FOS Newsletter February 2007

Highlights in This Issue

  • Did You Know…?
  • Update on FOS Strategies and Activities
  • Significant Publications from 2006
  • Meet the Newest Member of the FOS Team: Vinaya Swaminathan
  • Please Give Us Your Feedback

Did You Know…?

Conceptual Models Are a Useful Planning Tool That Can Help You Understand and Communicate What Is Happening at Your Site

Often, conservation project teams will know they want to work in a particular area or on a certain conservation theme, but they are not sure what exactly they want to conserve, what forces are influencing conservation, or what needs to happen to ensure the site’s biodiversity is maintained or improved. FOS facilitates a process to help project teams resolve these uncertainties and then use conceptual models to visually portray what is happening at their site. Conceptual models help project teams consolidate and communicate their knowledge of their site. They also help them identify potential areas where they can develop strategies to alter factors and positively impact conservation. Guidance on conceptual models, developed by FOS and WWF, is available from our website.

Update on FOS Strategies and Activities

Beta Version of Miradi Adaptive Management Software Is Now Available

Good conservation planning and management require that managers be systematic and explicit in the steps they take to get their projects up and running and to make sure they are on track. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were computer software that guided managers through all these steps, simplifying the process and ensuring that all steps were covered? That day is not far away. Over the past several months, the Conservation Measures Partnership (CMP) and FOS have made significant progress in the design of the Miradi Adaptive Management Software Program (Miradi means “project” in the Sub-Saharan African language of Swahili). The Miradi team has now released a beta version for conservation practitioners to test. The software (formerly e-Adaptive Management) is designed to walk practitioners through the design and planning steps in the adaptive management cycle, helping them, for example, to: identify what they want to conserve (their conservation target); specify what threats and opportunities are affecting their conservation targets; determine which threats are of greatest significance; and outline how their actions are believed to influence the situation at their site. Go to www.Miradi.org to find out more about this exciting new resource.

Training Tomorrowï¾’s Leaders Moves Forward at the University of Maryland

In conservation, we often talk about the need to conserve resources for the benefit of current and future generations. Certainly our actions today will have a profound effect on what we have to offer to these generations, but it is the younger generation and its descendants that have the greatest potential to demand and implement lasting change. For this reason, FOS has chosen “tomorrow’s leaders” as one of three key audiences for our adaptive management training strategy. Our first formal initiative in this area builds on the success of a pilot seminar series FOS helped University of Maryland graduate students develop in 2006. For 2007, UMD and FOS will offer a full course on adaptive management based on the Conservation Measures Partnership’s Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation. As part of the course, students will gain hands-on experience by working with conservation professionals and FOS facilitators to develop management plans for local conservation projects. FOS and UMD hope to make this course a core requirement for graduate students in UMD’S Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology Program and replicate this model in other graduate programs. More importantly, we hope it will prepare students for their role as tomorrow’s leaders in conservation.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Takes Steps to Monitor the Health of the Trail

Completed in 1937, the Appalachian Trail passes through 14 US states and 8 national parks and is the nation’s longest marked footpath (approximately 2,175 miles). Famous within the hiking community, the Appalachian Mountains are home to a rich array of temperate-zone species. Threatened by highway construction, housing developments, invasive exotic plants, and poor air quality, the health of the trail is, in many ways, a barometer of the health of the Eastern United States. With this in mind, FOS is working with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to develop a plan for volunteer “citizen scientists” to help the ATC and its partners monitor the health of this national treasure. Working closely with the ATC and its partners, these volunteer citizen scientists will collect data about plants, animals, air and water quality, visibility, and migration patterns. Scientists will use this data to issue reports to help North American citizens understand the trickle-down effect of environmental threats. This initiative received widespread coverage from national media outlets in late November. See our website for an article featured in the New York Times – An Early-Warning Army of Foot Soldiers.

FOS Works to Develop a Centralized Training Initiative

Over the past several years, FOS has seen an exciting and encouraging growth in demand for adaptive management training. With this growth, however, we have found it increasingly difficult to meet all needs. In response, FOS is developing a centralized training initiative as an alternative to our traditional site-based workshops. We expect to offer centralized courses in the US and other countries that will bring together managers from multiple projects to learn the adaptive management process using experience and data from their own sites. The training will be based on the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation and will introduce managers to tools and processes to design, plan, implement, and monitor conservation projects. We hope that this approach will provide an attractive alternative to our site-based training and allow us to train multiple teams at once. The courses will be open to any institution or individual wanting to learn more about adaptive project management in conservation. Keep checking FOS’s website to learn about course offerings and schedules.

NFWF and FOS Lay the Groundwork for an Evaluation of the Coral Reef Conservation Fund

It can be relatively straightforward to assess the effectiveness of a single conservation project, but how can we know the cumulative impact of multiple projects? This is an issue with which many programs and donor agencies struggle. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is one of these agencies. Since 2006, FOS has been working with NFWF to develop an evaluation system that will help NFWF gauge impact across the various coral reef habitat and species conservation projects it supports. To do this, FOS has been helping NFWF and NOAA, its partner agency, to develop results chains and associated indicators for commonly found target-threat-strategy combinations in the NFWF Coral Fund portfolio. FOS will continue to work with the Coral Fund team in 2007 to analyze gaps in their portfolio, cross-project learning potential, and future capacity needs.

WWF Rolls Out Its Project and Program Standards Through Its Online Learning College

While it is an important and admirable achievement to develop a set of standards for good project and program management, it is a different and much more involved process to encourage a global network of conservation practitioners to adopt and apply these standards to their work. Since 2004, WWF has been doing just that – working hard to help its staff across the globe learn about and implement the WWF Standards for Conservation Project and Programme Management (a set of standards for doing adaptive management that draws on the Conservation Measures Partnership’s Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation). FOS has been closely involved in efforts to communicate and institutionalize the Standards, which have included workshops with national and ecoregional teams, a series of guides on implementing the Standards, and the facilitation of an online learning module through the WWF College. FOS has served as the lead facilitator for the online learning module, which has included students from Kenya, Cameroon, Mexico, Colombia, Canada, Austria, Poland, Australia, and Mongolia. This pilot effort uses Internet technology to provide an effective alternative for teaching the adaptive management process to WWF staff around the globe. The course is scheduled to end in late January, at which time FOS and WWF staff will practice adaptive management by working together to discuss what has gone well, what has not gone well, and why, and to incorporate participant feedback and improve the module.

FOS and CMP Members Test and Evaluate Threat Rating Systems

For many conservation sites or projects, it often seems that there are so many threats that it is difficult to know where it would be most effective to focus efforts. To address this issue, conservation organizations have developed threat rating systems. These systems have helped make decisions about where to focus conservation resources more systematic and strategic. Historically, however, organizations have developed their own threat rating systems, tailoring them to what they believe are the most important variables to consider. While this seems logical, the result has been a proliferation of threat rating systems and little clarity about which systems are most appropriate under which circumstances. FOS and the Conservation Measures Partnership have taken on the challenge of trying to shed some light on the matter. FOS staff, working closely with select CMP members, have been testing and comparing the different systems to better understand their strengths and weaknesses. They are currently drafting a paper to communicate the results from this work. Be sure to check FOS’s website (resources section) to read about the results of this work.

CMP’s Conservation Audit Protocol Nears Completion

While conservation organizations have previously tried to evaluate project progress and impact, they are only just beginning to review their work against recently established “industry standards” for conservation project management. Conservation audits to do just this are a highly useful and insightful tool that can improve project design and implementation. With this in mind, the Conservation Measures Partnership has been developing the Conservation Audit Protocol tool to help practitioners systematically assess project planning against the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation. FOS played a major role in drafting this tool, which will be available soon in its final version on the CMP website.

Significant Publications from 2006

Meet the Newest Member of the FOS Team: Vinaya Swaminathan

FOS welcomes Vinaya Swaminathan to our team. Vinaya joined FOS after completing her M.S. in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology at the University of Maryland (UMD). Vinaya’s work with FOS has included facilitating strategic planning workshops, designing courses in adaptive management, planning and undertaking portfolio assessments, and drafting a conservation audit tool. As a graduate student, she led a project team in developing a graduate level curriculum in adaptive management based on the Conservation Measures Partnership’s Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation. Through her current position with FOS, she will continue to be involved with implementing this course in 2007 at UMD. Her field experience includes GPS and radio telemetry, natural resource management, elephant ecology, and interpretation in Tanzania, Central Africa, Minnesota, and South Carolina. Vinaya often spends time with family in India, is fluent in Tamil, and has a basic understanding of Hindi.

Please Give Us Your Feedback

Do you have feedback on this newsletter or our website? We would love to hear from you. Please send us an e-mail.

Best wishes

– From the FOS – From the FOS Team

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