Published: Aug. 27, 2020

Dr. Gavin Jones photo Dr. Gavin Jones
Research Ecologist
USDA Forest Service, Albuquerque, NM

When:  Sept. 4th, at Noon
Where:  Seminar will be presented via Zoom.
Title: “It depends”: emphasizing ecological nuance to make science more meaningful for conservation.



There is a tendency in applied conservation science to identify simple, parsimonious explanations for how ecological systems work. Such simple explanations have the benefit of helping communicate prescriptive findings to managers and policymakers. Yet ecological systems are highly complex, non-linear, and difficult to predict. How do we balance the desire for simplicity and the reality of complexity in our science? I propose three simple approaches for integrating nuance into our conservation science that keeps interpretations tractable but is honest to the complexity of ecological systems. First, avoid asking yes or no questions: the answer is rarely ever yes or no. Second, embrace landscape ecology: recognize that everything in your system occurs in a spatial context and is scale-dependent. Third, test for interactive effects: try to identify mediating factors in your system that deepen understanding and introduce flexibility into management prescriptions. All three of these approaches could be distilled to a single phrase: “it depends”. I demonstrate the concept of “it depends” using California spotted owls and forest management in the Sierra Nevada, CA. I show how applying the three above-mentioned approaches to science leads to more meaningful and nuanced opportunities for conservation and management actions. The general framework I present offers space for reducing, understanding, and embracing uncertainty in applied ecology and conservation conflicts.

Everyone is welcome to the seminar.  Please find Zoom information here.