Success through Communication and Engagement

Applied ecology measures its success in part by adoption of what it has to offer management. Successful adoption demands communication of results in a form that can be readily comprehended by resource managers and effectively brought to the table in policy setting and decision making (Box 1). There are a number of challenges to bring about effective communication.

The first challenge arises from the different cultural perspectives of scientist and manager. The core objective ofa natural resource manager is to bring all available knowledge and understanding, scientific and otherwise, to bear on setting policy and making and implementing a decision. At the end of the process, the outcome is evaluated, and the decision confirmed as appropriate or not. For an ecologist, as a scientist, learning that the knowledge and understanding brought to the decision-making process was confirmed as appropriate is satisfying, but from the perspective of his/her discipline, it is potentially pedestrian. Science advances through failure, focuses on the causes of that failure, reevaluation of concepts and principles, collection of new data, and re-application. Managers want the problem solved -they get excited when it all goes well; scientists want to learn something new - they get excited when something unexpected happens. Lack of appreciation, and lack of reciprocal respect, for these differing perspectives can lead to breakdown in trust and with it, loss of communication.

Adaptive management, that is, adopting an experimental approach to management intervention, provides a good framework in which scientists and natural managers can work together to achieve solutions to both management problems and advances in knowledge. Under this framework, management intervention is conducted in a rigorous experimental framework where the intervention is implemented as a scientific experiment. Due attention is paid to the fundamental tenets of experimental design and sampling - the use of temporal and spatial controls against which the effects of interventions can be measured, proper replication of experimental treatments, proper attention to sample unit selection and sample sizes. The management intervention occurs in the context of a solid scientific foundation for the monitoring and evaluation that follows. The benefits of an experimental approach to management intervention are that the ecologists and natural resource managers are working together at all stages of the design and implementation of the intervention, the evaluation of the efficacy of the intervention is on a solid scientific footing and so the intervention can be recast in the light of the outcomes with confidence and, perhaps most importantly, knowledge is advanced both when the intervention is successful and when it is a failure. Adaptive management of natural resources is 'applied ecology' at its best.

A second challenge faced in applying ecological knowledge to natural resource management is ensuring that all important information is available to management at the time of setting policy, making decisions, and putting policy into practice. Traditionally, communication of the results of ecological studies occurs in the presentation at learned conferences and by publication as scientific papers in leading journals such as the Journal of Applied Ecology, Ecological Applications, or Biological Conservation. While there have been efforts to better integrate scientists and natural resource managers into professional societies, the primary audience for these channels of communication remain ecologists and other scientists. The audience for refereed publications in journals is primarily comprised of applied ecologists and other scientists.

Many organizations responsible for natural resource management have limited in-house ecological capacity

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