2013 CASIOPA AGM on Putting Conservation Science into Practice

Wednesday April 17, 2013 & Thursday April 18, 2013 saw over 100 people join us at the wonderful University of Waterloo Summit Centre for the Environment at Huntsville for the Annual General Meeting of CASIOPA.  We combined this with an excellent workshop as well! The theme was “Putting Conservation Science into Practice”.

Chris Lemieux (of both U Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier U fame), Stephen Bocking (Trent U), and CASIOPA Chair Stephen Murphy (U Waterloo) facilitated the meeting. Three heads did turn out to be better than one (and three academics, no less; whoda thunk it?).

How Much Habitat is Enough? was the first presentation – a very important question raised by Graham Bryan, Environment Canada/Canadian Wildlife Service; Graham walked us through the conceptual and technical issues to find solutions.  The biggest lessons?  (1) The best science and policy won’t help us if it does not get applied. (2)  What is the need? Those you are trying to reach. And yours – did you set any goals? Do you have any reference point? A mission? A vague idea? (3)  Can it be processed? Graham talked about planning frameworks and appropriate scales. But what about human capacity top absorb info?  As scientists we don’t understand why people don’t act on facts when clearly presented  – such as climate change. Truth is people shut down, they deny – its too much. (4)  Will move things forward? Will the information be a positive step?


Bill Crins, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources – and CASIOPA’s liason to OMNRF (then OMNR in 2013) – was next up with a candid and inspiring look at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ Approach to Science-Management Integration. Its tough integrating what are often two silos – especially with the limited resources that we all face, no matter who we work for – but OMNRF continues to show us the way.  Bill noted the obstacles to integration: Time/ staff/ workload relating to both plan preparation and review, and to monitoring and revision of resource management approaches; Volume of literature; Reduced resources for facilitating research and conducting inventories/ monitoring/ our own restoration and adaptive management projects; Uncertainty regarding transferability of results. He offered solutions of course: Dedicated time in PA resource management staff performance/ learning plans for (a) Literature searches/reviews, (b) Prioritized inventory and monitoring, (c) -Attendance at PA-related workshops/conferences such as CASIOPA, Latornell, prairie conference, (d) Other opportunities for contact/discussion with experts, & (e) Maintenance or enhancement of PA-related research fora/workshops/partnerships.


Dan Kraus and Heather Arnold, Nature Conservancy of Canada, showed us why NCC is a real leader in Ontario and well beyond in terms of the science and management of natural areas.  Their presentation on the Nature Conservancy Canada’s Approach to Science-Management Integration was an excellent look behind the scenes at how they manage to accomplish so much.  They focused on collaboration and noted that their research needs included: Inventories; Literature searches (biodiversity, socio-economics, monitoring); Approaches to restoration; Species management and monitoring; & Long-term monitoring.  Collaborative opportunities/vehicles focused upon: Partnerships at research stations and in Natural Areas; NCC could share list of research priorities further; Funding for university partnerships

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Gord Miller, the already legendary Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, then regaled us with his barn-burning talk on An External Perspective on Science-Management Integration in Ontario’s Natural Resource Management Agencies. Gord pulls no punches but always gives credit where credit is due – and that included praise for the effective actions the province has done and praise for his staff members who are part of the ECO team.  Gord’s final example was on climate change adaptation where he called for avoiding losses and unsustainable investments; rebuilding infrastructure (in better ways); improving planning; revising policies; undertake more scientific assessments for adaptation.


We then featured three case studies to put our ideas into practice.

First up, Graham Whitelaw and Ryan Danby of Queen’s University explored Applied Science in the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve – the FABR is renowed as being a very successful example of the Biosphere Reserve program that U Waterloo-Department of Environment & Resource Studies’ Distinguished Professor Emeritus George Francis was integral in creating and implementing.  They focused on three projects: ENSC 430 Honors Project Applied Sustainability; Wildlife Mortality on the 1000 Islands Parkway; Planning and Management in Eastern Ontario’s Protected Spaces: How do science and public participation guide policy?

danby & whitelaw

Kim Taylor, Will Wistowsky, & Adam Gryck, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, followed with a topic that CASIOPA tries to help connect researchers and OMNRF/Ontario Parks staff – Applied Science in Ontario Parks – Research Prioritization. Regardless of analysis, “Inventory / Monitoring” and “Human Use Impacts” were top 2 research need themes.  Next (interchangeably) were: The need to understand the role of parks in the context of the landscape, and the need to insure that all types of ecosystems were represented (e.g. aquatic, wetlands) within protected areas.  There was stong concern for “Invasive Species” (inventory, and how to get rid of them) and “Species at Risk” (inventory, and how to keep them). Their study helps to guide future research within Ontario’s protected areas.. There will be a final report summarizing all findings (Parks and Protected Area Policy Section Website needs).  Quick fact sheets (online or otherwise) can help communicate needs.

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Michael Paterson, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, was our special guest, making the trip down from the then roiling Experimental Lakes Area.  Not long after this meeting, the Ontario Government and IISD stepped up and took over management of ELA.  Mike’s talk on The Experimental Lakes Area – Contributions to Conservation Research, Monitoring and Practice including some prescient ideas about where ELA was going! A short list of what ELA has done: Environmental management of freshwater aquaculture; Environmental fate and effects of various contaminants including endocrine-disrupting chemicals, brominated flame retardants, Hg, nanoparticles; Addressing effectiveness of lab-based testing methods for toxins; Effects of water diversion and management •Interactions between climate change and stressors; Effects of macrophyte removal from lakes; Effectiveness of different types of nutrient management (N vs P); Effects of rainbow trout introductions; Effects of transgenic fish.  Michael asked for suggestions on how to make ELA stronger and as we’re into 2015, your editor (Murphy) can update by saying that ELA remains strong. CASIOPA and the U Waterloo’s Dept of Environment and Resource Studies & Centre for Ecosystem Resilience & Adaptation  has forged links with the recent appointment of Chair Stephen Murphy to their advisory board in late 2014. This compliments links already within U Waterloo (notably Prof. Rebecca Rooney in Biology) and with many partner insitutions beyond!


The workshop part of the meeting came next as we had two sessions -  Best Practices, Barriers and Challenges to Science-Management Integration and Building Institutions and Partnerships for Science-based Management.  This led to some lively discussion amongst participants and Chris Lemieux and team have followed up with this by having longer discussions with participants in later 2013 and in 2014.  We anticipate putting out a summary of best recommendations in 2015.



Day 2 saw many excellent contributed sessions.

Melanie Goral of York University presented on “Exploring forest dynamics I – a case study using the invasive species – Garlic Mustard and Japanese Barberry.” The main goal of her PhD work was to build more sophisticated models of forest dynamics – examining how invasive and native plant species interacted with herbivores and human caused climate change.


Matt Keevil, Ron Brooks, & Jacuqeline Litzgus (joint venture of Laurentian U and U Guelph) examined “Assessing density dependence and recovery in a population of Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina) twenty-two years after a major mortality event: Implications for the conservation of Snapping Turtles in Ontario.”  Their conclusions based on the work at Algonquin PP’s Wildlife Research Station were sobering: no evidence for compensatory response in adult female vital rates; no recovery of female population; some evidence for recovery of males – net recruitment of small males but gradual loss of large individuals; transience for juvenilesremains very high.


Erica Barkely of Ontario Parks SE Zone took a look at “Citizen science in protected areas: how eBird and online reporting tools improve the way we access and use visitor sightings.” Using ebird, she answered questions such as whether bobolinks and eastern meadowlarks were seen in Sandbanks PP in a calendar year or in historical contexts and what species of birds were being reported – and when – in Murphys Point PP.  ebird has the potential to mine data from a very competent and dedicated group (birders) of citizen scientists in protected areas.


The University of Waterloo’s Kelly Moores & (CASIOPA Chair) Stephen Murphy reported on early work on “Forest health-based scenario building as an accessible tool for climate change management in Bruce Peninsula National Park.” The idea here was to show how scenarios could be used better to examine management options under different climate change scenarios and optimize expenditures while maximizing ecological integrity – the legal mandate that drives both Parks Canada and Ontario Parks.

Moores CASIOPA conference

Melissa Olmstead and Scott Ramsay of Wilfrid Laurier University presented on “Fire ecology of white-throated sparrows in Algonquin Provincial Park.” They predicted possible short-term (< 5 year) declines in the sparrows after a burn though not all populations would show this response – and that response is simply the change that would happen if fires had not been suppressed in the first place.  They did caution that timing was important (spring burns were OK for sparrows) and that unburned matrixes of habitat must be maintained – no huge landscape level fires.  Their work could lead to a different path for fire management in Algonquin PP and in educating the public – lots of tourists in Algonquin PP after all. (Melissa’s file is too big to upload; contact Steve Murphy if you want a copy)

Kylie McLeod and Stephen Murphy wrapped up the early morning sessions with “Native bee diversity and pollination function in restored ecosystems – a case study of Dunnville Marsh, Grand River Conservation Authority.”  They concluded that the restoration worked – the restored meadows of Dunnville Marsh are home to – and important for – a diverse native bee community. Further, the records of this survey can be used to monitor future changes in this community. Examining the effects of the specific pit and mound restoration technique on native bee abundance and richness is worth exploring at a larger scale.


Melissa Robillard, Glen Forward, &  Glen Brethour showed us “A cost-effective method to monitor recreational fisheries use in provincial parks: Algonquin Provincial Park.”  This was a stunning work that got into specifics on how we can measure actual takings of fish. As they noted, the implications are beyond just the technique as this success means better likelihood of conservation of species like brook trout; better overall protection for biodiversity; better integrated management of cultural and natural history; better ability for monitoring in Specially Designated Waters; more data to help inform Algonquin Land Claim initiatives; and an overall better approach to the fisheries management planning process as part of Ontario Parks’ mandate.

Robillard et al CASIOPA 2013 edited

OMNR’s Jeremy Rouse & Graham Cameron spoke about better approaches to considering protection of Blanding’s turtles in Areas of Concern (AOCs).  Their object was to develop biologically suitable direction for protecting Blanding’s Turtle while ensuring the forest industry remains viable. They provided some caveats but concluded that their work could support eliminating the need for a 30 m upland reserve from aquatic habitat; reduce active season restrictions; reducing the distance buffer required from aquatic habitat; adjust the timing in these areas; extend applicable area beyond 1km to 3km to reflect range lengths of tutrles; update suitable aquatic habitat to include all aquatic habitat used.  This was a win-win in that it could reduce unneeded restrictions will introducing new ones that better reflect the actual biology of the turtles – making conservation more effective.


Brad Fedy – U Waterloo’s newest professor in the Dept of  Environment & Resource Studies – gave us a tour de force on “The Ecologist’s Toolbox: Why methods matter in applied ecology.”.  This was a terrific overview of the latest methods in conservation in protected areas.  Brad covered direct methods (e.g. radio-telemetry), indirect methods (e.g. genotypes), linear and non-linear models, simulated and empirical data uses, data collection and quality practices, and use of life history parameters (e.g. density, movement, structural and functional connectivity).


Paul Gray (OMNR) & Chris Lemieux (bi-coastal at U Waterloo & Wilfrid Laurier U). Using Science to Manage for Wicked Problems like Climate Change in Protected Areas. Whereas Kelly and Steve examine scenario-based approaches, Paul and Chris looked at the larger agenda of assessing risks and ranking vulnerability, using adaptive planning, and including scenario based approaches.  It was a great tie-in with the earlier presentation and led to some good audience discussion about how detailed a planning process this approach can produce. It is an approach that creates a much needed bias for action!

Gray-CASIOPA Meeting Huntsville April 2013

After lunch, Dawn Bazely (York U) spelled Melanie Goral (she combined her intended 2 presentations into 1) and talked extemporaenously about the overall need for action in Ontario protected areas – a real barn burner of a call to action!

John McLaughlin (OFRI) & Richard Wilson (OMNR) walked us through “The role of Ontario protected areas in beech bark disease research.” This was a great overview of a serious pest problem and their talk focused in the end on how collaborative research between agencies (OFRI, OMNR, Conservation Authorities – to name but a few) can start making a difference in mitigating this disease and others.


OMNR’s Adam Gryck & Kim Taylor (subbing for Will Wistowsky) presented on “Tracking the most influential and charismatic of megafauna: The importance of socio-economic research for parks and protected area management.”  Socio-economics research is critical for protected areas and their talk focused on how it influenced landscape planning efforts, the entire recreational opportunity spectrum, the limits of acceptable change, prescriptive applications & enhancements, tools for Regulation, & specific approaches like  economic valuations +ecosystem service valuations + cost/benefit analysis + simulation modeling.


Corina Brdar’s (Ontario Parks SE Zone) title was awesome: “The Missing Link – A case study.” The subhead was “A case study in which the excellent outcomes of communication and sharing between researchers and conservation practitioners is clearly demonstrated.”.  And that she did!  The work on the Burnt Lands (PNR) alvar is a great example of how cooperative research works.  Your editor here (Murphy) confesses that he also has a soft spot for one other case example from Corina – Stoco Fen PNR – because he is from eastern Ontario and did some of the original work in and around this area (ah, youth…).


Cara Copeland toured us “From Tobermory to Tolsmaville. Research needs and opportunities in one of Ontario’s hotspots. It’s hard to do this tour de force justice in words so click on the pdf below:


Sanjay Nepal (U Waterloo) wrapped up the day with a great presentation on “Understanding the ecological consequences of visitor use in parks is essential for preventing and mitigating the impairment of park resources and visitor experiences.” His work focused on BC’s Mount Robson PP and Mount Everest NP (yes, THE Mount Everest).  The lessons learned there were quite transferable to the Ontario experience. The conclusions from assessing visitor use impacts (and opportunities) was thatwas a growing interest in recreation resource impacts; individual park units appreciated the value of research on trail impacts, but  at a higher level backcountry impacts research gets low priority; the research capacity of  park management is an important consideration in selecting the techniques; there is a need to take recreation ecology research to the next level (comparing actual vs. perceptual impacts).


Roundtable Discussions Day 1 of 2013 CASIOPA AGM

This entry was posted in Algonquin Provincial Park, Announcements, Annual General Meetings, Conservation, Ecosystems Research, Fisheries / Fish, Forest and Wildlife, Herptiles, Human Ecology, Land Use, Management, Monitoring, Planning, Policy, Research & Analysis, Restoration, Social Science, Social and Economic Benefits, Species and Ecosystems at Risk, Stewardship

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