Evidence-based Conservation

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This semester we will examine evidence-based conservation (EBC). EBC is an emerging approach for improving the degree to which scientific evidence is actually used in conservation management and decision making. It uses techniques that have resulted in substantial changes over the past couple of decades in the way that medicine is practiced, and which have subsequently been poached by other fields. To learn a little about the topic, check out the web sites for Environmental Evidence, Conservation Evidence, and the Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation.

In the course we will read about the rationale for EBC, examine the techniques used, look at some case studies, and then students will develop small projects of their own (ideally related to their own research interests) to try out the methods.


During the first half of the semester we will read papers on the evidence-based approach, finishing up with a couple of case studies. Most papers come from the group at the Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation, which has pioneered the use of this approach in conservation biology. While we are working through these papers, I'd also like everyone in the class to develop a project that they will present during the second half of the semester. For the projects, people can work individually or in pairs. Ideally, projects should be based on something related to your own research or career interests. If you have no ideas, ask me for suggestions.

The project should take the form of a systematic review of the evidence for some conservation management action. Discussions during the first half of the semester will provide guidance on how to do this. Project presentations should include description of (a) the general problem, (b) how you broke the problem down into specific questions, and which of those you then tackled, (c) how you searched the literature for evidence, (d) what evidence you found, (e) how you summarized the evidence, and most importantly (f) what specific recommendations you would give to conservation practitioners and why (simply suggesting more research is not an option - managers want advice on what to do now).

For the presentations, you should prepare a short PowerPoint slide show to provide the required information (10-12 slides, max; you need to be able to say everything that matters in <15 mins). My expectation is that presentations will involve a back-and-forth discussion between the presenter and the rest of the group, rather than a one-way flow of information. The audience's goal is to provide feedback on the approach taken for the review. We should help the presenter determine what more they could do to aid managers make good decisions if they were to proceed further with the review.

A schedule is posted below. Everyone should sign up to share leadership roles for one week during the first half of the semester (two students per session) and to present their project during one week in the second half of the semester.

Note that most of the links to papers will only work if you are on the UConn computer network (or have your own subscription to a journal). If you are off-campus, you can connect to the UConn network via the VPN (go to this site and sign in using your UConn netID).

Week Who Topic Reading Notes
21st Jan Chris Why "evidence-based"? The Evidence Gap (Read 2+ articles - but, not just the first two) These New York Times articles discuss the use of evidence in medicine, which is where many ideas in evidence-based conservation originate.
28th Jan Amanda/Brian Introduction to the evidence-based approach Pullin & Knight 2001; Pullin & Knight 2003; Sutherland et al. 2004 These early papers collectively set the scene for the class.
4th Feb Walter & Polik Isn't evidence used already? Pullin et al. 2004; Petticrew 2001
11th Feb Sue & Kevin How to do reviews Pullin et al. 2008; Pullin et al. 2006 The 2006 paper is just an earlier version of the on-line document that was published in Conservation Biology.
18th Feb Tanner & John V Gathering and analyzing data Gates 2002; Dickersin et al. 1995 Focus on the Gates paper, but skim the other to get the main points.
25th Feb Rachel K. & Patrick Case studies: wind farm impacts on birds; hedgerows as corridors; structures, streams, salmonids Stewart et al. 2007;

Davies & Pullin 2007 Stewart et al. in press

4th Mar Sarah Treanor & Rachael G. Case studies: invasive plant control - ragwort, braken, Rhododendron Roberts and Pullin 2007

Stewart et al. 2007 Tyler et al. 2006

11th Mar ---- NO MEETING: SPRING BREAK ----
18th Mar Jessica & Leslie How good are conservation reviews? Roberts et al. 2006; Stewart et al. 2005
25th Mar Amanda Pineapple farms
1st Apr

Tanner & Jon V Sue

Management of Nuisance Canada Geese

Benefits of salt marsh restoration to birds

8th Apr Patrick

Rachael G.

Effectiveness of Brown-headed Cowbird control

Sustainability of mushroom harvest

15th Apr Rachel K. & Leslie


Zebra mussels

Bats and wind farms

22nd Apr Sarah Treanor


Project presentation 9: ????

Bird nest platforms

29th Apr Kevin


Nest removal effects on invasive birds

Does carbon sequestration work?