Thursday, April 28, 2022

Can genetic data motivate people to conserve widespread but declining species?

This content was reblogged from Relational Thinking, the People and Nature Blog.

By Harold Eyster

Varied Thrushes have declined by more than 60% over the last five decades. Artwork: © Harold Eyster.

 

In short, yes. Coupled with a framing that highlights the interdependent relationships between people and a species, evidence of population differentiation can be a powerful motivator for individual efforts to conserve or restore nature.

Just last week, a Mexican fish that went extinct in the wild in 2003 was reintroduced back into its ancestral habitat. Other endangered species are also doing well—one of the rarest birds in North America, the Kirtland’s Warbler, has seen its population increase by over 1000% since 1970.

But whilst many endangered species have been making a comeback thanks to conservation efforts, widespread and common species have been rapidly dwindling.

Continue to read the rest on Relational Thinking...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CHANS Lab Views by Kai Chan's lab is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://chanslabviews.blogspot.com.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Launching CoSphere, a Community of Small-Planet Heroes

On Monday, we launched CoSphere. Here's my invitation to friends, family, and colleagues:


Dear friends, (apologies for cross-posting)

 

Many of you know that I’ve been at the forefront of science-policy efforts to bring attention to the need for transformative system change. It’s now clear that despite acknowledging this necessity, governments and businesses will not take the needed actions unless there’s an unprecedented coordination to pressure them to do so. Working only in science and science-policy circles left me feeling like a pawn in political theatre of the absurd (see the story here).

 

So today a powerful little team and I are launching CoSphere, a coalition for system change toward sustainability. Our aim is to bring science to build a community of those passionate about a better future.

 

The relevant science is the global systems science of where we have leverage and where that’s needed (what to act on), and the science of social transformation to strategize our efforts (how we can act). Millions of people demonstrated their concern for a better future through recent climate protests. Equipped with this knowledge, together we can bring about that future even despite opposition from those seeking to preserve business-as-usual.

 

My ask: If this resonates, join us, and share this with others. You and they may also be interested in this essay (published in The Globe and Mail), this coverage in the Vancouver Sun, or this Twitter thread. Our partners include David Suzuki Foundation, CPAWS, Canopy, Plastic Oceans, Birds Canada, Raincoast, Y2Y, and more. (If you can bring another organization, please do!)

 

Bring your passion, your creativity, and your expertise. On the Forum, we seek to create a space where people’s efforts are celebrated, and where we all bring our expertise towards our common objectives. Whereas so many scientists are used to speaking primarily to policymakers and journalists, we hope to create a pathway for science to empower activists and advocates of all ages (including the powerful youth movement).

 

So we’d love help reaching out to youth leaders. We want to help equip and orient climate groups and environment clubs at universities, high schools, and elsewhere.

 

In solidarity,

Kai

 

PS, Since we’re brand new, you’ll see that some places feel incipient (e.g., the Forum). We welcome your contributions to make it an inviting, vibrant space. KC

-- 

Kai M. A. Chan, Professor and Canada Research Chair—Rewilding and Social-Ecological Transformation (he/him)

CHANS Lab (Connected Human-and-Natural Systems)              CoSphere (now launching)

Coordinating Lead Author, IPBES Global Assessment

Lead Editor, People and Naturea BES journal of relational thinking 

Royal Society of Canada College of New Scholars—member

Leopold Leadership Fellow; Global Young Academy alum; Canada’s Clean16 for 2020

Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability

The University of British Columbia | Vancouver Campus | Musqueam Traditional Territory

AERL Rm 438, 2202 Main Mall | Vancouver, BC | V6T 1Z4 Canada

 

Ph: 604.822.0400               Fax: 604.822.9250

 

kaichan@ires.ubc.ca           kc@kchan.org

www.ires.ubc.ca                 Blog: CHANS Lab Views 

@KaiChanUBC                   My group: chanslab.ires.ubc.ca

Google Scholar                   Confidential: for intended recipients only

 

Recent papers: Kreitzman et al., Ecosphere, Woody perennial polycultures enhance biodiversity and ecosystem functions

Bullen et al., Global Ecol. Biogeogr., Ghost of a giant (Steller’s sea cows) (Hakai Magazine)

Naito et al., Sust. Sci., An integrative framework for transformative social change


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CHANS Lab Views by Kai Chan's lab is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://chanslabviews.blogspot.com.

Friday, January 21, 2022

From the Seas to the Spotlight: Healing the Planet Will Take All of Us

This content was reblogged from CoSphere.

A Story by Alanna Mitchell

Image by: Chloë Ellingson

I remember the moment I let myself glimpse that I was deeply, intimately involved in the work of healing the planet. It was nearly two decades ago, as I sat down to write the first words of my first book, Dancing at the Dead Sea.

I had spent a year travelling the world as a journalist with Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, as a self-styled earth sciences reporter. The stories from those adventures had garnered me a couple of international awards and a fellowship at Oxford University where I studied with the late Norman Myers. He was, I always reckoned, a Cassandra. He was one of the first scientists to flag our current extinction spasm, the looming tragedy of environmental refugees and the fact that so much of the planet’s biodiversity rests in a few small and precious hotspots. Hardly anyone believed him. Yet he kept going, a cranky soothsayer of the Anthropocene.


And as I sat down to begin crafting that first book, so much of which had been shaped by him, I panicked. I had written the newspaper stories in the conventional way: as a journalistic observer of the information. At a remove. As if I were not also a citizen of this planet and affected by all this information I was unearthing.

Should I write this book in the uninvolved third person, or the passionately involved first? Did I even have the right to write it in the first person, as one implicated in the story? A crisis of faith. I sat at my keyboard – tucked away in a corner of my bedroom in Toronto – and pressed capital I. The book was first-person. I was in.


Myers had already taught me that the real story was about the systems our species had set up – energy, food production, finance, governance. And that what was at stake was the life support systems of our planet: the marvellous dance of creatures, the hydrological cycle, the climate, the ocean. All the small stories added up to something far bigger than the sum of their parts. We need to be on the planet as if we mean to stay, he always used to tell me.


It was a small leap from that first book to a one-woman play. Well, philosophically, if not practically. I had already quit my newspaper job – “What part of ‘NO’ don’t you understand,” one of my editors barked at me shortly before I quit, when I asked once again to write stories about the changing sea – and spent three years on 13 journeys around the world with scientists to interrogate the state of the ocean. It turned into my second book, Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis.



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CHANS Lab Views by Kai Chan's lab is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://chanslabviews.blogspot.com.

Monday, January 17, 2022

What Is a Horizon Scan? (Step 2) + Why and How to Do One Now


Years or months from now, you’re defending your dissertation/thesis, and one of your examiners frowns. You tremble as they ask, “What you’ve discovered is pretty normal in [field H]. But you haven’t even discussed [that field], or cited any of the key papers. Why not?”

Scanning the horizon is crucial, but can be overwhelming. There's a lot out there! Photo: Kai Chan



Or maybe it’s, “Have you ever heard of [method Q]? It seems like it would have saved you loads of time and provided a much more robust basis for your conclusions.” Or any number of other scenarios of overlooked studies, fields, or methods.

Such a moment of chagrin is largely due to a failure to scan the horizon. Avoiding such moments is why you might conduct a horizon scan right now—whether you’re just starting or well underway.

Scenarios like this might sound far-fetched. But they happen all the time, because the literature is vast and deeply fragmented. When Alejandra Echeverri scanned the horizon for literatures addressing the nonmaterial relationships between people and animals, she found an astonishing 27 fields—many of which barely engaged with many of the others.

Echeverri et al. found 27 different fields of human-animal relations.

For student X (a concrete anonymized example), an oversight like this was very costly. X was studying zoonotic disease risk and its various causes. A central finding was the large gap between the spatial distributions of the physical prevalence of risk and of people’s concern. But X hadn’t engaged at all with the risk perception literature, where such findings are well documented and also well understood. X had entered the problem as a zoologist seeking to expand into social-ecological problems. It simply hadn’t occurred to X that there was a general literature on risk. For X, this meant a brush with failure, and the need for major revisions. What should have been a triumphant moment was nearly the exact opposite.

As I see it, there are three kinds of horizons to explore (all related to critical ingredients and your tentative research problem).

Domain/Topic

Domains are the broad problem of focus—e.g., biodiversity conservation, just climate transitions, sustainable fisheries, or endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The domain or topic aligns closely with interdisciplinary research fields, where many different methods might be applied, potentially from many different disciplinary backgrounds. But sometimes—as with Echeverri et al. (2018)—the domain is much broader than a single field. Within a domain, it’s important to understand how others are growing knowledge about similar problems. A forthcoming paper in Sustainability Science led by Rumi Naito (with Jiaying Zhao and I) demonstrates the kind of insights that can be gained by a deeply interdisciplinary analysis of the illegal wildlife trade. 

An example of human-animal relations (and values):
I feel a sense of responsibility and kinship for orcas,
hence this Father's Day card from my daughter.

Methods

Methods are the tools for collecting and analyzing data to answer research questions (e.g., system modeling, multivariate statistics, surveys, document analysis). Any given method might be applied in a wide variety of contexts and disciplines, and understanding this diversity of applications can yield new insights and approaches. This great paper by Paul Armsworth lays out how economists and ecologists use similar statistical regression methods quite differently, and why. Meanwhile, the use of narrative elicitation (developed earlier) led to crucial insights in the field of ecosystem services (thanks to Terre Satterfield; see here, here and here). Insightful guidance for mixed-methods research—which is common in sustainability science and interdisciplinary environmental research—can be found in Creswell & Creswell 2005.

Themes

Themes are concepts and constructs that cut across domains and methods (e.g., risk, values, power, resilience, telecoupling, markets, neoliberalism). They represent another key pathway by which learning can bridge from one domain to another. E.g., Leslie and McCabe (2013) demonstrate beautifully how response diversity can yield resilience in social systems (not just ecological ones). The idea of relational values was intended to enable tremendous insights to overflow from the coming together of several domains and multiple disciplines, as in this special issue.

Relational values are an example of a theme that straddles many
fields, disciplines, and domains. But it's key to relate them to other
kinds of values, as we did in Chan et al. (2018).
But how to actually conduct a horizon scan? There’s no single recipe. When there’s no map of a landscape, many kinds of explorations can be fruitful. In basic terms, having identified your domain/topic, possible methods and themes—and a wide variety of terms to represent these—do the following to get a sense of what key reviews/papers/fields/terms you might be missing:
  • Surround yourself with diverse like-minded folks researching similar problems and themes, from a variety of vantage points.
  • Talk with your supervisor(s) and committee members, and other experts.
  • Talk with fellow students about your work and theirs.
  • Search the academic literature using your keywords without too much constraint (i.e., without applying ‘and’ links, so without restricting to spaces you know) (using ISI Web of Science, Google Scholar, etc.; see Paperpile and UBC library for tips).
  • Follow chains of citations (backwards and forwards: sources cited by key papers; and sources citing those key papers—Connected Papers might be helpful for depicted citation links across sources).

A key point is not to let yourself read deeply during this step. Drilling down in one part of the landscape will distract the exploration of broader horizons. It may help to distinguish 'scanning' from 'exploring', and iterating between these phases. In the superficial phase of scanning you might focus on finding new literatures while also taking notes about particular papers, books and fields to explore more fully.

Similarly, don't let this step drag on for too long. Do it in a time-bounded way in one burst, and then do it again later in fits and spurts. You can never really finish scanning the horizon. The idea of 'saturation' is elusive here (that you've reached saturation if searches repeatedly reveal the same sources), because this can result from searching in a rut rather than getting out to the broader landscape. But don't sweat it; people will forgive you if you gave horizon-scanning an honest effort but still missed some features of interest. 

Scanning horizons promises to vastly improve your research and its reach, and to prevent the worst moments of chagrin.

But much more importantly, horizon scans can enable you to help facilitate great insights well beyond your own research, by bridging parts of this deeply fractured academic landscape that remain isolated. This hope is what led us (the editors of People and Nature) to state in our opening editorial that "People and Nature thus aspires to be not a collection of unlike contributions to different literatures, but rather the nexus where these various literatures about human‐nature relationships convene."


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CHANS Lab Views by Kai Chan's lab is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://chanslabviews.blogspot.com.

Identifying the Problem (Step 1.1): An Impactful Interdisciplinary Research Project Is One that Fulfills You

By Kai Chan

This is part of a series, How to Write a Winning Proposal—in 10 Hard Steps


The true first step in writing a winning proposal is to identify the (research) problem. Lots has been written about how to identify a good problem, e.g., as a puzzle. For our purposes, though, that step is WAY down the road.


Or rather, identifying a good problem is a crucial and complex process that we’re going to unpack into several steps over the coming posts. But in order to engage in those steps, you need an anchor—a tentative topic or problem—that you can use to ground you through the coming exploration.


But how do you decide on that tentative topic/problem? It’s a chicken-and-egg dilemma: to identify a good topic/problem you need a tentative topic/problem.


Choosing a topic/problem is a chicken-and-egg dilemma (you need
a tentative one to investigate possibilities), but there is a place to
start (read on). ruben alexander, Flikr
My route through this apparent paradox is highly unusual. The vast majority of writing about how to find a good research problem says something like this: “look for under-explored aspects and areas of concern, conflict or controversy.” Or, this: “Ideas for research problems tend to come from two sources: real life and the scholarly arena.


They’re not wrong. They’ve just skipped a key step—in my opinion. And they’re misleading.


They are misleading because there is no such thing as a “under-explored aspect … or area”. Every research area is simultaneously over-explored if it isn’t interesting or important to you, and under-explored for those who find it interesting and important.


There’s only one way to identify a good tentative topic/problem. It’s not to survey the literature or the world around you—it’s to look within. That is, start from your critical ingredients. A good tentative topic is one that would be meaningful to you.


The other authors above would likely agree that looking within—at what you find meaningful—is a good place to start. They likely just think it goes without saying. Having supervised dozens of students and taught twenty in two iterations of this course (RES 602), I know that it still needs to be said.


These other authors are probably fixated on what I’ll call the opportunity theory—that we should choose projects among the low-hanging fruit. I see several problems with this theory.
Low-hanging cashew fruit. (Did you know
that cashews had delicious fruit? They do,
and this is thanks to gomphotheres and 
other prehistoric megavertebrates, which
relates to rewilding.) 
Photo by 
form PxHere

  1. You can’t spot great, easy opportunities (the low-hanging fruit) without really getting to know a field. Those externally-obvious low-hanging fruit have mostly been picked.

  2. There’s no research area that is truly saturated—that doesn’t have a genuine research opportunity. There are areas that are very competitive, there are ones whose methods won’t appeal (e.g., because they are too theoretical, too dependent on fieldwork, or too deeply statistical). But this is all a function of fit with what ‘turns your crank’.

  3. Following apparent low-hanging fruit is unlikely to allow you to develop the methods that are most important to your future, or to enable you to develop connections with your key communities of research and practice, or to jibe with a theory of change that resonates with you. That is, they are unlikely to deliver your critical ingredients.


So start with your critical ingredients, and fine-tune your good tentative problem into a good problem (see steps 2-6 in this series).


But how exactly do a handful of critical ingredients deliver a research problem? At the nexus of each critical ingredient, there is a quadrant in n-dimensional space that represents the set of your most meaningful problems.


For me, this is a project involving the conservation and/or restoration of nature alongside its sustainable use (fields) with a combination of ecological and social dynamics (disciplines), using quantitative and qualitative methods (tools) in southwest British Columbia (geographical study areas). It will engage with values and rewilding in the context of transformative change (theories of change, questions).


So, once you’ve completed the critical ingredients document, the task is to simply layer the various dimensions as I’ve done just above: the promising "problem" is the intersection of your critical ingredient fields, disciplines, tools, study areas, theories of change, and questions.


Next we’ll discuss how to use this starting point to explore the beautiful landscape of research opportunities and approaches.


Next up: What Is a Horizon Scan? (Step 2) + Why You Need To Do One Now

Previous: Why You Need a Theory of Change

The Intro to this series (with links to the full set): How to Write a Winning Proposal—in 10 Hard Steps



Creative Commons Licence
CHANS Lab Views by Kai Chan's lab is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://chanslabviews.blogspot.com.