We want you to know what is going on in the BOD, our meetings, our actions, members leaving, the new ones elected,... but text written in this blog cannot be taken an official position or statement of the Society for Conservation Biology. Probably it is not even an official statement of the section... as these need to be approved by the members.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Scientists, a new quota species?

Guest Post by Adam Rees 

Globally, marine conservation is currently high on the agenda. The need to protect and conserve species and habitats from deleterious anthropogenic impacts has never been of more concern than it is currently. However, that is not to say we, as a society, are achieving effective marine conservation, in fact we are far from it. Global summits have come and gone, as have the targets they set for marine conservation. Most targets have largely been focused on percentage cover of our oceans, be that 10%?, 15%? or 80%?, as the most valuable and measurable metric as an indicator of successful marine conservation. Inevitably this led to many Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) being introduced in national and international waters regardless of the actual benefits they may provide, or the social, economic and political boundaries faced by implementing such areas.

You could write a thesis detailing the multitude of reasons behind MPA failings (and some people have!) that have contributed to a shortfall in global marine conservation efforts meeting set targets. However, to avoid dwelling on the doom and gloom, the reason d’être for this blog post is to focus on learning from our MPA mistakes and highlighting a certain way in which to move forward.

I recently attended the 4th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC4) in St John’s Newfoundland where I presented some PhD research. I work in Lyme Bay on the south coast of England where an MPA has been introduced and mobile fishing, notably scallop dreading in this scenario, has been banned in a bid to halt further degradation and promote recovery of the biodiverse subtidal reefs that are known to exist at this site. Here I have been involved in the monitoring undertaken by Plymouth University, and more recently my PhD (Blue Marine Foundation funded) focus has been on determining the impacts of unregulated static gear activity on these recovering sensitive habitats within the Lyme Bay MPA. (www.lymebayreserve.co.uk to find out more)

A key aspect of my research involves manipulating densities of controlled fishing effort in order to create representative test scenarios for monitoring ecological change in response to an increasing commercial fishing pressure. I am a marine scientist, not a fisherman. If this project was going to be successful I had to have the commercial fishing community on my side. Back reference to some of the examples where MPA failures have been caused by social barriers, and you will find the disruption to commercial fisheries being a key contributor. In order to avoid such a groundhog occurrence, the project was designed around the table with the fishermen who would be directly and heavily involved in the science and data collection in the project. This approach intended to give the fishermen ownership and a sense of involvement over a project which had its aims and potential outcomes clearly outlined to them at the start. And so for the most part of three years, local fishermen in the area have been directly involved in the day-to-day maintenance of the project’s needs and heavily involved in the data collection that goes with it.

It was hoped that employing this blueprint, any mistrust between the scientific and fishing communities could be dispelled by providing the fishermen with the confidence that the benefits from the findings of this research would far outweigh the negatives in the long term. This is not a quick process, and almost four years down the line these relationships are still being developed, but I firmly believe it has lasted this long due to the open approach employed. Fisher involvement is also considered imperative if compliance is needed in studies, such as my PhD, require a degree of long-term fishing practice management.

Additionally, the partnership is very much a two-way street as the requirement of help and knowledge from the commercial fishing side is considered just as critical to success. Firstly, marine scientists can invariably be, often by their own admittance, fairly lousy sea goers. We understand what we want, the data we need and how we want it done, yet often have little regard for practical working at at sea. In Lyme Bay we required a large volume of fishing gear that was going to be deployed at sea for around three years with which the fishermen all had their input to meet the specifications we needed. Secondly, we used their combined extensive local knowledge regarding the inshore benthic habitats of the MPA, in order to select comparable areas of reef habitat to ensure a level of homogeneity across our treatments.

These episodes of learning by using the local knowledge of the fishermen, what I now know to be referred to as Traditional or Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK), is something that I consider vital to successful marine conservation partnerships in the marine environment. It is not particularly a new idea either, with examples of this term being used more in relation to terrestrial conservation dating back to the early 90s; often through acknowledging the benefits of indigenous knowledge when planning sustainable development in rainforest habitats. Examples of this acknowledgement extending into the marine realm can be seen from the early 2000’s where of particular note Douglas Wilson opens up his Marine Policy paper discussing how multiple knowledge sources including LEK can be used to inform management. Many journal articles and policy notes have echoed this idea since then, but have highlighted the subsequent lack of uptake an LEK requirement by national and international policy which targets conserving biodiversity and/or managing our natural resources.

Whilst there are many recent examples that display an appreciation of LEK, such as by undertaking extensive interviews with local people, even using their responses to improve our fundamental ecological understanding and designing multiple projects using such knowledge, it is recognised that the semi-quantitative efforts to legitimise the use of LEK is not reliable enough to develop bases for environmental management. Referring to Wilson once more, 'Fisheries management cannot be effective if it is not considered legitimate by stakeholders. This is especially true when institutions are weak and implementation relies on voluntary compliance’; I couldn’t agree more. Congruent arguments have heavily cited problems of using such a knowledge source as being fundamental to the failure to include LEK in marine conservation; ‘It isn’t scientific enough’.

However, it is a renewed involvement of local/indigenous individuals in the conception of ideas for achieving effective marine conservation I am advocating for in this blog. These individuals may not be providing anything tangible or quantifiable but their consideration as a key ‘stakeholder’ is just as important. If it’s the case of an MPA, the fishers usually lose out in some way and it’s important to talk about the longer term benefits. Speaking from my experience from integrating the commercial fishing sector, these individuals that agree to be involved are often the oldest or most respected members of that local fishing community. Coined ‘sentinel’ fishermen and a self-appointed 'leader of sheep', positive encouragement for a project from such individuals can be even more enabling to marine scientists than any amount of acquired funding or governmental dispensations.

And this is where comparisons can be drawn with other such studies of similar ilk, and my horizons of which have been broadened thanks to interactions at IMCC4. In presentations, I always include a PowerPoint slide entitled ‘Scientists as fishermen’ in order to promote the issue discussed here. However, never has a slide been more redundant as at IMCC4 as this was a widely common theme at the congress IMCC helped promote multiple case studies where this idea was centerpiece. Examples of head fishermen chiefs from bag net fisheries in India, being both sought after by decision making stakeholders in order to provide their LEK to the negotiating table but also tasked with relaying the knowledge they had required from the meetings back to the local fishing villages (Biswal, RL, IMCC4 2016). Another example is the development of Southeast Alaska Sperm Whale Avoidance Project (SEASWAP), a collaboration between commercial long line fishermen and scientists that aims to reduce interactions between commercial fishing and sperm whales. Here, fishermen are involved in defining study questions, setting objectives designing and testing equipment and even swapping their normal fishing boats for conferences as they become representatives of this collaboration at symposium and scientific conferences alike (O’Connell, V, IMCC4 2016). Furthermore, there was even a facilitated formal discussion aptly named ‘Bringing fishermen to the table’ which highlighted a number of tools that could be employed to facilitate engagement of the fishing sector in order to secure long term participation in science. Encouraged from momentum gathered from a recent GAP2 conference that brought fishermen and stakeholders together, (gap2.eu) an ex-fisher turned communicator of all things science Lawrence Hartnell (@ThroughTheGaps) along with other partners, including Dr. Maria Campbell (@FishyKnowledge), promoted the use of online tools and discussion forums to be utilized in order to bring the most difficult to reach to the discussion table: fishermen. Using this discussion, it was widely accepted this approach is imperative in achieving co-ownership and active participation from the commercial fishing sector in marine conservation to help support reliable evidence-based decision making in the marine environment.

Looking forward, the incorporation of LEK into the schematics behind effective marine conservation should be imperative on the international scale. This, however, should not be satisfied through number of questionnaires handed out to a subset of fishermen, nor workshop sessions with only fishers present that happened to have their boat being fixed on that date, but the inclusion of multiple stakeholders with significant and beneficial LEK at the highest level when initial, and all thereafter, decisions are made. With the rise of scientific literate fishermen, it is imperative to become fishing-savvy scientists - and then we all have a place at the table.


Post by Adam Rees Plymouth University

Adam Rees is a marine biologist and PhD Candidate at Plymouth University. You can find Adam on Twitter @AdamLikesTheSea

Monday, 31 October 2016

Women in Science at SCCS Hungary 2016

A short drive from Budapest, and we arrived at the Balaton Limnological Institute, along the green banks of Lake Balaton on a warm August afternoon. Balaton Limnological Institute has been a world leading research facility since its establishment in 1927, and Lake Balaton, the largest natural lake in central Europe, has played an important role in the landscape across geological time scales. The lake remains locally and regionally famous as a summer tourist destination, and despite ongoing human dependencies it continues to support diverse wetlands and species.

Students lead all presentations in The Student Conference on Conservation Science (SCCS) series, including the one held in Hungary. In Hungary, there were also a few non-student plenary speakers at SCCS, whose talks are aimed to offer students insights to topical themes and discussions in the field of conservation science. I was lucky enough to get to spend a few hours in the centre library - lined with stacks of limnological archives peeking out of polished wooden shelves. I was in the library, along with my fellow Society for Conservation Biology Europe Section (SCB - ES) colleague, Barbara Mihok, to lead a discussion on Women in Science. 

Participants of Women in Science discussion at SCCS Hungary.
Original photo by: Ferenc Jordan‎

Given ongoing concerns and discussions about how to best overcome challenges faced with representation of women in scientific fields, Barbara and I believed a facilitated discussion and uplifting presentation would be a useful contribution for advancing this dialogue. We hoped that our event could foster an open and secure space for students to share and discuss with each other about diversity in science, specifically with regards to challenges faced by women, and also to share solutions and ideas about how to overcome these challenges.  

Our Women in Science discussion aimed to identify potential barriers to women in science fields, and also to identify actions that each of us could take to move toward solutions and change in our respective field of science and our workplaces. Along with the discussion we included a presentation from Sarah Dalrymple (SCB-ES) who shared her own experiences, career development, and inspirational words with all workshop participants. Attended by both women and men, the discussion was generally positive, and diverse. We heard and shared experiences, stories, and identified actions that we each could take to be more proactive and supportive in driving the change we wish to see in terms of more women in leadership roles, and alongside each of us in our career progression.

Along with my passion for freshwater conservation comes my passion to ensure more representative and equitable experiences for women in the sciences. It was a rewarding experience to attend a conference held at a bastion of freshwater science and to lead a discussion on women in science. I took a lot from the workshop, both in terms of learning from others and in terms of how I would lead such an event differently if I were to be given the opportunity to do it again in the future. For example, while Barbara and I initially felt it would be the most inclusive to open our session to both women and men, we found that the dialogue based approach resulted in men's voices being heard more than the women's voices.

To have a more balanced approach to these discussions, we determined that we could both strengthen our facilitation approach, and hold multiple different events, including several women only events to support a more active dialogue between women, and then a single event that includes men in the discussion. Barbara and I have both taken courses on facilitation, and are increasingly working to overcome challenges with diversity and inclusion in the work place, but you can always refine your approaches and gear them better to the audiences of each event. We both welcome feedback from participants, and non-participants based on this reflection, and ultimately aim to strengthen and diversify the types of events that we and others can hold for women and other minorities in science, giving clear consideration to intersection of gender and other factors, at professional conferences.

I am thankful for the opportunity to have participated in the SCCS Hungary conference, and welcome the chance to participate in more SCCS conferences around the world. Along with a lot of learning, I also took away new professional connections, friendships and experiences. 

Post by Steph Januchowski-Hartley 

About the author: Steph is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Universite Paul Sabatier in Toulouse, France. In addition to her research on dam impacts on freshwater fishes, she also draws, writes poetry and is an active member of the Society for Conservation Biology! 

Monday, 17 October 2016


6 positions available in the SCB Europe Board. If you are a member of SCB, reside in Europe and you are interested in serving on the board, please consider nominating yourself to run for elections.
Board Members’ duties include active input to Board of Directors activities, fundraising for SCB-ES and the willingness to chair one of our standing committees. 
SCB members from Eastern and Southern Europe are particularly encouraged to apply.
Successful candidates will serve a ~3-year term (1 January. 2017 to 31 Dec. 2019).
Deadline for nominations: 15th November 2016
Please read carefully all the information in the document attached.
To apply, send an email with all of the following information to europe@conbio.org by 15 November 2016. Note that we only accept self-nominations.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

I didn’t learn science at the International Marine Conservation Congress

Guest Blog post by Leah Robertson 

I didn’t learn science at the International Marine Conservation Congress (@IMCC2016). That is, I learned power, privilege and equity, and how it is intricately tied to science and conservation.

Visual communication from an IMCC workshop. 

In the last year I worked with students who were facing a number of issues, ranging from academic difficulty to financial aid. Many of the people I worked with were marginalized and this fueled my passion for challenging inequality. This type of inequality occurs in so many ways that when you are not oppressed by it, it can be all too easy to overlook. In a post-secondary setting this begins with being able to financially access education and continues into barriers that occur in the classroom. Over the past few years I felt my love for marine science and equity work were in silos, until the IMCC4 opening plenary.

Michelle LaRue (@drmichellelarue), Jean Wiener, Max Lioboiron (@MaxLiboiron), and Asha de Vos (@ashadevos) were the most incredibly diverse and inspiring marine conservation panel who all understood and explained how power and privilege affect the way we do research. They spoke about the realities of being in developing countries and how so many brilliant minds cannot access education. Furthermore, when scientists come to poor economic areas to do research, the voice of those from the area is often left unheard and not included. These types of relationships can be incredibly damaging and as researchers we owe it to be conscientious about how our work affects marginalized communities.

It is one thing to recognize diversity, inclusion and equity but it is another thing to actually demonstrate it. From what I witnessed at IMCC4 the organizers worked incredibly hard to uphold these values. This is not surprising when you have an organizer like Sam Oester (@SamOester) whose science is always integrated into tackling barriers for marginalized people. Sam helped set the tone for the conference and from what conference attendees can only imagine was countless hours of work. A brilliant aspect is conference organizers didn’t do it by themselves. Community experts, such as Inclusion NL, helped conference organizers by providing support and insight to make the event more accommodating and accessible to participants

Careful thought had also been put into food options, including consideration of dietary restrictions and carbon footprint impacts. I hope to see other conferences use these decisions as a benchmark to meet and even improve upon. The cherry on top of it all is the announcement that the next IMCC conference will be held in Sarawak, Malaysia- the first time the conference will be held outside of Europe and North America. Besides showcasing a beautiful area, it will hopefully spur researchers from small island countries to present their work on an international platform.

The reality is we need to work harder as marine conservationists and be better allies of marginalized communities. The four speakers brought this to the attention of hundreds. Their work on these issues doesn’t begin and end at IMCC4. They pave the way by carrying these values in their everyday research and work. This means consistently challenging norms and being critical of our science and actions. However, after being a part of IMCC4 I can soundly say there is no better time to combine equity work with marine conservation, and I won’t be doing it alone.


Post by Leah Robertson, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Leah Robertson is a marine biologist and alumni of Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her research interests include deep-sea invertebrates and sustainable aquaculture. Her work outside academia includes activism for equity in post-secondary institutions (#edu4all) which bridged her passion into learning about inequalities that occur in science. Along with this she has worked extensively with a local catch and release aquarium (#NLlovesOceans) in Newfoundland, which aims to promote marine conservation through public engagement with marine animals. Currently Leah is involved with the Back to the Sea Society (#BacktotheSea) a group working towards opening a public aquarium in her home of Nova Scotia. You can find Leah on Twitter @robertsonleah10!

Monday, 10 October 2016

SCB-ES stories from International Marine Conservation Congress 2016!

In early August 2016, I and over 500 others, including scientists, conservation practitioners, and educators, attended the International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC) in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. It was my first time attending a marine themed conference! I was there to present on multidisciplinary projects that I and colleagues are pursuing both in coupling science, art and poetry and in bringing together marine and freshwater conservation scientists to overcome complex and complementary conservation challenges. I took the opportunity to write about my experiences at IMCC, sharing about our Poetry Workshop, which is posted on Real Scientists Blog (!!) and about our facilitated discussion on Fostering Marine-Freshwater Conservation Collaborations, which is written up in the Marine Ecosystems and Management newsletter

Cartoon fish highlighting the need for collaboration between marine and freshwater scientists.
Art by Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley.

As our SCB-ES membership representative, I also had the opportunity to meet and engage with many scientists at IMCC, including students who contributed blog posts for our SCB-ES blog post competition! I am excited for you to hear their stories from the conference, and how their experiences link back to their own research and conservation more broadly. You will get to hear from our two student contributors, Leah and Adam in the coming weeks! Leah's post focuses on her experiences at IMCC learning about the intricate ties between power, privilege and equity, and science and conservation. Adam's post focuses on the importance of collaboration between marine scientists and community members, and shares his reflections on different approaches he learned about at IMCC that are used to form those collaborations. 

Thanks for following along, and reading our stories and reflections from IMCC. I hope that we get to meet many of you at future conferences too, and to hear about and share your stories.  If you are a student member of SCB-ES and are interested in contributing to our blog, please get in touch! We are always looking for interesting stories to share! 

Stay tuned for Leah's blog post in the next few days. 

Post by Steph Januchowski-Hartley 

About the author: Steph is a Postdoctoral Researcher at University Paul Sabatier in Toulouse, France. In addition to her research on dam impacts on freshwater fishes, she also draws, writes poetry and is an active member of the Society for Conservation Biology! 

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Building collaboration at the African Congress of Conservation Biology

Guest Blog Post by Francisco Moreira

Goats in Argan trees (Argania spinosa) of Morocco.
Photo: F. Moreira
Next week (4-8 September 2016), I am representing Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) European Section at the 3rd African Congress of Conservation Biology (ACCB), El Jadida, Morocco; organized by SCB-Africa Section.

I am on the ACCB scientific committee, and will be leading: (i) a discussion about building collaboration between SCB-European Section and SCB-Africa Section and (ii) a round table discussion to identify “priority questions for biodiversity conservation in Mediterranean regions in Africa”. The round table discussion at ACCB adds to my ongoing work as leader of the ad hoc Mediterranean Working Group within SCB European Section. The goal of the round table at ACCB is to identify priority questions that, if answered, would guide more successful conservation actions in the five Mediterranean-type regions of the world.

My participation at ACCB is supported by both SCB-Africa Section (waiving registration fees) and SCB Executive Office (travel and accommodation). SCB European Section believe this is the beginning of exciting future of joint initiatives with SCB Africa Section!


About the author: Francisco is REN Biodiversity Chair holder at Centro de Investigação, Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos at Universidade do Porto in Portugal, and is a Board Member on the Society for Conservation Biology – European Section.

Friday, 22 July 2016

The 8th Greek Summer School ends with project presentations

The plant team, Martina Vanini, Chiara Catalano
and Daniele Lagnaz, presenting their findings
 at the end of the GSS course.
by Gábor Lövei

The two-week long Greek Summer School in Conservation Biology ended today with high quality presentations of the 5 projects done by the participating students. The students formed groups of three, and executed small projects on resampling the plant community in two Natura 2000 sites after their first sampling in 1996, the vegetation and the canopy arthropods in a nearby sacred grove, the use of bird cherry trees by birds, and on predation on artificial caterpillars of different colours and background.

This was preceded by the “panic day” when data were evaluated and presentations prepared. The stress was eased by the customary “gastronomy night” when participants cooked one of their national dishes. In the true spirit of appreciating diversity, we had several Italian pizzas, pasta of course, and excellent Parmesan cheese, a German beetroot soup and a cheesecake, Chinese and Malgasy dishes, several Greek delicacies from entrees to desserts, a clafoutis, and a sweet cherry soup. All these were accompanied by Italian, Hungarian and Greek wines. All dishes were much appreciated by the participants, recipes were exchanged, and a good time had by all.

The dates for the 2017 Summer School are set (26 June – 7 July), so keep your eyes open for the announcement that will come at the end of the year.