Ecological Solutions and Evidence: perspectives from research, practice and policy (part 1)

The Ecological Solutions and Evidence Editorial Board boasts expertise from a wide range of ecological sectors; from research institutions and NGOs to public body organisations and consultancies. In this first part of our two-part series, we ask our Associate Editors – who work in or in the interface between research, practice and policy – to tell us a little about themselves and what need the Journal serves in each of their respective fields.

You can read part 2 here.

Tell us a little about yourselves:


Elizabeth Bach: I work with The Nature Conservancy at a preserve in Illinois (USA) called Nachusa Grasslands. Nachusa is more than 3,500 acres of restored tallgrass prairie and has always embraced scientific research to drive and inform restoration activity on the ground. My role is primarily research, collaborating, collecting and analysing data, writing and publishing papers, and presenting to the scientific community as well as the public. I also occasionally get to help out with prescribed fire, seed collecting, and invasive species management.


Jim Vafidis: I’m an ecologist from South Wales where I have a lot of experience being submersed in wet places trying to catch migrant birds and seasonal insects. I have a background in insectivore ecology, climate change and the impacts of development on ecosystems. I am a senior lecturer in Ecology and Conservation at the University of the West of England, Bristol, where I lead the MSc in Wildlife Conservation, teach statistics and GIS to reluctant undergraduates, and fly drones around the countryside. I am really just a muddy ornithologist, but I enjoy working with conservation practitioners to improve the way we monitor and manage nature using technology.

Nguyen_VivianVivian Nguyen: I am Assistant Professor in the Institute of Environmental and Interdisciplinary Science at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. I started this position in August 2019 right after working for two years with Natural Resources Canada as a Mitacs Canadian Science Policy Fellow. I did all three of my degrees (BSc, MSc, Ph.D.) at Carleton; my undergraduate training was in Environmental Science, minoring in Biology and Business, and I pursued an interdisciplinary graduate training which combined sociology and biology because I felt that understanding human-environment interactions was critical to conservation. I’ve been fortunate to study, live and work in the UK and Australia and have worked odd jobs abroad from scooping gelato to selling charity memberships. My other interests include rugby, which I’ve played for the past 15 years and in 2017, I played for Team Canada at the International Cup in Australia after submitting my PhD thesis.


Errol Douwes: I’m based in the city of Durban, South Africa, where I work for local government and manage the municipality’s Restoration Ecology function. Projects are wide-ranging, given the diverse number of ecosystems present: examples include wetland, grassland, thicket and forest restoration. I’m passionate about ecological restoration and have a special interest in re-establishing highly diverse systems within the urban landscape. It’s astounding how much biodiversity can appear in restored sites relatively soon after work begins, though perhaps not too surprising given that Durban falls within a global biodiversity hotspot. As an honorary research fellow of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, I enjoy collaborating with local researchers and assisting students. Other interests include invasion biology, ethnobotany and sustainable land management. I enjoy bird-watching, trekking, photography and gardening for wildlife.

Thorpe_ Andrea

Andrea Thorpe: I am currently the Natural Resources Program Manager for Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. In this position, I guide the natural resources stewardship of Washington’s 125 parks covering over 200,000 acres throughout the state. I’m also an affiliate professor in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University Washington. My previous positions include Manager of the Washington Natural Heritage Program, Director of Science for the National Ecological Observatory Network, and Conservation Research Program Director at the Institute for Applied Ecology. I received my Ph.D. in ecology (focused on impacts of invasive plants on plant and microbial communities and nutrient cycling) from the University of Montana, a Masters in ecology (focused on the population ecology of a rare plant) from San Diego State University, and Bachelor of Science in natural resources from Oregon State University.

What’s happening in your field that makes this new journal important?

Elizabeth: My role is unique in that I work with both land managers and academics. Every day, I “translate” academic work to managers and press questions to scientists derived from practitioners’ on-the-ground challenges and successes. This journal is exciting to me as a place where managers can be part of the scientific process, raising questions and offering observations, and scientists can contribute their expertise to make a difference for ecosystem management.

Jim: We’re actually at a really exciting time in front line conservation where we’re seeing potential real advantages in the use of some developments in technology and analysis in reserve management and restoration, particularly in the use of GIS and spatial analysis. This is really important in conservation where there’s a lot of nature that needs to be monitored but the resources of time and money are limited. In such sectors you might expect to see more sharing of ideas and solutions but bizarrely, conservation organisations tend to work in their own way. This new journal and the AER repository, I hope, represents a resource that will help build a community of practice where experiences can be shared, whether successful or not.

Vivian: My latest research interests include understanding how research is being used or not used in conservation and natural resource management. One of the biggest issue is the gap between scientists and practitioners created by differences in cultures, institutions, and many other barriers and constraints. Having a journal with a mission that bridges that gap is essential. My research on knowledge mobilisation shows that practitioners are often overwhelmed and bombarded by different sources of information (not only scientific) and have challenges finding relevant and applicable information. Thus, a journal like ESE that can act as a source of information for practitioners will contribute to bridging the gap between research and practice, promoting evidence-based ecological solutions.

Errol: Work done by practitioners and lay people in ecosystem restoration is anticipated to grow significantly in the coming years. This is due to ongoing urbanisation and transformation of landscapes. Having an open access ecology journal with an up-to-date blog that also publishes practitioner and in-field research experiences, as well as topical research, is great for knowledge sharing and education in this field. In urban areas, topics such as better open-space management, control of invasive species, development of natural green roofs and rewilding of ecosystems are all getting more airtime. Having an online platform such as ESE helps people from across the globe to connect, share stories and solutions, and submit data and evidence.

Andrea: I see this journal filling two big gaps for applied ecologists. First, in my experience, there is often a gap between publishable applied ecology and the practice of applied ecology. There is a lot of good science happening that can provide important lessons for others but can be challenging to get published in more traditional journals, for example because of low sample sizes (which is common when working on rare species). These data and results can still be of interest to a broad audience and I’m excited this journal gives them a platform. Second, individuals working for non-profits and agencies often have limited to no access to articles that are behind a paywall. Providing open access fills this gap.

Find out more about our journal in our Editorial and consider submitting an article today.


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