreach activities for the project MammalWeb, a joint project between the University and the Durham Wildlife Trust where members of the public help with mammal monitoring by deploying camera traps. Pen has worked with students from Belmont Community School in Durham, teaching them about camera trapping, and allowing them to do their own field work and research with the camera traps. Together, they made a video to explain more about MammalWeb and their experiences with it. You can watch the full video by clicking here, or a shorter version of the video here.
Pen giving a demonstration at a public Science Day.
Tom Mason has recently published a policy perspective in Conservation Letters exploring whether current management of conservation conflicts is suitable for tackling their wicked complexity (spoiler: it isn't!). Co-lead author Chris Pollard has written a great blog on the paper, re-posted below from the Stirling Conservation Science (STICS) page:
Wicked Complex Conservation Conflict
Conservation conflict in which people disagree about how to manage biodiversity and parties are perceived to assert their point of view to the detriment of others is an example of a Wicked Problem. Actually, to be honest there are loads of issues in conservation science that can be dropped into the complex, bubbling bucket of wicked problems. Are you dealing with lots of uncertainty? Finding the boundaries of the problem difficult to define? Lacking clear solutions that don’t cause problems elsewhere? Experiencing multiple feedback loops which interact with non-linear dynamics? Yep, you’ve got yourself a wicked problem there, pal.
In 2014, Game et al., described conservation challenges as operating under wicked problem conditions, providing a starter list as to where the common, conventional, “tame” approaches to conservation science were falling short (see also DeFries & Nagendra, 2017). Game et al., also helpfully, provided some wicked alternatives, pointing researchers towards the complexity-type thinking required.
Conventional and wicked problem inspired management approaches, adapted from Game et al. 2014
So far, so abstract. But in 2016, the first Interdisciplinary Conservation Network workshop was hosted by ICCS at the University of Oxford, in conjunction with STICS and CBCS at the University of Queensland. This workshop for early career researchers (the second incarnation of ICN is happening later in 2018) included wicked problem thinking for conservation conflict as one of three topics discussed at the event. Eight researchers, each with knowledge of a specific conservation conflict, were joined by mentors to discuss how the conventional and wicked processes were being implemented in the real world. And if they weren’t currently being used, are wicked thinking approaches even appropriate or feasible for these conservation conflicts?
Our output from the workshop has now been published in Conservation Letters.
We found that for each conflict case study, wicked problem thinking was not applied even though over three-quarters were deemed both appropriate and feasible. For half of the case studies not one wicked approach had been tried.
The appropriateness, feasibility and implementation of wicked approaches, for each of eight conflict case-studies
Having used our case studies to assess the current state of play as regards wicked problem thinking for conservation conflict management, we moved onto thinking how could we fill out those wicked approaches a little more. We came up with five emerging themes worthy of further study.
1. Distributed decision-making
Wicked problem thinking aims to achieve a greater devolution of decision-making to suit the uniqueness and dynamism of different conflicts. This may not always be straight-forward if governance structures or existing policy will not allow transfer of powers.
In Scotland, a national goose management review group sets the overall agreed national strategy, but local goose management groups have the freedom to find local solutions. This has allowed sport hunting to be used as a population reduction tool on Orkney, but government-led culling used on Islay. Image: Gordon Langsbury
2. Diverse opinions
Embracing diverse voices can form an important route to foster creativity. Research into the links between knowledge co-production, creativity and conflict are required to fully understand the potential value of diverse voices.
In western Cameroon managers combined data on key fishing zones identified by fishers with ecological data from manatee activity surveys. By uniting these diverse knowledge types, strategies were put in place to restrict damaging fishing techniques in important areas for manatees but not from the most profitable fishing zones. Image: Creative commons
3. Pattern-based predictions
Recognising patterns in ecological dynamics, human behaviour and links between the two can reveal processes acting as conflict triggers, such as the alienation of certain groups. Pattern-recognition analyses can make use of widely available sources of data.
A typical pattern of events resulting in bat roost damage in the UK might be for a homeowner to ignore a request for a bat survey, the local planning authority to inadequately screen their planning application, the homeowner to destroy any roost prior to the visit of the planning authority, and an application to be subsequently approved. Pattern analysis could reveal how and when these events are most likely to happen, allowing institutional interventions. Image: (c) Hugh Clark/www.bats.org.uk
4. Trade-off based objectives
Objectives guided by trade-offs between the interests of different stakeholders are likely to produce fairer outcomes than those based on a single group’s interests.
The example of ecological restoration in Queensland, Australia, focussed on flexibility in how objectives are achieved and variation in stakeholder objectives. The emphasis on fundamental objectives such as maximising persistence of threatened species, allows a range of management options to be considered during each iteration of adaptive management. Image: City of Gold Coast
5. Reporting of failures
No case-studies shared failures transparently even though failures are inevitable, due to the complexities of socio-ecological systems. Communicating these openly can optimise management. It may be possible to encourage open communication by requiring different parties to formally commit to sharing risk and viewing failures as transient features of a wicked problem. While it is tough to develop ‘safe-fail’ cultures in conservation, honest discussions between managers and stakeholders about failures – and the potential to learn from them – provide an important step forward.
A thread which runs through all five themes is one of admission of complexity. Conservation scientists cannot solve these problems with conventional methods and to tame them we must share power with and get help from others whilst admitting that we don’t always have the solutions and will sometimes fall short. Wicked problems are a nightmare to manage, but by thinking and working holistically, we can be optimistic about their taming.
Through utilising some exceptional datasets collected by dedicated volunteers (also known as ‘citizen scientists’), the team (led by Malcolm Burgess and Ally Phillimore) have been able to explore the match-mismatch hypothesis at three trophic levels, oak-caterpillar-bird. Two members of our group, Claire and Steve, contributed to this work.
Many birds, such as the blue tit, great tit and pied flycatcher, are reliant upon a short pulse in availability of their desired food resource during reproduction to feed their young, and as such have to time their breeding to coincide with this. All of the species investigated here only reproduce once in a given year, making it even more crucial they time their reproduction correctly. If they lay too early, or too late, their chicks are likely to go hungry.
With climate change, the onset of spring has been advancing, with warmer spring temperatures occurring earlier in the year in recent decades. In response to this, trees are leafing up earlier, caterpillars are emerging earlier and birds are also breeding earlier, but are they all managing to keep up with each other?
This study demonstrates that mismatch between birds and their food resource (caterpillars) is greater in earlier (warmer) springs, and that the migratory pied flycatcher is suffering more than the two resident tit species. The phenology of all the trophic levels (oak-caterpillars-birds) is later in the north of the United Kingdom, however the amount of mismatch populations are experiencing has very little spatial variation. Therefore, it is unlikely that population declines of many insectivorous birds in the south of the UK are due to mismatch.
Read the full paper here and the accompanying Nature Ecology and Evolution blog here.
Christine, Phil and Steve have published a new paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, working in collaboration with researchers from Imperial College London, St Andrews University and BirdLife International. The study combines species distribution models and bio-physical models of bird flight range to predict how climate change will affect the migratory journeys of 77 European migratory bird species. They found that long-distance migrants will likely have to travel further in the future, as their suitable breeding and non-breeding ranges both move towards the poles. As a result of this, 37% of migratory journeys undertaken by long-distance migrants are predicted to require an additional stopover in future. This will mean that migratory journeys will occur over longer time-periods, making species more susceptible to threatening processes during these journeys, such as predation and poaching.
Predicted spring migration routes of collared fly-catcher in a) 2000 and b) 2070
!Meanwhile, Tom has published a new paper in Conservation Letters , led by Jeremy Cusack and colleagues at the University of Stirling, as part of a large international collaboration. The paper explores five case-studies of conservation conflict involving large grazing bird species and agriculture across northern Europe. They discovered that changes in management effort (harvesting, compensation and scaring) are often asynchronous with changes in bird populations, likely due to time-lags between population monitoring and management, and inconsistent use of predictive models. This study highlights the need for more timely management responses to tackle conservation conflicts. You can find out more about the paper here and here.
This paper follows on from Tom's recent study in the Journal of Applied Ecology, with colleagues from the universities of Stirling, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, which revealed how land-use and climate change can shape the ecological contexts of conservation conflicts. They focused on the Scottish island of Islay, where a growing population of Greenland barnacle geese cause serious economic damage to farmland. They found that both improvements to pasture through fertilizer use and increasing temperatures have boosted goose population growth. This illustrates the value of exploring socio-ecological history to understand the processes leading to conservation conflict, by identifying elements of conflict that are controllable, such as local habitat management, and those that are less controllable, such as climate change, but which both need to be taken into account in predictive management models.
Greenland barnacle geese feeding on the rich pastures of the inner Hebrides (photo: N. Bunnefeld)