Connecting the scientific method to conservation action

Posted by Myra Finkelstein on Thursday, November 1 2012

We are soliciting input and participation from Fellows savvy in communications and outreach to organizations involved in the conservation and management of seabirds. Our project seeks to connect the scientific method to conservation actions, and has high potential to have immediate and significant impact for Laysan albatross (LAAL) and black-footed albatross (BFAL).

Conservation issue. In 2004, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Earthjustice, and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to list BFAL under the US Endangered Species Act. In response, the USFWS funded an assessment of the status of both LAAL and BFAL using data from 1923 – 2005. The status assessment was published in 2009 and is being used for policy and management decisions with respect to BFAL and LAAL conservation. Recently, new data has become available and USFWS has provided us with partial funding to write an addendum to the status assessment with updated data and additional quantitative analysis.

Tapping the Switzer Network. The 2009 report is currently accepted as the best available science and is being used to make high impact conservation decisions. While writing the addendum will be important for clarifying the current conservation status of BFAL and LAAL, most seabird managers are not aware that the addendum is underway.

We specifically are asking for advice and possible participation from those in the Switzer Network with expertise in outreach and communication. We are hoping for suggestions and recommendations on actions we can take and products we can produce to assure our addendum is rigorous and comprehensive and, more importantly, to help publicize our addendum to management agencies and advocacy organizations.

We look forward to hearing of your interest and ideas!

Myra Finkelstein

Vickie Bakker

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Few suggestions

This addendum to the Status Assessment will be an important contribution to the conservation of the black-footed and Laysan albatross, so I’m glad to see that you are working on this project. I have a few suggestions for making the addendum as rigorous and comprehensive as possible (which likely include things you are already planning on doing). First, it will be important to assess the peer reviewers' comments and public comments on the Status Assessment and make sure science-based suggestions were rigorously considered and were incorporated where appropriate into the Assessment, which will likely involve contacting and talking with the peer reviewers. Second, new studies have been published and new data has been collected since the Status Assessment on important issues like bycatch mortality, current and projected climate change effects on these albatrosses’ nesting and foraging habitat, contaminants, plastic pollution, and invasive plants (Verbesina). It will be important to re-analyze the status and threats to these species in light of this new information. Third, more detailed demographic data have been collected on these species in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands since 2007. If possible, it would be fantastic if you or others could analyze these new data to better understand recent population status and trends. Fourth, if possible, it would be a good idea to open up public comment on your addendum and incorporate feedback. And fifth, it will be important for USFWS and NMFS to recognize the addendum as the best available science superseding the 2009 Status Assessment. You could also consider publishing a paper based on your analyses for the addendum. To help publicize the addendum to management agencies and advocacy organizations, you could think about (a) publicizing it while you are working on it for the purpose of gathering information, (b) publicizing the draft for the purpose of getting comments and suggestions for the final draft, and (c) publicizing the final draft for the purpose of wide dissemination. For any of these steps, you could consider posting on scientific listserves especially seabird listserves like Pacific Seabird Group; and reaching out directly to management agencies including USFS, NMFS, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, and to conservation organizations, especially those that work on seabirds, such as ABC, Audubon, and Center for Biological Diversity. You could host a webinar to discuss and launch the final product, and give an oral presentation on the addendum at a seabird conference like the Pacific Seabird Group annual meeting. I hope this is helpful, and wish you great success on this project. Shaye Wolf, Center for Biological Diversity,

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