Monday, August 8, 2016: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
Grand Floridian Blrm E, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center
Rachel A. Katz, US Geological Survey
Evan H. Campbell Grant, US Geological Survey; and
Michael C. Runge, US Geological Survey
Evan H. Campbell Grant, US Geological Survey
Ecological and conservation problems are increasingly complex due to realized and future changes in climate, increasing human-wildlife interactions, and rising global human demand for natural resources. Because funds and time are limiting, research ecologists are increasingly called on to provide useful and actionable science to inform environmental policies and natural resource management and conservation decisions. Failure to adequately address the decision makers’ problems can result in scientists tackling the wrong ecological question, statisticians building ineffective sampling designs and quantitative tools, and decision makers inefficiently using scare fiscal resources. Although the fields of applied ecology and conservation biology have provided valuable insights to help solve ecological problems, decision theory and analytics have been increasingly coupled with these fields over the last 20 years to use research and conservation dollars more efficiently and ensure defensible processes for making challenging environmental decisions.
Decision analytics, a thriving field developed in business, economics, operations research, and psychology over the last century, has provided a framework to explicitly link science with management decisions. Although decision-analytic approaches vary, they generally include: (1) properly formulating the decision problem; (2) specifying objectives (conservation-related, as well as other stakeholder concerns); (3) developing feasible alternative actions; (3) predicting the consequences of these actions using models; and (4) evaluating the value and trade-offs of predicted outcomes. Many federal agencies, such as US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, US Forest Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and Department of Defense, state natural resource departments, and nonprofit organizations have been turning to decision scientists to help structure challenging decisions, as well as to identify essential scientific information that is valuable to collect prior to making decisions.
In this session, first we will provide a broad overview of the challenges in ecological and conservation decision-making (i.e., multiple-objective trade-offs, uncertainty and risk, complex management alternatives, and linked decisions). Then, we will provide examples of the application of decision analytics in ecology and conservation biology, both in research and environmental management settings. Finally, we will identify critical areas of future research in decision analytics for applied ecologists in the 21st century. Familiarity with decision analytic concepts and tools will allow ecologists to become skilled at diagnosing ecological decision problems and developing research and predictive models that better inform conservation decisions under uncertainty.