Another year another round of congratulations to students

Congratulations to another great round of Master students. Congrats Lykke and Thorsteinn on submitting some amazing work! This year it was all things private land conservation – Special Wildlife Reserves in Queensland and Land for Wildlife in Tasmania. Thanks also to our research partner Tasmanian Land Conservancy for Lykke’s thesis and also thanks to expert advisors at the Department of Environment and Science in Queensland for informing our survey instrument.

An important statement on Trophy Hunting by Dickman et al. and reply to defamatory press

In August, my colleague Amy Dickman led an important piece in Science on the role that trophy hunting has to play in conservation of imperiled biodiversity (  This is a contentious space and admire Amy’s thought leadership on this piece. The Science article summarizes key evidence around the role that Trophy Hunting plays in supporting conservation and also calls for the support of African countries to have self-determination in establishing policies for wildlife management.  The last two sentences of this piece strongly articulate this point:

“Crucially, as African countries call for a “New Deal” for rural communities that allows them to achieve the self-determination to sustainably manage wildlife and reduce poverty, it is incumbent on the international community not to undermine that. Some people find trophy hunting repugnant (including many of us), but conservation policy that is not based on science threatens habitat and biodiversity and risks disempowering and impoverishing rural communities.”

It is on this basis that I am a signatory of this article.

Perhaps not unexpectedly, given the contenious nature of this debate, the article has received a great deal of negative press (different to the healthy debate of peer reviewed replies that have been published by Science). This negative press includes incorrect and defamatory statements against Amy Dickman and the other lead authors. I take this opportunity to share the statement of signatories below in response to this press.

Signatory statement

We are aware that there are some false and highly misleading statements in the press, regarding our recent letter to Science about trophy hunting. These imply that the lead authors of the letter were hiding financial links with the trophy hunting industry. These allegations  are completely false. The authors have always been completely open and transparent about their interests and affiliations, including with Science. Their financial links with trophy hunting organisations are tiny to non-existent, and are certainly no stronger than their equivalent links with, say, photo-tourism organisations.

Furthermore, any suggestion that the conclusions of our letter are invalid because of perceived conflicts of interests is fundamentally incorrect. Researchers work with – and often receive grants from – a wide diversity of funders with very different beliefs on a range of topic. However, this should not even come into the debate, as we do not accept funding with strings attached and our conclusions are always based on evidence.

These false allegations are intended to discredit reputable scientists. This is not how conservation debates should happen – we should be able to discuss different views respectfully, and should not tolerate or perpetuate any attacks on scientists for stating their views. This media campaign could well be interpreted as an attempt to silence the voices of many well-respected conservationists and community representatives, who highlight the valid point that banning trophy hunting without better alternatives in place is likely to make things worse for conservation, animal welfare and local livelihoods.

Recruiting 2 PhD students: Living with change: Place, pathways and policy

Thinking about doing a PhD? We have 2 PhD scholarships for a new project we have going! These PhDs will join an exciting group of researchers to build on existing research strengths in Climate Science with a focus on the human dimensions.  We are seeking to urgently fill the first PhD position (Climate adaptation pathways) while start date on the second is flexible over the next year (Places at risk).

New PhD opportunity: Living with change: Place, pathways and policy

Dr Vanessa Adams, Dr Rebecca Harris, Professor Jason Byrne, Distinguished Professor Jamie Kirkpatrick (all Geography and Spatial Science), Professor Elizabeth Lester, and Professor Jan McDonald are recruiting two PhD students to explore related topics in Living with Change: Place, Pathways and Policy.

The first PhD student will commence this year (2019) exploring methods and applications for mapping climate adaptation pathways in collaboration with stakeholders (Hobart City Council and local governments). The ideal applicant is familiar with interdisciplinary research (with an undergraduate degree in a related discipline including geography, planning, conservation, law, economics, spatial sciences, ecology) and have strong communication skills and demonstrated experience working with stakeholders. The position is supported by a UTas scholarship and fee waiver, and is open to domestic and international students.,-environments-and-design/geography-and-spatial-sciences/living-with-change-mapping-adaptation-pathways-and-enabling-policy/_nocache

The second PhD student will commence within the next year (2019-2020) understanding the role of place in climate adaptation. This can include (but is not limited to) mapping place attachment, landscape values, and areas at risk of loss from climate change and exploring, in collaboration with stakeholders (Hobart City Council and local governments), the role of place in shaping climate adaptation. The ideal applicant is familiar with interdisciplinary research (with an undergraduate degree in a related discipline including geography, planning, conservation, law, economics, spatial sciences, ecology) and have strong communication skills and demonstrated experience working with stakeholders. The position is supported by a UTas scholarship and fee waiver, and is open to domestic and international students.,-environments-and-design/geography-and-spatial-sciences/living-with-change-understanding-the-role-of-place2/_nocache


Investment in protected area management is often a better option than expanding protected areas

Here’s a reproduction of our Nature Sustainability Blog explaining a bit of behind the details motivations and findings of our new paper

With conservation funds in short supply, existing protected areas rarely have an adequate budget for management. This raises a critical question for decision makers: should governments and/or environmental organisations spend new funds on purchasing more land or managing existing protected areas?

Our experience working with protected area managers is that they rarely report having adequate funding, staff, or time to support required management actions like fencing protected area boundaries, removing weeds and prescribed burns.  The scientific literature supports our experiences and insights – for example 60% of protected areas in a global assessment of management effectiveness scores reported that the available budget was inadequate for basic management or that they had no management budget (the lowest possible scores under this scorecard item). This led us to ask the question: ‘when should new funds for nature conservation be spent on expansion or management?’ in our paper, “Weighing the benefits of expanding protected areas versus managing existing ones”.

With inadequate conservation resources, it’s no surprise that we see continued increases of threats to species that we are trying to protect. Some types of threats – such as deforestation, or overgrazing – can be counteracted by declaring a protected area; other threats, such as changes in fire frequency, disease outbreaks, and invasions of weeds and feral species, require active management in protected areas (Figure 1). The impacts of these different types of threats, and the actions required to mitigate them (along with the benefits and costs of action) have been well studied.  But what was not clear was how this information should be put together to help managers know when to allocate effort towards expansion or management.

blog images.jpgFigure 1. A) Image of grazed (right) versus ungrazed (left) habitat (Photo Credit: Megan Barnes). Protection (enforced by fencing where needed) can effectively stop threats like clearing and grazing.  B) Feral Cat with Galah (Photo Credit: Mark Marathon). Active management is required to stop threats such as predation by feral animals and has been shown to effectively halt predation and prevent extinctions. C) Fire maintained landscape with a fire supressed region (left) and a region with decades of prescribed fire (right)within a single protected area (Photo Credit: Gwen Iacona).  Active management is required to address threats such as inappropriate fire regimes.

We used a mathematical model to study how decisions about expansion of protected areas compared to improved protected area management.  This approach allowed us to represent the important parts of the system of interest and parameterize it in a way that provides unambiguous insight into the relevant benefits of when to manage or protect. We discovered that the relative priority of expansion and management is determined by quantifiable factors – the relative costs of the two actions and the rates of degradation in protected and unprotected areas.  In most contexts our model suggests that management should be a priority first action. However, some regions of the world such as East and West Africa and Melanesia were recommended for expansion of protected areas. These areas are characterized by low levels of existing protection and high threats of habitat loss so the benefit of protected area expansion is high.

An interesting outcome of our modelled results was that, contrary to spending patterns which focus on expansion rather than management, management is the better first investment in many contexts. And management is always a necessary complement to new acquisition. This highlights that, while our existing protected areas are an important asset, increased investment in management is essential to maximise their potential to protect biodiversity. As we head into 2020 CBD negotiations, it’s time to get serious about effective management targets. Aichi Target 11 states that:  By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas are conserved through effectively and equitably managed protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.  But, what does an ‘effectively managed protected area’ look like? If we can answer this, we can define SMART (specific, measurable, ambitious, realistic, and time-bound) targets to meet Aichi Target 11’s ‘effectively managed’ component.  We need a quantifiable target for effective management from the next Convention on Biological Diversity (2020 in Kunming) that will lead to more investment in management, just as the 17% protection target spurred expansion of the protected area system.