SYMP 11 - Translational Ecology: Forging Effective Links Between Knowledge and Action

Wednesday, August 8, 2012: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
Portland Blrm 252, Oregon Convention Center
Mark W. Brunson, Utah State University
Elizabeth G. King, University of Georgia
Elizabeth G. King, University of Georgia
Preserving, utilizing and sustaining life on earth depends on understanding ecosystem dynamics, and also requires human actions, policy and governance. Most critically, it requires effective conduits of translation between the knowledge generated by scientists and “end users,” members of society who are responsible for enacting policies and practices. In 2010, past ESA President William Schlesinger called for a “translational ecology” that would “connect end-users of environmental science to the field research carried out by scientists who study the basis of environmental problems.” What distinguishes this approach from most applied ecology is the recognized need for continuous two-way communication between scientists and the public throughout all phases, from research design and execution to interpretation, application, and action. In many cases, however, end users may have misgivings about such partnerships, feeling that scientists are disconnected from the real-world concerns that they grapple with. And from the ecological side, engaging in translational ecology can require unfamiliar shifts and less autonomy in research priorities, limiting ecologists’ embracement of truly translational work. What guiding principles can help forge iterative and effective communication in the face of strongly divergent perspectives on scientific research? What can we learn from the strategies employed in successful cases of translational ecology? In this symposium, we will delve into theoretical dimensions and an international set of case studies to evaluate the challenges and opportunities for fostering truly translational ecology. The symposium opens by proposing how dynamic engagement between scientists and “end users” can build robust, adaptive strategies to address linked social-ecological problems. The next two presentations offer insights from beyond the discipline of ecology, analyzing theoretical and practical facets of effective science-public communication and collaborative linkages. We then utilize case studies to illustrate research tools that can foster communication, understanding, and application of ecological knowledge in decision-making. The final two case studies demonstrate noteworthy impacts of translational ecology on policy and on community-based sustainability initiatives. The symposium concludes with a synthesis of lessons learned and a forward-looking evaluation of research innovations that can help build stronger translational ecology in the future. As we watch the Anthropocene unfold, it is clear that the future of life on earth, for humans and the ecosystems around us, depends on our commitment today to strengthen our contributions to translational ecology. Our goal is that the symposium with reward researchers from all disciplines with new insights, strategies, and inspiration for engaging in translational ecology.
Rangeland Ecology Section, Applied Ecology Section, International Affairs Section, Human Ecology Section
8:00 AM
 Definitions, dimensions and directions for translational ecology
Mark W. Brunson, Utah State University; Scott Hoffmann, Utah State University
9:15 AM
 Creating new ways to bring people and knowledge together: Evolving ‘translational ecology’ into ‘transformational ecology’
Robin Reid, Colorado State University; Maria Fernandez-Gimenez, Colorado State University; Kathleen A. Galvin, Colorado State University; David Nkedianye, University of Nairobi; Jessica Thompson, Colorado State University
9:40 AM
9:50 AM
 Using the Drylands Development Paradigm for translational ecology to overcome inequities and obstacles to sustainable development
Elisabeth Huber-Sannwald, Instituto Potosino de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica; Monica Ribeiro Palacios, Instituto Potosino de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica; Ruth Magnolia Martinez Peña, Instituto Potosino de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica
11:05 AM
 Synthesis: The present and future of translational ecology
Margaret A. Palmer, University of Maryland
See more of: Symposium