Georgina Mace Prize 2021: early career researcher winner announced

We’re excited to announce Sara Bronwen Hunter as the winner of the 2021 Georgina Mace Prize, celebrating the best Research Article in the journal by an author at the start of their career.

Winner: Sara Bronwen Hunter

Research: Evidence shortfalls in the recommendations and guidance underpinning ecological mitigation for infrastructure developments

About the research

Infrastructure expansion is one of the most significant pressures on biodiversity worldwide and currently threatens around a third of species on the IUCN Red List. The combined pressures of continued biodiversity loss and commitments to infrastructure expansion under the Sustainable Development Goals present an urgent need to mitigate the environmental impact of development. In the UK, ecological mitigation and compensation (EMC) measures are widely implemented during development following the policies that protect species from these impacts, but evidence shortfalls remain a barrier to making informed recommendations of such measures.

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In this study, Sara Bronwen Hunter and colleagues evaluate the effectiveness of the EMC measures used in practice by identifying the guidance that inform them and closely examining the empirical evidence. By assessing the identified measures against synopses on Conservation Evidence –  a database summarising scientific evidence for the effects on conservation actions – the team revealed significant gaps in the evidence to support commonly recommended measures, as well as a lack of up-to-date, evidence-based guidance. The research provides key justification for future studies exploring the outcomes of EMC measures and emphasises the need for improved evidence-use to effectively protect the species and habitats affected by development.

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With very few comprehensive reviews on EMC measures, the journal’s Editors unanimously pointed out the importance of Bronwen’s research due to its direct relevance to species conservation and management amidst ever-increasing urbanisation. The lack of empirically tested mitigation measures is a serious concern if we hope to effectively offset the ecological impacts from development and infrastructure, and Lead Editor Holly Jones highlights how exposing these knowledge gaps provide further evidence for policy makers to strengthen EMC measures and ensure they’re rooted in scientific evidence.

About the winner

Georgina Mace Prize 2021_Sara Bronwen Hunter_16x9

Bronwen grew her interests in ecology during her undergraduate degree in Biology and decided to pursue a career in research during her master’s degree at the Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London. The winning research is drawn from her MSc thesis which was conducted during the COVID-19 lockdown and soon after finishing, she started a PhD at University of Sussex where she is currently studying in her second year.

Find the winning article: “Evidence shortfalls in the recommendations and guidance underpinning ecological mitigation for infrastructure developments”, as well as the shortlisted papers for the 2021 Georgina Mace Prize in this virtual issue.

Bronwen’s blog post about the research can also be found here.

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