Encouraging Whale Hunting in Lamalera, Indonesia

The words ‘encouraging’ and ‘whale hunting’ are usually never spoken in the same sentence. When we think of whale hunting, most of us believe it to be a highly unsustainable practice which belongs in the 18th century and has no place in the modern age. The desire to light Victorian era city streets with whale oil lamps led to sharp decline in whale populations due to their long lifecycles and low reproductive rate[1]. We generally accept that whaling activity is indisputably unsustainable, but upon further inspection, the issue may not be so black and white. A remote island community in Lamalera, Indonesia highlights a moral grey area where the relationship between whaling, sustainability and human well-being may question our beliefs on whaling.

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For the Lamalera, whaling has been the primary source of food and income for hundreds of years. In a normal year, they usually catch about 6 sperm whales during the migratory season using traditional fishing methods (Figure 1). Whaling and it’s products are a core part of their tradition and livelihood, with the main part of their diet being whale meat. When the hunters are successful, the whale is brought back to land where villagers all share the arduous task of dealing with the animal (Figure 2), and that one whale will feed the entire village 2. Left over whale products are prepared and traded with the inland mountain tribes in exchange for agricultural products. Because of this system, both Lamalera and the mountain tribes are entirely dependent on the whale for their livelihood, and the loss of whale populations could have negative implications for the people [2,3]. Despite this long-term whaling activity, their fishing ground is still being maintained, and as a result of this, they are considered one of the few peoples to practice sustainable whaling. Their relationship to the whale is almost spiritual, with deep superstitions surrounding the act of whale hunting.

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This close and dependent relationship between people and whale hunting isn’t usually what comes to mind when we think of whaling, however, banning whaling will force a difficult choice between the protection of whales and the livelihood and culture of the people. Well-meaning officials are attempting to turn the Lamalera fishing grounds into a Marine Protected Area (MPA), and although it would protect these animals from harm, this would threaten the Lamalera way of life. This policy would put both the Lamalera and mountain villages at risk from displacement, loss of culture, and tradition. Conservation actions such as this have already caused traditional degradation in Japan, Africa and Indonesia [4-6]. Although whaling is a sustainability concern, the negative impacts on the people may outweigh the positives of conserving whale populations. In this case, perhaps the best measure to take would be to encourage the Lamalera people to continue their whaling practices to preserve their culture, tradition and livelihood.

References

  1. Perry , Simona L. and DeMaster, Douglas P. and Silber , Gregory K. (1999) The Great Whales: History and Status of Six Species Listed as Endangered Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973.Marine Fisheries Review, 61(1), pp. 1-74.
  2. Egami, T. & Kojima, K. Traditional Whaling Culture and Social Change in Lamalera, Indonesia: An Analysis of Catch-Record Whaling 1994-2010. Stud. Whal. 84, 155-179 (2013)
  3. Barnes, R. H. & Barnes, R. Barter and Money in an Indonesian Village Economy. Man 24, 399 (1989).
  4. Mattes, S. Save the Whale? Ecological Memory and the Human-Whale Bond in Japan’s Small Coastal Villages 67-81 Springer (2017)
  5. Shetler, J.B. Imaging Serengeti: a history of landscape memory in Tanzania from earlier times to the present. Ohio University Press (2007).
  6. Ingold, T. The perception of the environment: essays on livelihood, dwelling & amp; skill. Routledge (2000).
  7. Batafor, A. Help from the village . [image] Available at: http://photovoice.com [Accessed 16 Nov] (2008).
  8. Site View-Tourism. Whale Hunting. [image] Available at” http://viewtourism.wordpress.com [Accessed 16 Nov] (2011).

By Sara

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Is Donald Trump the Future of Conservation?

Golf is a sport known for wealthy businessmen, manicured courses, and most recently, Donald Trump. Donald Trump himself, who owns at least 17 golf courses, and is one of the most famous contributors to the sport (Trump.com), has made comments denying climate change. The sport is not often associated with environmentalism, or conservation. But is this sport secretly an untapped resource for conservation, and is Donald Trump the next David Attenborough?

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At the 2017 conservation science conference, many scientists presented their groundbreaking research on conservation hot topics. One interesting presentation that poses possible solutions to issues like biodiversity loss is the use of golf courses in conservation.

In the UK, many courses operate in a “heathland” environment. These courses tend to be more open and less manicured than traditional links courses. In fact the St. Andrews “Old Course,” where golf was played for the first time in the 15th century, is a heathland course. The shrubs that surround the course easily blend with the grass on the green, and it overlooks a body of water with its own unique ecosystem.

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Golf courses in the UK, therefore, are unique in their potential for biodiversity. Golf courses serve as a niche environment for many species, create corridors for animals that need space to live, allow natural land use in areas that would otherwise be used for urban environments, and allow for a space where people can feel connected to nature.

In several studies, golf courses have proven positive for biodiversity, especially in bird species. In one study, in comparison with farmland, birds and insect taxa showed a higher species richness and abundance on golf course land, with no difference in diversity of herbaceous plant species (Tanner et al, 2004). From studies like these, it is easy to conclude that golf courses not only act as niche environments for species, but are also significantly better uses of land than other options like urban, degraded, or farm landscapes.

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Further, Golf courses allow for people to experience the outdoors, often in largely urban areas. In some areas in the UK, up to 2.82% of all land is used for golf courses (Castella, 2013). This significant amount of land, paired with the popularity of the sport, allows for people who would not otherwise, to explore nature and connect with a diverse ecosystem.

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Breakdown of land used for Golf Courses in the UK, highlighting three high-use areas. (Castella, 2013)

Shown by the interesting research at this conference, golf courses in the UK can be a positive force for conservation. However, this solution to biodiversity may not work everywhere in the world. In the USA, for example, links courses are constantly bombarded by fertilizers, deforestation, forced removal of wildlife, and widespread irrigation. (Throssell et al, 2009). While in the US Donald Trump and his golf courses are not a hole-in-one solution, in the UK this could a key to conservation.

References

Bailosky , Brad. Golf Course Bird. Naples, Florida , 2011.

Castella , Tom. “How Much of the UK Is Covered in Golf Course?” BBC News Magazine, 24 Dec. 2013.

Henderson , Chip. Oxford, North Carolina , 2017.

Tanner, R A, and A C Gange. “Effects of Golf Courses on Local Biodiversity.”Landscape and Urban Planning , vol. 71, 2005, pp. 137–146.

Throssell, Clark S, et al. “Golf Course Environmental Profile Measures Water Use, Source, Cost, Quality, Management and Conservation Strategies.” American Society of Agronomy , vol. 6, no. 1, 6 Jan. 2009.

“Trump Golf.” Trump Golf | Trump Organization Golf Clubs | Trump Hotel Collection, http://www.trump.com/golf/.

By Sara

We should invest in urban wildlife

City landscapes are home to a surprising amount of wildlife which we should protect. In a planet where biodiversity is changing at an unprecedented rate, conservation resources should also be invested in urban areas.

You are probably thinking: the planet is suffering because of urbanisation! Not quite though- the planet suffers from other things too, such as extensive agriculture amongst other human activities. Whilst we may associate “urban” with a negative connotation, concrete jungles may in fact house a rich number of species.

At the mid-semester Conservation Science poster conference of 2017, Matthew Reale-Hatem presented his topic “Greening the City: Urban Environments as Conservation Priorities”. He laid out the benefits of conserving urban biodiversity and debunked each urban myth about city wildlife, ending with some recommendations for the future.

So why is urban biodiversity good?

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A photo taken by Matthew of what he believes to be a Cooper’s hawk casually examining a reusable shopping bag in Maine, USA. [Image courtesy of Matthew Reale-Hatem, 2013]

1. Urban biodiversity

Urban environments provide altered habitats which can encourage speciation. For example, a study on great tits in Europe showed mating call frequency to be higher in urban areas compared to rural counterparts due to traffic noise (1).

This may not be our conventional image of species diversity, but nowadays, no environment is entirely natural. Pollutants have even been found to affect the coldest and darkest places of Antarctica (2).

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The graph above shows how plant species richness is highest per area in the suburbs of Berlin and starts decreasing away from the city, suggesting the outskirts of Berlin provide a better suited habitat for a larger number of species than the countryside.

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2. Educational ability

Urban green spaces are more accessible to city dwellers, which form the majority of the global population (4). Most of the middle class, comprising the bulk of urban dwellers, and especially the lower socio-economic range will not have the privilege or opportunity to travel extensively to the countryside or to “pristine nature areas”. They may, however, have the opportunity to explore and learn in a park in the centre of town, even just for a picnic.

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3. Ecosystem services

Numerous studies have shown that urban green spaces positively affect mental health. Most recently, in a Spotlight on Biodiversity in Scotland conference that I attended, a speaker from Greenspace Scotland passionately advocated for increasing green areas within the urban boundary.

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This figure shows the difference observed in a group of city dwellers for various psychological factors when exposed to green spaces. Positive factors such as attention, energy and tranquillity increased significantly whilst negative factors such as anxiety, anger and fatigue decreased significantly.

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4. Future trends

Matthew hones in on the elephant in the room, which is the inevitable population growth concentrated in urban areas and disproportionately located in biodiversity hotspots. Urban populations, in developing nations especially, are predicted to continue rising at unsustainable rates.

“But, shouldn’t we prioritise less affected areas?”, you might ask. “No”, he replies. Maintaining populations in the city where ecological footprints per capita are lower is actually favourable for overall global biodiversity; this being encouraged by providing a pleasant environment. This opts for a more land-sparing scenario.

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Biodiversity conservation in cities should be a priority. Why does this make sense? Some urban areas show equal or higher levels of biodiversity than their rural counterparts. We also want the remaining pristine areas to remain pristine. Maintaining populations within city boundaries is a benefit for rural biodiversity. On top of that, incorporating as many greenspaces and links to biodiversity as possible will allow people to reconnect with nature from an early age and incite their interest in conserving the planet.

References:

  1. Slabbekoorn H., den Boer-Visser A. (2006). Cities change the songs of birds. Current Biology. 16 (23), 2326-2331.
  2. Klánová J., Matykieqiczová N., Máčka Z., Prošek P., Láska K., Klánc P. (2008). Persistent organic pollutants in soils and sediments from James Ross Island, Antarctica. Environmental Pollution. 152 (2), 416-423.
  3. Reichholf J. H. (2007). Stadtnatur – Eine neue Heimat für Tiere und Planzen. Oekom: München.
  4. World Bank (2016). <https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.URB.TOTL.IN.ZS&gt; [Accessed 14/11/17].
  5. Bowler D. E., Buyung-Ali L. M., Knight T. M., Pullin A. S. (2010). A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments. BMC Public Health. 10, 456.
  6. The World Bank Database. <https://data.worldbank.org/&gt; [Accessed 16/11/17]
  7. <https://pixabay.com/p-1562026/?no_redirect&gt; [Accessed 17/11/17]

By Claudia

Keeping the ‘Jungle’ in ‘Urban Jungle’

In the depths of our concrete jungle today we often forget how important it is to keep a natural environment close by.  We are constantly surrounded by biodiversity, even in the depths of the biggest cities. In fact, some urban areas may be described as biodiversity hotspots. From the Super Trees of Singapore; an iconic take on green space in the urban ‘jungle’, to New York’s Central Park; green spaces are often ‘must-see’ attractions in any city. In a recent conservation science conference, undergraduate Tyler Souza presented the topical arguments supporting urban conservation, as well as the controversies surrounding these ideals.

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Super Trees in Singapore. Photo by Ilya Genkin (www.genkin.org)

Historically, cities are located in areas which were rich in biodiversity before settlement (1), and so green spaces and parks can sometimes act as a remnant of a once bountiful environment, surrounded by a mayhem of concrete. Urban land area has been, and will continue to increase at a rate much faster than urban populations, sprawling into the natural environment, and devastating innumerable species and habitats as it does(2). The future of green spaces within cities is under threat, as the creeping urban jungle engulfs more land. Conserving these spaces for future generations to enjoy is essential for the well-being of the planet, as well as humanity.

Urban green spaces, understandably, are much smaller than natural wild areas, and so there isn’t enough room for predators to roam. This results in a safe haven for many species of both flora and fauna. Protected by the barrier of the urban jungle, species can flourish, and in some cases survive better in the city than their natural environment (3). In fact, in the USA, 22% of all threatened species are found within the 40 biggest cities(4), and in South Africa, the city of Cape Town is home to half of the country’s endangered species(4). Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, is the only known location of several different endangered species. Conserving these areas, and others like them is necessary for maintaining biodiversity in today’s Urban Jungle.

There are innumerable benefits of conserving green spaces in the urban environment, with improvements in human well-being, as well as profits for the entire natural environment. Numerous ecosystem services are provided through urban green spaces. Air is filtered, and pollution removed to improve air-quality for all city dwellers. Cities can be referred to as Heat Islands, due to the warming effects of the mass of concrete. Green spaces have the capacity to reduce this warming, and cool the surrounding area (4). The trees in Central Park have been estimated to contribute $10million worth of cooling to New York City. This occurs from the shade cast by leafy canopies, and plants release water into the air by evapotranspiration. With the ever expanding problem of increasing global temperatures, it’s important that conservation of urban green spaces continues in an attempt to mitigate the problem.

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Relaxation in Central Park, New York. Photo by Marcio Jose Bastos Silva (Shutterstock.com).

Maintaining greenery within cities has also been found to improve human well-being. Many city dwellers use parks as an escape from the stress of an urban lifestyle (2). Green areas encourage physical exercise; reducing the risk of disease, and improving overall health. They also provide the opportunity for rest, relaxation and recreation, which are essential to our mental health; reducing the occurrence of anxiety and depression, and improving our overall well-being.

Humans value biodiversity for many reasons. Maintaining this biodiversity, even in the depths of the world’s largest city, is important for the benefit of humans, plants and animals. The jungles in the ever expanding ‘urban jungle’, are a source of happiness and a glimmer of colour in the monotony of today’s city life.

More information on the importance of conserving green spaces in cities, a useful publication can be found at: http://leaf.leeds.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/LEAF_benefits_of_urban_green_space_2015_upd.pdf

References:

  • McDonald, R. (2015). The Value of Biodiversity in Cities. Conservation for Cities.
  • Dearborn, D. and Kark, S. (2010). Motivations for Conserving Urban Biodiversity. Conservation Biology, 24(2).
  • Ives, C., Lentini, P., Threlfall, C., Ikin, K., Shanahan, D., Garrard, G., Bekessy, S., Fuller, R., Mumaw, L., Rayner, L., Rowe, R., Valentine, L. and Kendal, D. (2015). Cities are hotspots for threatened species. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 25(1).
  • Convention on Biodiversity (2012). Cities and Biodiversity Outlook. A Global Assessment of the Links between Action and Policy Urbanization, Biodiversity, and Ecosystem Services. [online] pp.22-28. Available at: https://www.cbd.int/doc/health/cbo-action-policy-en.pdf [Accessed 16 Nov. 2017].

By Sarah

Humans: The biggest threat to Marine Life and Ecosystems

The Hunters

No place on earth seems to be safe from human exploitation, including the ocean! It has been estimated that during our history, humans have caught about 1,400 different marine species, including big marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, seals, dugongs, walruses and sea lions 1.

Extraction of the ocean’s resources by humans range from large-scale practices such as mining, industrial drilling and modern fishing to others that seem relatively harmless – such as traditional fishing methods in Sri Lanka and Burma. In one way or another, human activities have been affecting the balance of life in oceans all around the world, throughout our long history. Picture1c

No Take Zone in Marine Conservation

At the Conservation Science Conference, Ruby presented the issues in marine conservation related to No Take Zone (NTZ) in a Marine Protected Areas. A NTZ is a marine protected area where all potentially-destructive human activities are prohibited, such as fishing, extraction of natural materials, dumping, dredging, and construction.

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Many conservationists think that nature should be left untouched to flourish and recover on its own2. Ruby supported this idea and suggested that to be able to optimally conserve marine biodiversity, NTZs are crucial. However, the implementation of NTZs can be precarious as stakeholders are often concerned with the potential loss of revenue caused by NTZ policies. She also highlighted that sensitive implementation and management of NTZ is an important factor in determining the success of the conservation efforts. Despite facing opposition from many of the stakeholders, many countries have implemented NTZs within their Marine Protected Areas, which ended up benefitting not only the marine biodiversity but also the local fishermen 3. It is important to note that the size of NTZ and time of protection played particularly important roles in influencing the success of biodiversity recovery 3.

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Ruby’s presentation triggered my curiosity about the implementation of any NTZs set up in Indonesia, especially since its location within the Coral Triangle. In August 2017, I visited the Raja Ampat Islands (West Papua) and was mesmerised by its underwater beauty. I had never before seen such richness and scale of corals and other marine life on a single dive (e.g. Green Turtles, Barracuda, Blacktip reef sharks, Parrot fish, Trigger Fish and the iconic Tasselled Wobeggong Shark). While interacting with the indigenous people who live spread amongst these islands, I realised how dependent they are on the ocean’s resources and wondered how this pristine environment is coping with population growth in the area. Have any restrictions been imposed by the local government to try and control the extraction of resources?

My research about NTZs in the region led me to the Misool Marine Reserve, which I was very pleased to find and to learn more about. In 2005, a lease agreement was signed between the local community and the Misool Foundation to establish a No Take Zone called the Misool Marine Reserve. No extraction activities are permitted within this area, including fishing, shark finning, harvesting of turtle eggs and collecting shellfish. In a promising development, the dedicated area was expanded in 2010 and now covers an area of 1200 km2. The Misool Foundation’s approach to conservation is not only on safeguarding the environment but also covering other sectors such as education and other social issues, by providing workshops, training, and early childhood education.

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As cautioned by Ruby, while NTZs have proven to be effective in conserving marine life around the world, careful management and continuous monitoring are required. The same goes for the Misool Marine Reserve, so in order to ensure the protection of the marine life within the NTZ, 15 permanent rangers patrol the area regularly using drones, boat patrol and radar. It is a rigorous and demanding process, but the hard work has shown positive results. According to scientific surveys conducted by the foundation, over a period of just six years these conservation efforts have shown a 250% increase in Biomass and a similar rise in Giant Oceanic Manta sightings.

Despite the differing perspectives from the scientists, local communities, government, and other stakeholders in many countries, I think NTZs can be used as one of the marine biodiversity conservation methods. However, its detailed policies and implementation should be tailored according to the specific conservation zone and local social conditions. I do hope that the   underwater richness we have today will exist for many generations to come and I believe that NTZs have an important role to play in the process.

Further Reading

Check Misool Foundation’s website –  if you are interested in other conservation projects by Misool Foundation

No Take Zone in other countries – Lamnash Bay (Scotland), Channel Island Marine Sanctuary (US)

References

  1. Costello MJ, Scott Baker C. Who eats sea meat? Expanding human consumption of marine mammals. Biol Conserv. 2011;144:2745-2746. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2011.10.015.
  2. Colchester M. Conservation policy and indigenous peoples. Environ Sci Policy. 2004;7:145-153. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2004.02.004.
  3. Vandeperre F, Higgins RM, Sánchez-Meca J, et al. Effects of no-take area size and age of marine protected areas on fisheries yields: A meta-analytical approach. Fish Fish. 2011;12(4):412-426. doi:10.1111/j.1467-2979.2010.00401.x.

By Anning

What kind of a conservationist are you? The Future of Conservation Survey

In 2018, we organised the Conservation Science course for the third time. Over the last three years, we’ve written many blog posts about conservation hot topics (the decline of the Greater-Sage Grouse, rewilding in North America and the problems with palm oil), we’ve told you about some of the activities we do, from using cereal to test island biogeography theory to introducing the students to peer review with our fictional  journal AQMCS (Advanced Quantitative Methods in Conservation Science). You know we like discussing conservation evidence, putting it to a quantitative test with code, and that we really enjoy seeing conservation in action during our fieldtrip to the Cairngorms.

But do you really know what kind of conservationists we are?

Thanks to The Future of Conservation survey, you can not only find out what kind of conservationists we are, but also how our views change with time. The survey is a collaborative project between Chris Sandbrook (UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and University of Cambridge)George Holmes (University of Leeds)Janet Fisher (University of Edinburgh) and Rogelio Luque-Lora (University of Cambridge).

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You can take the survey online at http://futureconservation.org/

The purpose of this project is to explore the views of conservationists on a range of issues, as a way of informing debates on the future of conservation. Recent debates about the future of conservation have been dominated by a few high-profile individuals, whose views seem to fit fairly neatly into polarised positions. In this survey, we are exploring the range of views that exist within the conservation movement globally, and how this varies by key demographic characteristics such as age, gender, geography and educational background. (The Future of Conservation website, 2017)

In the Conservation Science course, we introduce the Conservation Debate in our very first session, where we discuss Kareiva’s and Soulé’s papers about what conservation science is or isn’t. This year, we all completed the survey prior to the first session. Most of us fell within the Critical Social Science and New Conservation categories. Three months went by. After many thought-provoking discussions and activities, we took the survey again. So how did our results change?

future_conservationGoing through 11 weeks of lectures and activities has not markedly shifted the kinds of conservationists we are, but we have perhaps moved a bit more towards the center, the middle ground between People and Nature. Our infographic below shows exactly how people’s views changed.

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You can take the survey online at http://futureconservation.org/

One person went from Traditional Conservation to Critical Social Science and the rest of the movement was between our most popular categories, Critical Social Science and New Conservation. Perhaps reading and critically discussing lots of papers shifted us more towards the Critical Social Scientist category?

We found taking the survey, and especially taking it twice, quite interesting. In conservation, we often here that if only people had more information about a conservation issue, their views would change. People do what they do, or think what they think, because sometimes they don’t know differently. But is that really the case?

Our 2017 Conservation Science cohort is far from representative, and presumably people enrolled in the course already cared a lot about conservation to begin with. But overall, for us, knowing more and thinking more about Conservation Science, didn’t make a huge difference to who we are as conservationists – or at least in this survey.

Perhaps we can revisit the Future of Conservation again with the 2018 course next autumn and see if these results are repeated!

By Gergana and Isla

Same data – different results? ConSci 2017 introduces AQMCS!

A question that I have always had, is what happens when you give different scientists the same data and ask them to analyses those data. Do different scientists come up with different answers? Do they ask different questions? How much does our scientific interpretations depend on individual perspectives?

In the Conservation Science course we set out to test this question in our activity “Same data, different results?” We used data from the Niwot Ridge Long-term Ecological Research Site – a montane site whose flora and environment have been monitored for decades to understand ecological processes in high-elevation mountain ecosystems. Students and tutors worked in small groups to complete a speed data analysis and write-up activity – a quick and exciting journey though picking a research question, deciding on the methods that best address it, opening the data present, interpreting what it all means, AND writing a one page manuscript.

We love quantitative analysis, and we don’t shy away from statistics and coding – in the past we have counted Pokemon to calculate different biodiversity metrics, we have tested island biogeography theory, and we have gone through live coding exercises in class. Among all those blog posts, we often say we are “getting quantitative” – well, it is an exciting time of the year now, and not just because the holidays are approaching, but because now we can say that we are quantitative! So quantitative, in fact, that we couldn’t resists day-dreaming about a conservation journal highlighting different quantitative methods. And of course, Gergana couldn’t resist making a logo, so we are proud to present AQMCS (pronounced ack-mecs),  Advanced Quantitative Methods in Conservation Science, our course fictional journal!

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Our dream journal – Advanced Quantitative Methods in Conservation Science. Though an official impact factor hasn’t been calculated yet, we have observed many students honing their quantitative skills, which can be quite significant.

We all rushed to write up our reports and submit them to AQMCS’s editors – after all, the sooner you submit a manuscript, the sooner you will get your reviews back. We had to wait only a mere three weeks, so as far as journals go, we would like to commend AQMCS’s quick turnaround time. All of out five manuscripts got sent out to review (phew, no straight-away rejections!), and in the final Conservation Science session, we all got to experience the peer-review process firsthand! And though the journal might be fictional, let us assure you that our editorial boards scrutinised the manuscripts and explored them in detail, making for some intense peer-reviewing!

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AQMCS’s editors-in-chief, Myers-Smith and Keane, setting the scene for an intense round of peer-review.

Tasked with selecting just one manuscript for publication (publication in AQMCS is very competitive!), students worked away in small groups. Manuscript after manuscript, students thought critically of the studies’ key questions and findings, as well as the methods used to obtain them. Does the manuscript meet the journal guidelines (e.g. a one page format), is the science exciting and novel, does the take-home message contribute to our understanding of biodiversity change?

Some of the submitted manuscripts were over the one page limit – we would like to remind their authors that should they need to present extra information, they can do so in Supplementary Information, which would be published online alongside the manuscript, should it be accepted for publication. One manuscript did not include a methods section – given our journal’s strong methodological focus (it is after all, Advanced Quantitative Methods in Conservation Science), we recommend those authors to implement our suggested revisions (i.e. outline what methods were used and how they advance conservation science) and re-submit. Just like in the real world, co-authorship dynamics were interesting to ponder – who is first author, who is last? One group included an authorship contribution statement, which we appreciated.

Each editorial group presented the criteria they used in the selection process, and finally announced the manuscript selected for publication. It was a close race, and it was up to the last editorial group to break the tie between “Long-term study in Niwot Ridge, Colorado reveals greater increases in spatial and temporal homogeneity within, but not between sites” and “Unprecedented biodiversity changes in continental divide at Niwot Ridge, Co, US”. Though informative, the group felt that the title of the first manuscript was a bit too long, and in the end, they decided that in its next issue, AQMCS will publish “Unprecedented biodiversity changes in continental divide at Niwot Ridge, Co, US” – the first publication in this exciting new journal!

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Accepted for publication in AQMCS – “Unprecedented biodiversity changes in continental divide at Niwot Ridge, Co, US”!

The two activities, “Same data, different results” and the AQMCS peer-review session, stirred up many thoughts on biodiversity change, how we quantify it and how we can attribute it to different drivers. We also honed our speed writing skills, and finally, our critical thinking skills – a winning combination!

Isla has been collected the titles of the same data different results papers throughout the years and here they are below.

2017:

  • Unprecedented biodiversity changes at the continental divide at Niwot Ridge, CO, US
  • Long-term study in Niwot Ridge, Colorado reveals greater increases in spatial and temporal homogeneity within, but not between sites
  • Baby It’s Hot Outside – Change in alpha diversity over elevational gradients due to temperature increase?
  • Nowhere to go: Biodiversity change at Niwot Ridge, CO, US
  • Potential trends and effects of temperature on species richness on four sites

2016:

  • Evidence of adaptation of high elevation plant species to dramatic climate change
  • Increased variance in species richness over time in montane forest-tundra environments
  • Disturbance causes varying levels of species richness change across alpine latitudinal gradients
  • Human activities cause species declines and increases across elevational gradients
  • Higher temperatures decrease biodiversity in alpine habitats
  • Local mountain biodiversity increases by 7% over time

2015:

  • Evidence of high-elevation plant community shifts to dramatic climate change
  • Increased variance in species richness over time in montane forest-tundra environments
  • Disturbance causes varying levels of species richness change across alpine latitudinal gradients
  • Human activities cause species declines and increases across elevational gradients
  • Higher temperatures decrease biodiversity in alpine habitats
  • Local mountain biodiversity increases by 7% over three decades

You can also check out our 2015 blog post about the “Same data, different results” activity: Same data different interpretations?

I think this experiment is telling us that different scientists do make different interpretations when presented with the same data. You can check out this study that found the same result with analyses of football (soccer) data. We at AQMCS think that the way forward is to make sure our data, code and science are as open as possible, so that we can promote thorough investigations of data and transparent interpretations in the literature.

By Gergana, Isla and the Cons. Sci. 2017 class