ESE Editor’s Choice 2:1 – Answering the call for evidence-based conservation science teaching

Is conservation science failing to prepare students to make an effective contribution to conservation practice? Associate Editor Costanza Rampini introduces our latest Editor’s Choice article by Downey et al. calling for a wider teaching of evidence-based conservation.

Although the past 20 years have seen a huge increase in the amount of scientific information available to conservationists, conservation practitioners and land managers still too often rely on past experience or outdated expert knowledge, as opposed to the full body of scientific literature, when making decisions. This can result in actions that are unsuccessful if not harmful, as well as wasting time and resources.

For example, William and others have shown that cleaning birds after oil spills is ineffective at increasing their survival and that of their offspring, yet this practice is routinely undertaken at a substantial cost.

Even though conservation science has at its core the desire to inform conservation and ecosystem management choices, Downey and colleagues remind us that bridging knowledge and practice takes a concerted effort on the part of educators to integrate evidence-based practice and critical thinking in their teachings.

In their review, the authors answer calls to incorporate evidence more effectively into the conservation and management of biological resources by creating a series of open access materials in multiple languages to aid teaching the core skills of evidence-based conservation. In doing so, the global team of educators has compiled a range of lectures, handouts, assessments, exercises and reading lists on Applied Ecology Resources to help others committed to teaching evidence‐based conservation.

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All teaching materials are permanently archived on Applied Ecology Resources and original files are available for download on the Evidence in Conservation Teaching webpage

For example, the open access repository includes a lecture by Dalrymple and colleagues, in both English and Spanish, on using and generating evidence to improve conservation translocations.  The lecture begins with key definitions and principles important for understanding the basis of species translocation, and then dives into specific case studies that illustrate the successes and challenges of intentionally moving and releasing species for the purpose of conservation. The lecture also includes several activities meant to guide students in designing their own evidence-based translocation trials, as well as an extensive and thorough list of outside resources on this topic.

The open access teaching materials made available by Downey and can be used by educators to supplement conservation textbooks which, by and large, continue to fail to adequately cover evidence-based conservation in their chapters.

The authors of the review are still planning to translate the materials into more languages, and hope that these online teaching materials will facilitate the greater adoption of the teaching of evidence-based conservation, and contribute to effectively preparing our students to make practical contributions to the field of conservation.

Read the full Editor’s Choice article: “Training future generations to deliver evidence‐based conservation and ecosystem management” in Issue 2:1 of Ecological Solutions and Evidence.

Discover the open access teaching materials by Downey et al.’s Evidence in Conservation Teaching initiative on the Applied Ecology Resources website.

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