Time to end unconscious bias in ecology

This week, colleague Julia Baum (UVic) and I published a response in Nature Ecology & Evolution to Franck Courchamp and Corey Bradshaws ‘100 articles every ecologist must read’.  In their paper, Courchamp and Bradshaw present a highly gender and racially biased list in which 97 of 100 selected articles are first authored by white men. Only two articles are led by women (Camille Parmesan and Mary Power); these are ranked last. One paper is led by a non-white man (Motoo Kimura). Compounding the list’s lack of diversity is its domination by a small number of scientists: 22 of the articles are first authored by only three white men (Robert MacArthur, Bob May and David Tilman), and a further 35 articles are led by only 15 additional white men. We do not dispute that these men have made exceptional contributions to our field. What we do contend is that this list has failed to capture ecology’s diversity of exceptional scientists. This is a result of a flawed sampling design which does not reflect who ecologists are or what they study. Through poor design, their study disproportionately sampled white senior men…and the result…their list is dominated by white senior men authors. We believe that failure to consider and account for these biases in their study design is a result of pervasive unconscious bias in our field.

Download PDF here



Keynote Mat-Su Salmon Science & Conservation Symposium, Alaska

Mat-Su symposium 2017-1

‘Tax-shifting’ – a new way of funding conservation on private land

Many of our most endangered species and ecosystems occur on private lands.  In a new paper published today in Conservation Letters we explore a novel ‘tax-shifting’ approach to conservation on private lands that would offer incentives to private land owners to maintain or enhance biodiversity and maximize the efficiency of conservation investments. Our findings suggest that modest shifts in tax policies may offer an efficient route to conserving Species at Risk in highly populated biodiversity hotspots.

Schuster, R., Law, E.A., Rodewalde, A.D., Martin, T.G., Wilson, K.A., Watts, M., Possingham, H.P., Arcese, P. 2017. Tax-shifting and incentives for biodiversity conservation on private lands. Conservation Letters Online Early PDF

Yellow Island magic

Wilburforce Fellowship, Tucson Arizona

Just back from a transformational week with the 2017 Wilburforce Fellows, COMPASS trainers and leading science journalists.  What a brilliant group of inspiring humans!  For those working in Western North America, the next round of applications will be for 2019 – mark it in your calendar to apply


Delighted to be among the 2017 Wilburforce Fellows!

I’m thrilled to be among the 2017 Wilburforce Fellows!  The Wilburforce Fellowship is a year-long program providing leadership and science communication training, along with coaching and support, to scientists from a wide range of affiliations, career stages, and disciplines. The Wilburforce Fellowship was designed for scientists who want to be agents of change for conservation. The Fellowship builds a community of practice where scientists are advancing decision-relevant research, effectively communicating scientific findings, and contributing to conservation solutions by engaging with local communities, policymakers, land managers and those with diverse perspectives.

More on the program here: http://www.wilburforce.org/grants/fellowship/.

And the 2017 program here: http://bit.ly/2kn0wHh.


Observed impact of climate change from genes to biomes to people

Published today in Science, in collaboration with a large international team, we illustrate the evidence of observed impacts of climate change across genes, species, and ecosystems. Importantly, in this comprehensive overview, we discuss how these impacts have direct consequences for people.

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Global climate change has already impacted every aspect of life on Earth, from genes to entire ecosystems. We now have evidence that, with only a ~1 degree Celsius of warming globally, major impacts are already being felt in natural systems.  In fact, more than 80 percent of ecological processes that form the foundation for healthy marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems already show signs of responses to climate change. Genes are changing, species’ physiology and physical features such as body size are changing, species are shifting their ranges and we see clear signs of entire ecosystems under stress, all in response to changes in climate on land and in the ocean. Many of the impacts on species and ecosystems affect people, with consequences ranging from increased pests and disease outbreaks, unpredictable changes in fisheries, and decreasing agriculture yields. Many of the responses we are observing today in nature can help us determine how to fix the mounting issues that people face under changing climate conditions.  For example, by understanding the role of nature in buffering the negative impacts of climate change along with its adaptive capacity, we can use this knowledge to minimize the risks of catastrophic climate events such as floods and fire and adapt our forestry and agricultural practices to ensure food and resource security.

Following the US election results, it is crucial that the conservation community advocates for their science and pushes politicians and governments to follow the science on climate change.




Guidelines for assessing vulnerability to climate change

iucn_logo-svgJust released – Guidelines for assessing species vulnerability to climate change

Download here: http://iucnccsg.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/CCVA-Guidelines-complete-lowres_linked.pdf

These guidelines cover and outline of some of the terms commonly used in climate change vulnerability assessment (CCVA), and describe three dominant CCVA approaches, namely correlative (niche-based), mechanistic and trait-based approaches. We discuss how to set clear, measurable CCVA objectives and how to select CCVA approaches and associated methods that are appropriate for meeting these objectives. We then provide ways for users to evaluate their data, knowledge and technical resources, and subsequently refine their approach and method selection.

Hasten end of fossil fuel subsidies

end-subsidies-oildrumNations at last month’s G20 summit in China reaffirmed their 2009 commitment to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies, echoing a call from almost two decades ago to end subsidies that are “adverse in the long run to both the economy and the environment” (N. Myers Nature 392, 327–328; 1998).

Similar ‘perverse’ subsidies continue to encourage logging of the few remaining pockets of old-growth forest in western Canada and overfishing in the high seas. Yet the fossil-fuel industry receives the largest subsidy of all, estimated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last year at US$1,000 annually for every citizen in the G20 group. Most of this is provided by countries with energy taxes that are too low to cover the adverse effects of fossil-fuel consumption on human health and the environment (www.go.nature.com/2dbs2zf).

The IMF also estimates that eliminating fossil-fuel subsidies would cut global carbon dioxide emissions by more than 20% and raise government revenues by $2.9 trillion (or 3.6% of global gross domestic product). Such a step would save up to $93 per tonne of greenhouse-gas emissions removed (see www.go.nature.com/2dowcw).

These sums alone would fund climate adaptation and the protection of imperilled global biodiversity for the next 30 years (D. P. McCarthy et al. Science 338, 946–949; 2012). The money would also boost development of renewable energy sources and domestic support for a low-carbon economy.

Tara Martin Department of Forest and Conservation Science, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Reference: Martin, T.G. 2016. Policy: Hasten end of dated fossil-fuel subsidies. Nature 538:171-171. PDF

Open Access Link http://rdcu.be/kW82

Timing of habitat protection matters

Published today in Conservation Letters, we develop a method for determining the time at which habitat protection must occur, despite uncertainty, in order to avoid an unacceptable risk of extinction.

Martin T.G., Camaclang A.E., Possingham H.P., Maguire L., Chadès I. (2016) Timing of critical habitat protection matters. Conservation Letters In Press, DOI: 10.1111/conl.12266. PDF


It may be tempting to assume that more information is of value for its own sake, in a decision-making context information has value only when it leads to a change in actions taken, specifically, a change with enough benefit to species protection to outweigh the cost of obtaining the information. In the often contentious environment of endangered species decision making, parties who benefit from delay in taking action often lobby strategically for more information, not because they are concerned for the efficacy of protective actions but because their interests are best served by delaying protection as long as possible. In this environment, reminding everyone that more information does not always translate into more efficacious action may help strike a better balance between action and research. When it comes to species conservation, time is the resource that matters most. It is also the resource we cannot get more of.

Northern Abalone_Janna Nichols

Timing of critical habitat protection matters for British Columbia’s Northern Abalone – Photo Janna Nichols

Post-doc in Conservation Science

Post Doctoral Position in Conservation Science

We are seeking a highly motivated and dynamic Postdoctoral Fellow to work with Dr Julia Baum and Dr Tara Martin on a new project “Prioritizing Threat Management Strategies to Ensure Long-term Resilience of the Fraser River Estuary”.  The Postdoctoral Fellow will be based at the University of Victoria (http://uvic.ca) in British Columbia, Canada and will also be associated with CEED (Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions; http://ceed.edu.au).

Context: Estuaries are amongst the most important and productive ecosystems within marine environments globally. They also are amongst the most at risk. British Columbia’s Fraser River Estuary (FRE) provides valuable goods and services to the people of Canada and abroad. Not least, it is the mouth of the largest salmon-bearing river in the world and home to half of BC’s rapidly expanding urban population. Without timely and effective conservation management, these goods and services are at risk. Water pollution and loss of habitat resulting from industrial and urban development, exploitation of fish stocks, and climate change are a few of the key threats.

Research effort to date in the FRE has focused on identifying its natural assets and their threats. It is now time to focus research on the identification of the key management actions needed to respond to these threats and emerging risks in order to protect and restore the FRE’s natural assets for the long-term. Information on the effectiveness of alternative management actions often is not published, but is the knowledge of experts. Rapid and adaptable decision making in the face of novel risks to natural assets is increasingly reliant on effective methods for combining expert judgment with empirical data. This project will bring together experts in the ecology, sociology, economics and management of estuarine systems and the FRE in particular including those from government, First Nations, industries (fishing, agriculture, forestry), academia and environmental non-government organizations, along with fishers and other nonspecialists with local knowledge. Together these experts, policy makers, and stakeholders will estimate the costs and benefits of alternative management actions. The outcome of this project will be a prospectus for investing in the priority management actions needed to ensure the resilience of the FRE’s natural assets into the future.

Research: The postdoc will undertake a priority threat management assessment to identify the management actions required to abate the key threats to the Fraser River Estuary in order to ensure its long-term resilience. The postdoc will help to organize and lead three workshops with FRE experts and stakeholders, and develop state-of-the-art techniques in conservation decision science to identify the most effective and at the same time, least costly management actions needed to ensure the long-term resilience of the FRE. Importantly, this type of analysis will clarify what can and cannot be achieved for different levels of investment in environmental management of the estuary. This research builds from conservation decision science pioneered in Dr. Martin’s lab.


  • This position is funded by MEOPAR (http://meopar.ca, the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network) one of Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence, and is offered full time, fixed term for two years at CDN$50,000 per year plus benefits;
  • This position also comes with generous research funds to cover a series of expert elicitation workshops, computer and conference/work travel, as well as a dedicated Research Assistant to assist with supporting the PDFs research and organizing the workshops;
  • The successful candidate will join Dr. Julia Baum’s productive collaborative lab at UVic and will work closely with Dr. Tara Martin. Visit the Baum Lab http://baumlab.weebly.com/  and Martin Conservation Decisions Lab https://taramartin.org/ for more on their cutting edge conservation research;
  • This position is available to start any time between July 1 and September 1, 2016. The latter is the latest possible start date and candidates must have a completed their PhD degree by the start date.

Applicants should have the following qualifications: 

  • A PhD in ecology, environmental studies, oceanography, mathematical biology, or computer science, or other related field;
  • Strong statistical and mathematical modeling skills including demonstrated proficiency with R and/or MatLab, as well as ArcGIS (or related spatial program);
  • Excellent technical, analytical, computer, organizational, and problem-solving skills. Strong attention to detail, and meticulous work style, as evidenced by previous research;
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills, the ability to work both independently and collaboratively, including developing multi-sector collaborations and leading workshops, as well as the ability to communicate research findings both at professional meetings and in high quality peer-reviewed journals;
  • Excellent time management skills, including the ability to meet project goals in a timely manner, and follow through on projects;
  • An interest in marine ecology, conservation and socio-ecological dynamics

Application: Interested candidates please email Drs. Baum and Martin at baumlabmanager ‘at’ gmail.com with ‘PDF in Conservation Science’ in the email subject line, by June 15th 2016 with a cover letter, a statement of research interests and how this postdoctoral fellowship will help you meet your career goals, a CV, and contact details for three referees.