AMCS, Fort Collins CO

USGS Fort CollinsMy second stop was Fort Collins CO for the 2014 Adaptive Management Conference Series. This is a small, relatively informal gathering of USGS, FWS and academic scientists who work on adaptive management projects across the country. Speakers are offered 30-60 minute blocks to speak, allowing a rare opportunity to discuss issues in depth.

On Wednesday, Drew Tyre opened the conference with a neat set of rapidly-prototyped case studies, each calling for different styles of conflict resolution, expert elicitation and quantitative modeling. In the afternoon we heard a series of presentations about selecting surrogate species for broad-scale monitoring. This is a decision problem with a huge scope – involving vast areas, numerous stakeholders, and a dizzying array of alternatives – that will surely benefit from a structured approach.

Disease managementOn Thursday, presentations were centred around the classic application, adaptive harvest management. I learned a lot about how this program has expanded to various hunted species across the United States. Early career researchers Brian Gerber, Perry Williams and Adam Green presented the latest in statistical modelling, nuanced objective functions and optimisation approaches – I’ll be keeping an eye out for their publications. In the final session of the day, PhD student Noelle Hart stimulated a discussion comparing decision theoretic and resilience philosophies of adaptive management, another topic I want to read and think more about.

On Friday, Will Probert got us into some optimisation algorithms (yay!) for livestock disease management, Lianne Ball forecast challenges for wind farm conservation mitigation, and Jill Gannon presented one of the most advanced adaptive management programs I’ve ever been exposed to. They’ve not just closed the loop, but run around it four times! And they’ve developed some impressive systems for placing data management and analysis back into the hands of the project coordinators. Gannon’s report on native prairie adaptive management has shot straight to the top of my to-read list.

This is just the stuff to recharge my enthusiasm for adaptive management research (if it were ever waning!). I’m grateful to Bill Kendall and Cathy Cullinane Thomas for making it all happen in the face of delays and other obstacles.

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