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Training future generations to deliver evidence‐based conservation and ecosystem management

  • Woodland Trust


1. To be effective, the next generation of conservation practitioners and managers need to be critical thinkers with a deep understanding of how to make evidence‐based decisions and of the value of evidence synthesis. 2. If, as educators, we do not make these priorities a core part of what we teach, we are failing to prepare our students to make an effective contribution to conservation practice. 3. To help overcome this problem we have created open access online teaching materials in multiple languages that are stored in Applied Ecology Resources. So far, 117 educators from 23 countries have acknowledged the importance of this and are already teaching or about to teach skills in appraising or using evidence in conservation decision‐making. This includes 145 undergraduate, postgraduate or professional development courses. 4. We call for wider teaching of the tools and skills that facilitate evidence‐based conservation and also suggest that providing online teaching materials in multiple languages could be beneficial for improving global understanding of other subject areas.
Received: 29 April 2020 Accepted: 9 September 2020
DOI: 10.1002/2688-8319.12032
Training future generations to deliver evidence-based
conservation and ecosystem management
Harriet Downey1Tatsuya Amano2,3Mark Cadotte4Carly N. Cook5
Steven J. Cooke6Neal R. Haddaway7,8,9Julia P. G. Jones10 Nick Littlewood11
Jessica C. Walsh5Mark I. Abrahams12 Gilbert Adum13 Munemitsu Akasaka14
Jose A. Alves15 Rachael E. Antwis16 Eduardo C. Arellano17 Jan Axmacher18
Holly Barclay19 Lesley Batty20 Ana Benítez-López21 Joseph R. Bennett22
Maureen J. Berg23 Sandro Bertolino24 Duan Biggs25 Friederike C. Bolam26
Tim Bray12 Barry W. Brook27 Joseph W. Bull28 Zuzana Burivalova29
Mar Cabeza30 Alienor L. M. Chauvenet25 Alec P. Christie1Lorna Cole31
Alison J. Cotton12 Sam Cotton12 Sara A. O. Cousins32 Dylan Craven33
Will Cresswell34 Jeremy J. Cusack33 Sarah E. Dalrymple35 Zoe G. Davies28
Anita Diaz36 Jennifer A. Dodd37 Adam Felton38 Erica Fleishman39
Charlie J. Gardner28 Ruth Garside40 Arash Ghoddousi41 James J. Gilroy42
David A. Gill43 Jennifer A. Gill44 Louise Glew45 Matthew J. Grainger46
Amelia A. Grass47 Stephanie Greshon48 Jamie Gundry49 Tom Har t 50
Charlotte R. Hopkins51 Caroline Howe52 Arlyne Johnson53 Kelly W. Jones54
Neil R. Jordan55 Taku Kadoya56 Daphne Kerhoas12 Julia Koricheva57
Tien Ming Lee58 Szabolcs Lengyel59 Stuart W. Livingstone60 Ashley Lyons61
Gráinne McCabe12 Jonathan Millett62 Chloë Montes Strevens63 Adam Moolna64
Hannah L. Mossman65 Nibedita Mukherjee66 Andrés Muñoz-Sáez67
Nuno Negrões68 Olivia Norfolk69 Takeshi Osawa70 Sarah Papworth57
Kirsty J. Park71 Jérôme Pellet72 Andrea D. Phillott73 Joshua M. Plotnik74
Dolly Priatna75 Alejandra G. Ramos76 Nicola Randall77 Rob M. Richards78
Euan G. Ritchie79 David L. Roberts28 Ricardo Rocha80,81 Jon Paul Rodríguez82
Roy Sanderson26 Takehiro Sasaki83 Sini Savilaakso84 Carl Sayer18
Cagan Sekercioglu85 Masayuki Senzaki86 Grania Smith87 Robert J. Smith28
Masashi Soga88 Carl D. Soulsbury89 Mark D. Steer90 Gavin Stewart26
E. F. Strange91 Andrew J. Suggitt92 Ralph R. J. Thompson48
Stewart Thompson93 Ian Thornhill48 R. J. Trevelyan94 Hope O. Usieta95
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided
the original work is properly cited.
© 2021 The Authors. Ecological Solutions and Evidence published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society
Ecol Solut Evid. 2021;2:e12032. 1of11
Oscar Venter96 Amanda D. Webber12 Rachel L. White23 Mark J. Whittingham97
Andrew Wilby98 Richard W. Yarnell99 Veronica Zamora100
William J. Sutherland1
1Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
2School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
3Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
4Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto-Scarborough, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
5School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Melbourne, Australia
6Department of Biology and Institute of
Environmental and Interdisciplinary Science, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
7Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
8Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, Berlin, Germany
9Africa Centre for Evidence, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
10 School of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, Gwynedd, UK
11 SRUC, Bucksburn, Aberdeen, UK
12 Bristol Zoo Gardens, Bristol, UK
13 Department of Wildlife
and Range Management, Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, CANR, KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana
14 Faculty of Agriculture, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Tokyo, Japan
15 Department of Biology & CESAM - Centre
for Environmental and Marine Studies, University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal
16 School of Science, Engineering and EnvironmentUniversity of Salford, Salford, UK
17 Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Macul, Santiago, Chile
18 Department of Geography,University College London, London, UK
19 School of Science, Monash University Malaysia, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia
20 School of Geography, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Birmingham, Edgbaston, UK
21 Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC), Sevilla, Spain
22 Department of Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
23 Ecology, Conservation and ZoonosisResearch and Enterprise Group, School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, University of Brighton, Brighton,UK
24 Department of Life Sciences
and Systems Biology, University of Turin,Torino, Italy
25 Environmental Futures Research Institute, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, Australia
26 Modelling, Evidence and Policy Group, School of Natural and Environmental Science, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK
27 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia
28 Durrell Institute of
Conservation and Ecology (DICE), School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, Kent, UK
29 The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies & Department
of Forest & Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin–Madison, USA
30 Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
31 SRUC, Integrated Land Management, Ayr,UK
32 Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
33 Centro de Modelación y Monitoreo de Ecosistemas
(Center for Ecosystem Modeling and Monitoring), Santiago Centro, Chile
34 Centre of Biological Diversity, University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK
35 School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK
36 Department of Life & Environmental
Sciences, Faculty of Science & Technology,Bournemouth University, Poole, UK
37 Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK
38 Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Alnarp, Sweden
39 College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, USA
40 University of Exeter Medical School, Knowledge Spa, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, UK
41 Geography Department, Humboldt-University Berlin, Berlin, Germany
42 School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
43 Duke University Marine Laboratory, Beaufort, North Carolina, USA
44 School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
45 World Wildlife Fund, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
46 Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Trondheim, Norway
47 School of Applied Sciences, University of South Wales, Pontypridd, UK
48 Bath Spa University, Bath, UK
49 School of Environment and Life Sciences, University of Salford, Salford, UK
50 Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
51 Department of Biological and
Marine Sciences, University of Hull, Hull, UK
52 Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College, London, UK
53 Foundations of Success, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
54 Colorado State University, Department of Human Dimensions
of Natural Resources, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
55 Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
56 National Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Tsukuba,Ibaraki, Japan
57 Department of Biological
Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK
58 Schools of Life Sciences and Ecology, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China
59 Danube Research Institute, Department of Tisza Research, Centre
for Ecological Research, Debrecen, Hungary
60 University of Toronto-Scarborough, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
61 Department of Geography and
Environmental Science, Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, UK
62 Geography and Environment, Loughborough University, Loughborough,UK
63 Oxford University Centre for the Environment, Oxford, UK
64 School of Geography, Geology and the Environment, Keele University, Staffordshire, UK
65 Ecology and Environment Research Centre, Department of Natural
Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK
66 CBASS, Brunel University London, Uxbridge, UK
67 Facultad de Ciencias Agronómicas, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile
68 Biology Department, Aveiro University, Aveiro, Portugal
69 School of Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK
70 Faculty of Urban Environmental Sciences and Graduate
School of Urban Environmental Sciences, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Tokyo, Japan
71 Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK
72 Département d’écologie et évolution, Faculté de biologie et médecine, Lausanne, Switzerland
73 Department of Physical and
Natural Sciences, FLAME University, Pune, India
74 Department of Psychology, Hunter CollegeCity University of New York,New York, USA
75 Graduate School of
Environmental Management, Pakuan University, Bogor, Indonesia
76 Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Autónoma
de Baja California, Baja California, México
77 Harper Adams University, Newport, UK
78 Director Evidentiary Pty Ltd, Darling, South Victoria, Australia
79 School of Life and
Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia
80 CIBIO/InBIO-UP, Research Centre in Biodiversity
and Genetic Resources, University of Porto, Rua Padre Armando Quintas, Vairão, Portugal
81 CEABN-InBIO, Centre for Applied Ecology “Prof.Baeta
Neves,” Institute of Agronomy, University of Lisbon, Tapada da Ajuda, Lisbon, Portugal
82 Centro de Ecología, Caracas, Venezuela
83 Graduate School of Environment
and Information Sciences, Yokohama National University, Yokohama, Japan
84 Department of Forest Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
85 School of Biological Sciences, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
86 Faculty of Environmental Earth Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan
87 Faculty of Education, Cambridge, UK
88 Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
89 School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK
90 Centre for Research in Biosciences, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK
91 Department of Environmental Biology, Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), Leiden University, Leiden,The Netherlands
92 Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK
93 Biological and Medical Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK
94 Tropical Biology Association, Cambridge, UK
95 Leventis Foundation Nigeria, Abuja, Nigeria
96 University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Prince George, British Columbia, Canada
97 Agriculture Building (Room 5.07), School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK
98 Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
99 School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Science, Nottingham Trent University, Southwell, UK
100 CIIDIR Unidad Durango, Durango, Mexico
Harriet Downey,Department of Zoology, Uni-
versity of Cambridge, The David Attenborough
Building, PembrokeStreet, Cambridge CB2
3QZ, UK.
Funding information
MAVA Foundation; Arcadia Fund
Handling Editor: Costanza Rampini
1. To be effective, the next generation of conservation practitioners and managers need
to be critical thinkers with a deep understanding of how to make evidence-based deci-
sions and of the value of evidence synthesis.
2. If, as educators, we do not make these priorities a core part of what we teach, we
are failing to prepare our students to make an effective contribution to conservation
3. To help overcome this problem we have created open access online teaching mate-
rials in multiple languages that are stored in Applied Ecology Resources. So far, 117
educators from 23 countries have acknowledged the importance of this and are
already teaching or about to teach skills in appraising or using evidence in conserva-
tion decision-making. This includes 145 undergraduate, postgraduate or professional
development courses.
4. We call for wider teaching of the tools and skills that facilitate evidence-based con-
servation and also suggest that providing online teaching materials in multiple lan-
guages could be beneficial for improving global understanding of other subject areas.
critical thinking, education, evidence, open access
Making informed conservation and ecosystem management choices is
based upon a sound understanding of the relevant evidence. There is an
increasing wealth of conservation science available, and access to this
is becoming easier. But, are conservation practitioners being trained to
utilize this information?
In conservation, decision-making is often based upon past experi-
ence or expert knowledge, as opposed to the full body of scientific lit-
erature (e.g., Pullin, Knight, Stone, & Charman, 2004; Rafidimanantsoa,
Poudyal, Ramamonjisoa, & Jones, 2018). The failure to include scien-
tific evidence in decision-making has the potential to reduce the effec-
tiveness of management, or even lead to detrimental actions being
undertaken (Walsh, Dicks, & Sutherland, 2015). Evidence-based con-
servation (EBC) seeks to avoid this by providing tools to facilitate and
inform decision-making. To do this, scientific evidence is collated and
critically appraised for its quality and relevance, and integrated with
other knowledge, experience, values and costs (Sutherland, Pullin, Dol-
man, & Knight, 2004). Wider adoption of EBC requires conservation
professionals to be trained in its principles and taught how to use it to
inform conservation decision-making.
Although there is increasing availability and accessibility of scientific
literature, uptake of evidence use within conservation has been slow.
For example, despite evidence published 8 years ago showing that bat
bridges are ineffective in reducing bat collisions with vehicles (Berthi-
nussen & Altrigham, 2012), they continue to be put up around the
United Kingdom at a considerable cost: in 2020, Norfolk Council spent
£1 million installing them along a new road. The collating of scientific
research (through evidence synthesis) has revealed numerous con-
cerns about the effectiveness of widely used conservation practices
and ecosystem management actions. Reviews of agri-environment
schemes highlight that some actions are more effective in achieving
objectives than other commonly used alternatives (Dicks et al., 2014).
A number of simple and routine practices, such as installing bumblebee
nest b oxes (Lye 2009) are insufficiently effective at increasing pollina-
tion to justify use. Cleaning birds after oil spills has been shown to be
ineffective in increasing survival of oiled birds and their offspring, yet
is also routinely undertaken at a substantial cost (Williams et al., 2012).
Many practices may even be detrimental, such as in the case of moving
leopards away from dense human populations to reduce conflict,
instead increased the number of attacks (Athreya, Odden, Linnel, &
Karanth, 2010). Furthermore, critical analysis and understanding
of details and context is crucial for interpreting the relevance of
available evidence. For example, the effectiveness of wildflower strips
at promoting pollinators varies depending on their implementation,
management, landscape context and how they are designed (Haaland,
Naisbit, & Bersier, 2011). The outcome of most well-studied conser-
vation actions depends on context in this way. As a result of these
findings, there have been numerous calls to incorporate evidence
more effectively into conservation and management of biological
FIGURE 1 The core skills of evidence-based conservation. Based
on Young et al. (2014)
resources (Legge, 2015; Sutherland & Wordley, 2017; Sutherland et al.,
However, there are several long-standing barriers to evidence use
in conservation and environmental management decisions (Arlettaz
et al., 2010; Habel et al., 2013, Walsh, Dicks, Raymond, & Sutherland,
2019; Sunderland, Sunderland-Groves, Shanley, & Campbell, 2009).
These include: barriers to accessing the evidence, with much of it
behind paywalls or not being presented in a user-friendly format;
decision-makers not having the time or skills to read and interpret
all of the relevant scientific literature; and uncertainty or conflicting
results causing confusion and hampering understanding (Walsh et al.,
2019). Many of these barriers are being addressed through collation
and synthesis of evidence in various formats: Conservation Evidence
(, Collaboration of Environmental Evidence
(, Applied Ecology Resources,
and the new journals Ecological Solutions and Evidence and Conservation
Science and Practice. These initiatives save time by compiling all of the
evidence in one place, avoid jargon by summarizing information in plain
language summaries, and increase accessibility through open access
and providing abstracts in languages other than English (Schwartz et al.,
Despite these advancements, one barrier associated with a lack
of training in key skills in appraising and using evidence still requires
attention. Practitioners have reported to have limited or no scientific
education or training, and often have little access to professional devel-
opment and continuous education courses. They have also reported
that the general skills required in research use and EBC are limited: the
ability to search, read, interpret and critically appraise scientific litera-
ture is often lacking (Walsh et al., 2019).
Biological conservation is delivered by a wide range of organiza-
tions in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Thus, promot-
ing behaviour change across these dispersed and diverse organizations
poses particular challenges when compared to industries characterized
by fewer,larger players, such as healthcare. Providing entrants to these
conservation organizations with the skills to find, interpret and eval-
uate evidence can help to address these inconsistencies and lead to
wider adoption and change.
An obvious starting point to address these education and training
gaps would be at the institutions that train conservation practitioners,
namely universities and other higher education organizations, as well
as professional development courses typically offered by learned soci-
eties (e.g., British Ecological Society, Society for Conservation Biology).
TAB L E 1 Summary of the extent to which the application of evidence-based conservation (EBC) is incorporated into key conservation science
textbooks published since 2000. We have focused on textbooks that might be used for introductory or advanced courses in conservation science
and that are not specific to one domain (e.g., conservation genetics, conservation behaviour)
Extent to which EBC
concepts are covered
Acknowledgement of
EBC and its role in
Examples or
application of EBC in
Information on the
mechanics of EBC
(i.e., how to do it)
Provision of
references to EBC
The Conservation
(Sutherland, 2000)
First published description of
evidence-based conservation
Describes how
medicine worked
and how could be
applied to
Outlines how it could
be applied
Describes possible
Methods for
Biology (Ferson and
Burgman, 2002)
Uses word evidence several times to
demonstrate the data available to
support certain hypotheses. Book
is about using quantitative
methods to solve conservation
problems, so implicitly suggests
the need for science in decisions.
No mention of evidence-based
decisions, though the field was
only just emerging
None None None None
Conservation Biology
(Pullin, 2002)
Extensive coverage of EBC in
Chapter 15 - Putting the science
into practice
Yes – fully defined
and described
Several examples
Not in sufficient
depth to enable
Yes – key references
from that time
period included
Approaches to
Biology (Bartol and
Gordon, 2004)
None despite several chapters that
cover policy aspects and
prioritizing science when making
None None None None
(Lindenmayer and
Burgman, 2005)
No content on EBC None None None None
Applications, 2nd
Edition (Van Dyke,
No content on EBC. None None None None
Conservation Biology
for All (Sodhi and
Ehrlich, 2010)
Discusses some principles of
evidence use but no explicit
None None None Single reference to
the collaboration
for environmental
A Primer of
Biology, 5th Edition
(Primack, 2012)
No content on EBC None None None None
Conservation, 2nd
Edition (Hambler
and Canney, 2013)
No content on EBC None None None None
Wildlife Ecology,
Conservation and
(Sinclair, Caughley
and Fryxell, 2014)
The word evidence is used
extensively within the text (and
there is a brief section on the
nature of evidence) but there is no
discussion of what EBC is
None None None None
TAB L E 1 (Continued)
Extent to which EBC
concepts are covered
Acknowledgement of
EBC and its role in
Examples or
application of EBC in
Information on the
mechanics of EBC
(i.e., how to do it)
Provision of
references to EBC
Essentials of
Biology, 6th Edition
(Primack, 2014)
No content on EBC None None None None
Science: Balancing
the Needs of
People and Nature,
2nd Edition
(Kareiva and
Marvier, 2015)
Extensive coverage of EBC in
Chapter 12 – Adaptive
Management and Evidence-Based
Yes – fully defined
and described
Several examples
Not in sufficient
depth to enable
An Introduction to
Biology, 2nd
Edition (Sher and
Primack, 2019)
No content on EBC None None None Section with links to
key resources and
organization in
including several
relevant to EBC
Conservation Biology
Primack, and
Murdoch, 2019)
No content on EBC None None None None
Tools and learning materials need to be developed in order to overcome
the barriers that have made evidence-based decision-making challeng-
ing. If decision-makers (including practitioners) are trained to critically
evaluate and use evidence from an early career stage, then as they
attain leadership positions in which they can influence organizational
policy or action, they could drive how conservation is performed in the
future (Cook, Mascia, Schwartz, Possingham, & Fuller, 2013). Here we
discuss in more detail how EBC skills, including synthesis and use of
evidence, is currently taught in conservation, and describe a set of open
access materials that we have produced to aid further teaching of this
subject. It is hoped that this paper can inspire and empower instructors
to incorporate aspects of EBC into their various courses and training
programs, as a way to improve conservation decisions in the future.
Studies have shown that despite a large body of evidence examining
how to best teach critical thinking in educational settings (reviewed
in Behar-Horenstein & Niu, 2011) the education system (e.g., col-
leges, universities, professional development courses) can fail to pro-
vide learners with the tools and guidance they need to think critically
(Bailin, 2002; Pithers & Soden 2000;Smith2020; Tiruneh, Verburgh,
&Elen,2014). This can leave individuals struggling to properly inter-
pret, understand, and evaluate evidence. In some cases where politi-
cal parties and the media purposely or inadvertently mislead, people
actively distrust evidence. Making decisions without critical-thinking
skills can lead to poor choices (Bouygues, 2018). Furthermore, teach-
ing young people to think critically enables them to make better judge-
ments about decisions, risks, and opportunities (Abrami et al., 2015).
Whilst the use of evidence is routine in many teaching environments,
the explicit teaching of how to synthesize, critically evaluate and use
evidence is inconsistent.
The theory and application of evidence-based practice has been
a key feature in medical and healthcare education and professional
development training for decades (Glasziou, Del Mar, & Salisbury,
2003, Straus, Glasziou, Richardson, & Haynes, 2018, with the first
edition in 1997). There have also been renewed requests to improve
the curricula and create standards of teaching for evidence-based
medicine skills (Dawes et al., 2005; Glasziou, Burts, & Gilbert, 2008). As
a result, healthcare practitioners are skilled in interpreting and using
relevant evidence in their day-to-day decisions and across broader
healthcare provision and policy. For example, the Centre for Evidence-
Based Medicine, University of Oxford, and the British Medical Journal,
have online resources for medical students and teachers: https://www. and
Several health-focused systematic reviews found that the most effec-
tive methods of teaching skills of evidence-based practice involved
multi-faceted, practical methods such as lectures, workshops, jour-
nal clubs and real clinical settings that were linked to assessment
(Young, Rohwer, Volmink, & Clarke, 2014). We envisage, within a
decade, conservation students will be just as savvy to the concepts
and skills of evidence-based practice for environmental decisions,
but to achieve this will need the support, guidance, and leadership of
TAB L E 2 Open access materials provided in the Applied Ecology Resources platform to teach evidence-based conservation
Lecture title Content Level Associated exercises
An introduction to
evidence-based conservation
for researchers
- What is scientific evidence and why is it
- How is scientific evidence used in
- What are the barriers to scientific evidence
use in conservation?
- How are these barriers being addressed?
- Evidence synthesis
- Challenges of evidence synthesis
All. Content can be tailored to
any level of study
Exercise on searching and
critically evaluating literature
for a chosen taxa/habitat and
their threats
An introduction to
evidence-based conservation
for decision-makers
- Complex nature of environmental decisions
- What is scientific evidence and why is it
- How is scientific evidence used in
- What are the barriers to scientific evidence
use in conservation?
- How are these barriers being addressed?
- Evidence synthesis to support management
- Other solutions to using scientific evidence in
All. Content can be tailored to
any level of study. With an
emphasis on the practicalities
of including evidence in
management decisions, this
introduction lecture may be
more appropriate for
professional development or
land management focussed
courses or modules
Some exercises throughout the
Link to a decision-making tool to
help go through the stages of
making an evidence-based
Planning and designing
experiments to improve
conservation practice
Why is testing of management actions
Why is not more testing done?
How to plan and design an experiment in the
real world:
What is the specific question you want to
What data is needed to answer this question?
How can these data be collected?
Is it practical to collect these data?
Will your question be answered? Is it worth
collecting these data?
Reporting results and reducing publication bias
All. Content can be tailored for
any level of study
Tasks throughout the lecture and
accompanying hand out with
tasks and an exercise on
designing an experiment
Systematic reviews and
Why do we need research synthesis?
Research synthesis types
Systematic reviews: Question formulation,
Literature search, Literature filtering, Data
extraction, Data synthesis, Management
recommendations and research gap
Meta-analysis: Formulate a question, Search for
relevant studies, Standardize the results of
each study (effect size) into a ’common
currency’, Weight the effect size by the
sample size, Average effect size across all
studies and test if this average effect size
differs significantly from zero, Look for
publication biases and heterogeneity
Advanced – for those who want a
more in-depth understanding
of systematic reviews and
An exercise on conducting
meta-analysis from a real data
Using the Conservation Evidence
What is the Conservation Evidence project?
How can the Conservation Evidence database
be used?
All. Content can be tailored for
any level of study
The presentation has tasks
spread throughout and a
follow-up exercise on using CE
to create a management plan
Textbooks are commonly used for undergraduate and even graduate
courses in conservation science (Hudson, 2009,Primack,2003; Stin-
ner, 1995). They providean important role (for better or worse) in edu-
cating the next generation of conservation practitioners and decision-
makers. In some cases they are assigned as the formal ’classtext’ where
the instructor works through the text from start to finish. In other
cases, one or more texts are suggested as resources for students, or
instructors consult various texts when framing their courses. As such,
what appears in textbooks have a huge role in determining the educa-
tional content. An examination of key conservation science textbooks
published since 2000 (i.e., when the concept of EBC was developed)
revealed very few examples of where the principles of EBC had been
defined and introduced as a specific topic or where examples of rel-
evant resources were provided (Table 1). Moreover, not a single text-
book provided direction on the approaches and tools used in EBC to
underpin the application of science into policy and practice. This may
not be a surprise, as key papers on EBC were not published until as
recently as 2004 (e.g., Sutherland et al., 2004). However, it is remark-
able that our targeted search failed to locate meaningful inclusion
of the term ’evidence-based conservation’ in almost all contemporary
conservation science textbooks. Our search has been limited to those
texts that are conservation-specific and we acknowledge that there
may be some texts outside of this search that refer to EBC (e.g., ‘Living
in the Environment’ by Miller and Spoolman).
3.1 Teaching and learning resources
To aid teaching the subject ‘evidence-based conservation’, we have pro-
vided a range of materials for use and modification, available at Applied
Ecology Resources (
ecology-resources/about- aer/additional-resources/evidence-in-
conservation-teaching/). These materials cover the core themes of
teaching the principles and practice of EBC (Figure 1), as well as more
in-depth materials on subjects such as meta-analysis and designing
management interventions as experiments (Table 2). The material
comprises lectures, lecture handouts, workshop suggestions, assess-
ments, a library of weblinks, exercises and a reading list. These are
available in a number of languages. This material is free of copyright
(material donated by authors) and material can be used in their current
form, modified, or combined with the lecturer’s own material.
A range of existing courses (Appendix 1) currently have at least one
lecture or workshop devoted to the topic of EBC. This includes 60
undergraduate, 73 graduate and 12 professional development courses
across a wide range of environmental and biological sciences. The
authors of this piece all run such a session (but are not necessarily
course organizers). We hope this widespread teaching of EBC will raise
the awareness that many conservation textbooks fail to adequately
cover this topic. Having more core texts devoting chapters to this topic
could aid teachers and students alike.
Initially, EBC could be added as a single lecture in a course, but
over time, entire courses could be developed to equip practitionersand
researchers with the skills to implement EBC decision-making and lead
the change within their future professional roles.
Over time we expect the use of collated evidence to become a stan-
dard element of all conservation training and included in standard text-
books and online courses. Whilst these resources are aimed specifically
for conservation and environmental management education and train-
ing, we believe evidence-based decision-making is a crucial skill for stu-
dents of any sector.
Students attending conservation lectures, tutorials, and professional
development courses today will be making the decisions about how
best to protect and conserve nature in the future. Providing these
learners with the skills necessary to make decisions based on an
appraisal of all of the available information, and to think critically about
what works and what does not, is vital for ensuring effective conser-
vation. In addition, it is important that they have the confidence and
information to break precedent. This includes being able to abandon
the status quo even if there is significant institutional resistance to
change, and to make informed decisions when evidence is imperfect.
With this understanding, practitioners and decision-makers will be in a
position to demand more and better evidence, using their positions to
help direct funding and research efforts to build the evidence base.
The large number and variety of courses globally that have commit-
ted to including at least one lecture about EBC within the next year
shows the great demand for these skills to be taught. While provision
of educational resources is only part of the solution towards wider
uptake of evidence-based decision-making, we hope that the collation
and sharing of these materials begins to address this demand. We sug-
gest that this could usefully be replicated on a wider scale for other
subject areas where there appear to be similar gaps in teaching (e.g.,
foresight science in conservation). We also make a plea to those writ-
ing new conservation textbooks to include material on EBC.
HD and WJS thank Arcadia and MAVA for funding and the referees for
improving the manuscript.
The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.
HD and WJS conceivedthe idea. HD, TA, MC, CNC, SJC, NRH, JPGJ, NL,
JCW and WJS led the writing of the manuscript and associated mate-
rials. All authors contributed to the drafts and gave final approval for
No data was used in this study.
10 of 11 DOWNEY ET AL.
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How to cite this article: Downey H Amano, M CadotteS, et al.
Training future generations to deliver evidence-based
conservation and ecosystem management. Ecol Solut Evidence.
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p>The pernicious problem of evidence complacency, illustrated here through conservation policy and practice, results in poor practice and inefficiencies. It also increases our vulnerability to a ‘post-truth’ world dealing with ‘alternative facts’.</p
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Promoting students' critical thinking (CT) has been an essential goal of higher education. However, despite the various attempts to make CT a primary focus of higher education, there is little agreement regarding the conditions under which instruction could result in greater CT outcomes. In this review, we systematically examined current empirical evidence and attempted to explain why some instructional interventions result in greater CT gains than others. Thirty three empirical studies were included in the review and features of the interventions of those individual studies were analyzed. Emphasis was given to the study features related to CT instructional approach, teaching strategy, student and teacher related characteristics, and CT measurement. The findings revealed that effectiveness of CT instruction is influenced by conditions in the instructional environment comprising the instructional variables (teaching strategies and CT instructional approaches), and to some extent by student-related variables (year level and prior academic performance). Moreover, the type of CT measures adopted (standardized vs. non-standardized) appear to influence evaluation of the effectiveness of CT interventions. The findings overall indicated that there is a shift towards embedding CT instruction within academic disciplines, but failed to support effectiveness of particular instructional strategies in fostering acquisition and transfer of CT skills. The main limitation in the current empirical evidence is the lack of systematic design of instructional interventions that are in line with empirically valid instructional design principles.
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The authors reviewed 42 empirical studies of teaching of critical thinking skills in postsecondary education published between 1994 and 2009. The instructional intervention, test measure, and research design of the studies were analyzed. Study results suggest that: (1) the same instructional interventions can lead to different results, depending on the intervention's implementation; (2) qualitative data can inform researchers about intervention effects that are not easily captured by quantitative instruments; and (3) most studies reviewed are subject to limitations in research design, sample size, or sample representativeness. The following recommendations are made: (1) statistical significance should not be the only criterion for instructors to consider when choosing new teaching methods; (2) multiple test measures, including quantitative and qualitative, should be used to assess changes in students' critical thinking skills; (3) future research should properly address internal validity threats, e.g. by adopting at least a quasi-experimental design, in order to establish causal relationship between intervention and changes in students' critical thinking skills.
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A major justification of environmental management research is that it helps practitioners, yet previous studies show it is rarely used to inform their decisions. We tested whether conservation practitioners focusing on bird management were willing to use a synopsis of relevant scientific literature to inform their management decisions. This allowed us to examine whether the limited use of scientific information in management is due to a lack of access to the scientific literature or whether it is because practitioners are either not interested or unable to incorporate the research into their decisions. In on-line surveys, we asked 92 conservation managers, predominantly from Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, to provide opinions on 28 management techniques that could be applied to reduce predation on birds. We asked their opinions before and after giving them a summary of the literature about the interventions’ effectiveness. We scored the overall effectiveness and certainty of evidence for each intervention through an expert elicitation process—the Delphi method. We used the effectiveness scores to assess the practitioners’ level of understanding and awareness of the literature. On average, each survey participant changed their likelihood of using 45.7% of the interventions after reading the synopsis of the evidence. They were more likely to implement effective interventions and avoid ineffective actions, suggesting that their intended future management strategies may be more successful than current practice. More experienced practitioners were less likely to change their management practices than those with less experience, even though they were not more aware of the existing scientific information than less experienced practitioners. The practitioners’ willingness to change their management choices when provided with summarized scientific evidence suggests that improved accessibility to scientific information would benefit conservation management outcomes. El Efecto de la Evidencia Científica sobre las Decisiones de Manejo de Quienes Practican la Conservación Resumen Una justificación mayor de la investigación en el manejo ambiental es que ayuda a quienes lo practican, aunque estudios previos muestran que rara vez se usa para informar sus decisiones. Probamos si quienes practican la conservación enfocada en el manejo de aves estaban dispuestos a usar una sinopsis de literatura científica relevante para informar sus decisiones de manejo. Esto permitió que examináramos si el uso limitado de información científica en el manejo se debe a una falta de acceso a la literatura científica o si se debe a que quienes practican la conservación no están interesados o no son capaces de incorporar la investigación a sus decisiones. En encuestas en línea les preguntamos a 92 practicantes de la conservación, la mayoría de Australia, Nueva Zelanda y el Reino Unido, que nos proporcionaran opiniones sobre 28 técnicas de manejo que podrían aplicarse para reducir la depredación de aves. Les pedimos sus opiniones antes y después de darles un resumen de la literatura sobre la efectividad de las intervenciones. Calificamos la efectividad general y la certidumbre de la evidencia para cada intervención por medio de un proceso de extracción por expertos – el método Delphi. Usamos las calificaciones de la efectividad para evaluar el nivel de entendimiento y de percatación de la literatura de quienes practican la conservación. En promedio, cada participante de la encuesta cambió su probabilidad de usar 45.7% de las intervenciones después de leer la sinopsis de la evidencia. Fue más probable que implementaran intervenciones efectivas y evitar acciones poco efectivas, lo que sugiere que sus estrategias de manejo futuras puedan ser más exitosas que las de práctica actual. Los practicantes con mayor experiencia tuvieron una menor probabilidad de cambiar sus prácticas de manejo que aquellos con menos experiencia, aunque no estuvieron más conscientes de la información científica existente que quienes tenían menos experiencia. La disponibilidad de los practicantes para cambiar sus opciones de manejo al proporcionárseles evidencia científica resumida sugiere que el acceso mejorado a la información científica podría beneficiar los resultados del manejo de la conservación.
Over the last decade, there has been an increased focus (and pressure) in conservation practice globally towards evidence-based or evidence-informed decision making. Despite calls for increased use of scientific evidence, it often remains aspirational for many conservation organizations. Contributing to this is the lack of guidance on how to identify and classify the array of complex reasons limiting research use. In this study, we collated a comprehensive inventory of 230 factors that facilitate or limit the use of scientific evidence in conservation management decisions, through interviews with conservation practitioners in South Africa and UK and a review of the healthcare literature. We used the inventory, combined with concepts from knowledge exchange and research use theories, to construct a taxonomy that categorizes the barriers and enablers. We compared the similarities and differences between the taxonomies from the conservation and the healthcare fields, and highlighted the common barriers and enablers found within conservation organizations in the United Kingdom and South Africa. The most commonly mentioned barriers limiting the use of scientific evidence in our case studies were associated with the day-to-day decision-making processes of practitioners, and the organizational structures, management processes and resource constraints of conservation organizations. The key characteristics that facilitated the use of science in conservation decisions were associated with an organization's structure, decision-making processes and culture, along with practitioners' attitudes and the relationships between scientists and practitioners. This taxonomy and inventory of barriers and enablers can help researchers, practitioners and other conservation actors to identify aspects within their organizations and cross-institutional networks that limit research use - acting as a guide on how to strengthen the science-practice interface.