Below you will find descriptions and highlights from my past work, as well as some of the solutions these efforts helped to support. Maybe these descriptions will provide some insights about your own problems. Hopefully they can also provide you with the impetus to seek out a decision analyst to help select the best course of action in your situation.
The perspective of policy makers (their "framing") has substantial influence on the final decision. We outlined five framings. (1) Putting species in the correct bin: applies scientific methods to decide if the species falls below specified thresholds. (2) Doing right by the species over time, which adds a dimension of future time to the decision. (3) Saving as many species as possible given budget limits, which requires classifying suites of species at the same time to ensure the best possible trade-offs. (4) Weighing extinction risk against economic or social objectives, thus explicitly balancing costs and rewards of classification. (5) Strategic aims to advance conservation goals, thus requiring negotiation as an integral part of classification. Policy makers that are clear about their framing can make decisions that are easier to defend, reduce confusion, minimize conflict, and improve scientific collaboration. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13185.
To protect and recover species, most countries have laws that mandate particular actions when species are classified as threatened or endangered. The regulations from listing can impose consequences to the industries that influence these species as well. Therefore, the process of classifying a species as threatened, endangered, or not, constitutes a difficult decision, and difficult decisions can usefully be approached using the theory and tools of decision analysis. In the analysis of a decision, framing the decision correctly and clearly is key: we are all better off when everyone is on the same page.
In 2013 the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department (VTFWD) re-evaluated their furbearer management programs, with an aim towards selecting a cost-effective population monitoring plan. Using structured decision making, in addition to common objectives such as effectively estimating population size and trend, we determined the VTFWD was also concerned about effectively detecting disease minimizing management costs, and improving citizen engagement. We found that while the current monitoring program is more costly than others to meet the population estimate objectives, it is a more cost-effective approach due to the citizen interaction and disease detection it enables. Dissertation ink
In 2015, available research and monitoring on lynx ecology, while substantial, lacked the information on demographic rates, abundance and trends necessary to complete a full viability assessment to support an endangered species act assessment. We designed and conducted an expert elicitation to capture the knowledge, professional judgments, and opinions of lynx experts to assess the status of, and of the drivers influencing, lynx populations in the contiguous U.S. The elicitation revealed experts’ concerns that expected climate-driven losses in habitat quality and quantity and related factors will likely result in declines within the contiguous U.S. While experts expect resident populations of lynx will persist in all 5 geographic units that currently support them in 2025 and 4 or 5 of the units at 2050 the expectation was for 2 or 3 units to persist by 2100 but with a high level of uncertainty regarding the rate and extent of decline.
Cummings et al publication link, USFWS report link
The harvest of Sockeye salmon in British Columbia occurs at sea, thousands of miles from the spawning grounds. We predicted the mortality rate of migrating salmon so the harvest can be reduced sufficiently to enable sustainable spawning populations.
Lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus, LEPC) have been more or less perpetually under review for classification as an endangered species in their southwestern US range. This population model combined model selection tools with hierarchical modeling to produce probabilistic predictions of future viability for the species in an effort to assist the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Species Status Assessment. Our stochastic projection model combined demographic rate estimates from previously published literature with demographic rate estimates that integrate the influence of climate conditions and habitat change, projecting continued declines in abundance across the range of habitat and climate change scenarios evaluated. DOI: http://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20171071
Structured Decision Making Facilitation
I facilitated two Structured Decision Making (SDM) workshops in February of 2020.
The first addressed the Use of Propagation Methods to Support the Viability of Brook Floater (Alasmidonta varicosa) Populations. I helped the brook floater Brook Floater Working Group through the SDM process to aid them in determining where states should conduct population restoration to support long term, range-wide recovery and prevent state extirpation of the brook floater given limited resources and brood stock. The first step was an integer programing decision support tool. This tool determines the optimal combination of watersheds to target for restoration and to use as sources populations for restoration, considering genetics and disease introduction risk, implementation and monitoring costs, and likelihood of producing viable populations. Brook floater analysis .xlsx link
The second workshop was an adaptive management workshop where I helped to facilitate the Grassland Management Team's Update of the Prairie Adaptive Management Plan. The original plan focused on assessing what management actions best maintain northern prairies. Revisiting the plan reaffirmed the question about what actions are most effective and where. It also produced a number of questions to address further regarding how to improve the efficiency of learning from monitoring, how sensitive recommended actions are to the relative importance of management objectives, and how to improve communication. Workshop documentation