The Day After: Bird Conservation in [Insert President-elect’s name]’s America! [Wed. Nov. 9th]

Come take your mind off the aftermath of the 2016 election by talking about birds, citizen science, and habitat restoration instead. I will present on the work done by the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO), which is a nonprofit that works on bird conservation science and educational outreach projects. Although we work on many projects, I will primarily discuss our work with the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, a new urban biodiversity project with Google, burrowing owls conservation, and our citizen science projects. SFBBO and many of its partners are always looking for collaborators and new projects so I look forward to any ideas for partnerships and gaps in knowledge.


I welcome discussion during roundtable and the following are some of my thoughts, although I welcome other ideas!
  • How to promote more linkages among academics and non-profits (i.e., applied ecology and conservation research!)
  • Working with citizen science derived data and how to get our data into the hands of more people
  • Ways to reach more diverse audiences with indoor and outdoor activities
  • Increasing corporate participation in urban ecology as well as the conservation value of urban greening and restoration


Dr. Yiwei Wang
Executive Director
San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory


Enhancing Conservation Outcomes and Improving Rangeland Monitoring Efficiency with RDMapper [Wed. June 1]

RDMapper is a web-based application that allows rangeland forage production to be tracked bi-weekly using remotely sensed MODIS vegetation indices. Combining these data with monthly precipitation data and annual on-the-ground monitoring records, RDMapper provides statistical and graphical information and context that supports predictions of end-of-season residual dry matter (RDM). RDM is a landscape-scale metric that has been shown to be a good predictor of rangeland productivity and overall rangeland condition, and is used by grazing managers to monitor grazing impacts, and by land trusts and agencies for conservation easement compliance monitoring. RDMapper can help reduce grazing-related compliance issues and potential conflict between landowners and easement holders, strengthening the overall relationship with cooperating landowners and leading to greater protection of biodiversity values. We developed RDMapper using software written in the R programming language, including the Shiny package. In 2015, we predicted compliance with RDM objectives across approximately 44,000 hectares of conservation easement lands held by The Nature Conservancy in California. We based predictions on past RDM compliance and our interpretation of statistics and graphics that demonstrate differences in vegetation indices and precipitation characteristics for years that were in versus out of compliance with RDM objectives. We tested a framework for adding efficiency to field-based RDM monitoring in future years by evaluating pastures that we had a high confidence would be in RDM compliance in 2015. For these pastures, our prediction of ‘in compliance with high confidence’ was correct on 109 of 110 pastures. We propose that in future years, pastures we are confident will be in compliance can be monitored with a simple visual estimate of RDM, instead of more expensive field methods. We are currently testing RDMapper at additional properties and have transitioned it to a more powerful data processing framework based on MODIS and PRISM web services and Google’s Earth Engine. 

Scott Butterfield
Senior Scientist
The Nature Conservancy


Introduction to Marxan (hands on tutorial) [Wed. May 25]

Systematic conservation planning is the science of understanding which conservation interventions to enact, and when and where to do them given limited conservation budgets and the diverging needs of different stakeholders. This approach is fundamental to modern evidence-based conservation. In this workshop we’ll learn about the fundamental principles of systematic conservation planning, and discuss some examples of where it has been applied. This will be concreted with some simple tutorials using Marxan.


Claire Runge
twitter: @Claire_Runge

Mapping the evidence for conservation’s impact on human well-being [Wed. April 6]

Global policy initiatives and international conservation organizations are increasingly emphasizing the link between the conservation of natural ecosystems and human development. However, despite heavy investment of time, funds, and research in these linkages, the strength of evidence supporting the impacts of conservation on human well-being, is still scattered, inconsistent and inaccessible. Rigorous and comprehensive evidence is necessary to inform effective decisions and investment in achieving improved well-being of nature and people in conservation. This presentation will discuss the efforts of the SNAP working group on evidence-based conservation to take on a synthetic approach to evaluate the existing evidence for conservation’s impact on human well-being and provide coherent and useful frameworks and tools to increase the use of evidence in conservation decision-making. I will present a systematic map of over 1000+ relevant studies linking conservation interventions to human well-being. I will discuss the value of the systematic map as a decision support tool for rapidly locating data on policy impacts and targeting knowledge gaps to guide future research efforts.
Samantha H. Cheng, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
SNAP Evidence-Based Conservation Group
National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), UCSB
Santa Barbara, CA
Senior Research Fellow
Center for Tropical Research, UCLA
Los Angeles, CA

How Interspecies Coastal Communities Inform Conservation of Shared Ecosystems [Wed March 16]

Dear All,

Next week’s roundtable will be led by Dr. Toni Frohoff  of Terramar Research along with, Dr. Tema Milstein at the University of New Mexico, Elizabeth Oriel of the Co-Habitation Institute and Laura Bridgeman at the Earth Island Institute.

Conservation, as we understand it, is a coupling of human and more-than-human
interests, concerns, goals, and relationships. In our view then, conservation depends
upon a building of interspecies relationships in which long-term mutual thriving is
the goal, and human interests don’t necessarily outweigh those of other animals or
plants. The central question of our time is how humans can better cohabitate
with/in as integral parts of ecological systems. This paradigm informs our research
and related advocacy for cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) and coastal
communities. Cetaceans are sentinels of ocean health and their current high
mortality rates indicate massive failure of ocean protection efforts and cohabitation
efforts. Cetaceans are also valued by the public for being iconic, charismatic
representatives of the marine environment in many cultures. Yet beyond
functionality and emotionality, a phenomenon of cetacean sociable behavior
directed towards humans, unique among other free-ranging species, has occurred
and, more recently, has been systematically studied, in cetaceans. Cetaceans in
groups, and sometimes individually (the latter called “solitary sociables”) actively
seek interactions with human swimmers, waders, boaters, and divers – in the
absence of food provisioning – in certain locations globally. These situations provide
exceptional opportunities for both the study of cetacean behavioral ecology and
cognition and also for cetaceans to serve as public ambassadors of oceanic
protection. But surprisingly, these shared marine environments often become
centers of conflict about how to cohabitate in shared marine communities. Our
team is leading multi-disciplinary research, combining academic, scientific, and
advocacy platforms, and consulting on issues including successful cohabitation with
solitaries, which is part of a larger study documenting elements of successful
cohabitation among humans and coastal ecosystems. As part of this emerging
species-inclusive and non-anthropocentric paradigm, Dr Toni Frohoff developed
Interspecies Collaborative Research, in which both researcher and subject(s)
participate in a mutually interactive investigation. Our diverse approach, that
includes ethology, ecology, and social science, is ecocultural, multi-species in
orientation, and centers on serving and advocating for the interests of the species
and ecosystems we interact with and study.


Dr. Toni Frohoff

Terramar Research

Coral reef management and island conservation: interdisciplinary environmental projects [Wednesday Feb 24]

This roundtable will be divided into two segments. In the first part I will discuss ideas for coral reef management that came out of the Future of Reefs in a Changing Environment project that I was involved in. In the second part I will give some of the background to a conference on ‘Humans and island environments’ that I am helping to organise. I will discuss the importance of islands for environmental conservation, the diverse research that is done on islands, and their role at the forefront of conservation solutions. This will lead into a discussion on the highs and lows of conferences, as I would like to get people’s thoughts on the most important aspects of a good conference.

If possible, please can everyone bring a device that can access the internet – I hope to have some not so fancy interactivity during the discussion!

Jason Flower

Research Assistant
Foundation for Environmental Conservation |


Conserving mobile species [Wed Feb 17]

Many species move around land and seascapes. In this talk I’ll look at how these patterns of movement change the way we design conservation projects, and the outcomes for migratory species in contemporary conservation schemes. Often these species cross jurisdictions, and collaboration across diverse groups of people is essential to their persistence in a rapidly changing world.
I’ll explore these issues with three case studies – nomadic desert birds, a critically endangered koala population and mining development in southern Australia.
Be prepared for gratuitous photos of birds and cute fluffy things.


Claire Runge
Postdoctoral Scholar
SNAP Better Land-Use Decisions working group
National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis (NCEAS),
University of California Santa Barbara
Center of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED), University of Queensland
Twitter @Claire_Runge | |

Hunting in the tropics: examining hunter rationality [Wed, Feb 3]

Excessive hunting pressure is a major threat to tropical vertebrates. Research on hunters has broadly assumed that hunters are rational economic agents, willing to switch to more attractive alternative activities. However, my study in Southwest China demonstrates that villagers may be highly unwilling to stop hunting, despite low expected catch rates and stiff penalties for hunting and gun ownership. I will primarily discuss a project that used quantitative and qualitative interviews to elucidate the behavior of hunters, as well as the application of novel techniques to analyze these data. I will also discuss ongoing research that combines field data with theoretical models to explore how resilient prey may subsidize the continued harvest of rare game species. I am eager to receive feedback and share ideas with audience members.

Charlotte Chang
PhD candidate | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Princeton University


Looking for hotspots while the world gets hotter: multi-species genetic data inform landscape-scale conservation in the face of climate change in the San Joaquin Desert of California.

Global climate change can create patterns of biodiversity where once-widespread species become restricted to small islands of persistence, commonly called climate refugia. Species can subsequently recolonize the intervening spaces between the islands, masking the historical range restriction. Advances in molecular genetic technology now allow us to see the signature of these historical restriction events. In our ongoing study of desert vertebrates in the San Joaquin Valley, we are layering patterns of population subdivision from multiple species into a composite map of historical population centers. We have significant population subdivison as well as pattern concordance among some species, suggesting past refuges in the Panoche Hills and the Carrizo Plain. A parallel study projecting the distribution of the blunt-nosed leopard lizard following the current climate change event shows both spots as potential refugia, suggesting the tantalizing possibility that contemporary hotspots may serve as future redoubts.


Michael Westphal
Bureau of Land Management
Hollister Field Office, CA

The secret lives of mountain lions in the Santa Cruz Mountains

As human developments continue to permeate previously open spaces, large carnivores are often the first species to feel the impact of these changes. The Santa Cruz Puma Project examined the behavioral responses of an apex predator, the mountain lion, to an increasingly human dominated landscape. During my presentation, I discussed our use of accelerometer technology as a new way to gain deeper insights into mountain lion behavior, movement and physiology, recent findings on mountain lion behavioral adaptations to living close to humans, and conservation outcomes that have resulted from our work.

I welcome comments with suggestions on how new technologies and behavioral ecology can help illuminate the conservation and management of large predators living close to humans. Please check out a recent video from NSF on our work with accelerometers!