Improving the impact of amphibian conservation programmes

Lead Research Organisation: University of Kent
Department Name: Durrell Inst Conservation and Ecology

Abstract

Conservation science is currently not meeting the needs of conservation practice. Because they are funded differently and work to different agendas, there is an ongoing mismatch between science and practice. Practitioners often claim that the science is not meeting their needs, while scientists claim that their scientific results are not heeded. A middle ground is therefore required, where research goals are decided jointly by scientists and end-users. Equally, with end-users interfacing more with business, commerce and donors rather than academia, a better alignment of conservation programmes with financial and organisational measures of success is urgently needed. This project will train a student in the specific and transferable skills needed to address these two issues. To achieve this the student will work at the interface of applied research and conservation implementation through the commercial and charitable activities of the CASE partner - the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). ZSL currently hosts the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) amphibians programme, and from 2011 intends to host the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA) - a consortium of 22 global players in amphibian conservation. The project will address four related issues. Firstly, effective conservation action for amphibians is being hindered by a paucity of scientific data on the scale of the problem. The project will address this by using recently developed modelling methods to estimate (1) the number and timing of recent amphibian extinctions, and (2) the number of amphibian species still waiting to be discovered. Secondly, having established the overall scale of the knowledge gap, the student will then go on to determine whether there is a positive relationship between perceived project 'success' and the amount of published research on the species concerned. Thirdly, as project success may also be related to project management, the student will then proceed to evaluate several ongoing amphibian conservation projects drawn from the EDGE and ASA programmes using a recently developed business excellence model. Fourthly, drawing upon these three issues, the student will assess which projects within the EDGE and ASA programmes would provide the most cost-effective return on the scientific and management resources invested within them. The project comprises a partnership between DICE (expertise in amphibian conservation science) and ZSL (expertise in promoting conservation through its charitable, scientific, educational and commercial activities). Indeed, the partnership is very timely given the intention of ZSL to host the ASA from 2011: this will provide the student with an unprecedented interface with the rest of the global amphibian conservation community. As a member of the new Graduate School at the University of Kent the student will receive a skills audit, personal development plan and training in appropriate transferable skills, to complement the subject specific training within DICE. At ZSL the student will receive complementary skills training, and will have day-to-day exposure to a thriving conservation organisation whose central mission is 'To promote and achieve worldwide conservation for animals and their habitats'. The economic and societal impact of the project will be achieved through a much more targeted and cost-effective distribution of resources to conservation programmes. This will directly benefit the commercial and enterprise activities of ZSL as an end-user of the research, and will indirectly benefit other conservation organisations who may adopt the same processes for assigning priorities. The project will therefore achieve RCUK impacts through enhancing environmental sustainability and protection; improving the effectiveness and sustainability of relevant organisations and public services; and through refining the processes that govern evidence based policy-making and influencing policies.

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