Speed talks – Tuesday 4 pm to 5pm

The Art of Conservation Storytelling

Conservationists increasingly recognize the importance of communicating their work to multiple stakeholders, but “scientist storytellers” face specific challenges—from lacking media training to exclusively pursuing academic publishing—that inhibit their ability to tell compelling stories to non-scientists. However, conservation journalist/storyteller Millie Kerr believes that successful stories spanning genres and media hold clues to successful storytelling.

While writing her Cambridge masters dissertation on “conservation storytelling,” she parsed out storytelling’s “core elements,” which she is determined to share with conservation communicators of all professional backgrounds so they can tell accessible, impactful narratives about the natural world. By Millie Kerr of Millie Kerr Communications Limited.

The “Pride of Amboseli” Project: using predator-proof bomas to reduce human-lion conflict in the Amboseli ecosystem, Kenya 

In 2010, the Born Free Foundation (BFF) initiated the “Pride of Amboseli” project to reduce human-lion conflict and promote coexistence through the construction of predator-proof bomas (PPBs). Amboseli, where rural livelihoods are predominantly based on livestock, is a hotspot for human-lion conflict, particularly livestock predation. A single loss of an animal can derive the Maasai of their livelihood and result in retaliatory killings of lions; an average of 18 lions were killed per year between 2001-2006, and this was in an area estimated to have fewer than 100 individuals at the time. Only 50 were estimated to remain when the project began four years later. PPBs enable pastoralists to keep their livestock safe at night, thus indirectly safeguarding the lion population in Amboseli.

BFF has built >275 PPBs, protecting 83,000 livestock and the livelihoods of 5,800 pastoralists. In 2015, we initiated the “smart” components of the PPBs, including solar lighting, energy-saving stoves, and water harvesting structures to enhance rural development. Smart PPBs have significant positive impacts on the quality of living for pastoralist families, whilst also protecting carnivores and reducing pressure on lion habitat for fuelwood. To date, no livestock have been killed inside PPBs. Lion numbers are subsequently rebounding thanks to this and other NGO efforts in the landscape: there are now approximately 200 individuals, up from an estimated 50 at the beginning of the project. By Emily Neil from Born Free Foundation. 

The Toad that defied a Hydroelectric Power Plant

The Admirable Red-Belly Toad (Melanophryniscus admirabilis) is a Critically Endangered microendemic species of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest. It is known only from its type-locality, along 700 m of a river. Until recently, it was severely threatened by the construction of a hydroelectric power plant (HPP). Joint efforts between academia, government, and non-governmental organizations have succeeded in stopping the construction of the HPP, showing that multi-institutional and collaborative work is essential when dealing with conservation.

This was the first time in Brazilian history that an amphibian prevented the construction of such a big enterprise. This is a very successful conservation story that always brings hope and optimism to everyone working within the sector. By Luis Fernando Marin da Fonte from Amphibian Survival Alliance.

Reel Stories of Change: ecolabeling and sustainability

This speed talk will explore the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) standard setting and seafood certification program, and how efforts by fisheries to maintain certification have resulted in real positive changes on the water. To become (and stay) certified, fisheries are incentivised to protect fish stocks, habitats and the wider ecosystem. One way this occurs is when conditions are placed on a fisheries’ certification. Here, fisheries must improve their operations or lose their certificate. Two MSC certified fisheries, South African Hake and Alaska Pollock fishery, have had success when conditions were imposed resulting in significant conservation actions.

 The South African Hake fishery discovered the fishing gear was killing 8,000-15,000 seabirds and the continuation of their certification was reliant on this being reduced. They successfully reduced the mortalities by 73-95%. In the Alaska Pollock fishery there were many different conditions linked to incorporating ecosystem considerations and impacts on habitats. Following work to improve and maintain their certification a study conducted by NOAA using drop cameras proved they had almost no impact on canyon sponge/coral assemblages.  This talk will explore these stories looking into how MSC conditions and ecolabeling can continue to improve sustainable fishing. By Jennifer Rasal from the Marine Stewardship Council.

Using beavers and community partnerships for restoration

Water flows in tributaries of the South Platte River Basin (Colorado, USA) are variable and ephemeral, with many reaches dry for large portions of the year and historical channelization exacerbating this problem. We initiated a watershed improvement project in 2015, installing three in-stream structures to improve hydrology. In addition to improved plant and animal habitat, restoring flows provides longer water storage in the system and increases the duration of flow. We planted over 1500 willows, cottonwoods, and other native riparian species and initiated a long-term monitoring program.

Based on the success of this minimally-invasive technique, we are working to expand this technique to other areas. The project’s success can be attributed to taking a holistic approach to restoration and engaging a broad group of community stakeholders. Engaging urban high school and university students, we are educating young citizens about ecosystem health and training the next generation of conservation biologists. By Rebecca Hufft from Denver Botanic Gardens.

Tale of scaling up pangolin conservation in Nepal through roundtable series

This talk will cover the story of pangolin conservation in Nepal from scratch to noticeable outcomes.  It was started back in 2015, where there was a limited understanding of where the pangolins in Nepal were and there was no conservation action plan. Greenhood Nepal started a national roundtable on Pangolin conservation in 2015 gathering policymakers, conservationist, researchers and communities in the same table. The first roundtable recommended conducting a National Pangolin Action Plan and National Pangolin survey. The other annual roundtable followed the issue, National Pangolin survey (2016) and Pangolin Action Plan (2018-2022) were already on the table before the 4th annual roundtable 2018.  After succeeding at the central level, the team is now organizing the roundtable in pangolin strongholds across Nepal. By Regan Sapkota from Greenhood Nepal.

The Return of the Great Bustard – Once again the Pride of Wiltshire

The Great Bustard, the heaviest flying bird in the world, was pushed to extinction in the UK in the 19th Century, with collecting ornithologists taking the last few. Founded in
1997 the GBG worked for 7 years to prepare the legal and practical obstacles to begin a  reintroduction in Wiltshire, where the species has great cultural significance, and a huge military training area excellent for wildlife.

Using first Russian birds, and then eggs from Spain, birds have been released since  2004. The population is now 100 birds and is at a level of breeding that is now self-sustaining, and growing.  The GBG is a self-funding, largely voluntary organisation whose three reserves also host many other significant species including breeding Stone Curlew, Partridge and  Quail. The GBG has an international school and children’s education programme. The project is the only Great Bustard reintroduction in the world, but other restorations are planned. By David Waters, from the Great Bustard Group. 

Living with success with wild large mammals in Europe’s anthropogenic landscape

The cumulative impact of human activities had driven most species of large mammals into severe declines and regional extinctions by the end of the Holocene (i.e. late 19th century and early 20th centuries). However, somewhat paradoxically with respect to global trends in species endangerment, the status of most European large mammals has dramatically improved during the transition to the Anthropocene as a result of reforestation, agricultural-abandonment, rural-urban migration, legislative change and active reintroduction (mainly driven by hunters).

The current wide distribution of European mammals reveals the enormous potential for conserving large mammals at a continent-wide scale. Nevertheless, this conservation success shouldn’t overshadow that sharing our landscape with large mammals requires active management policies to deal with the services and disservices brought by these charismatic species. By Benjamin Cretois from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.

Honey monitoring: tapping into the golden flow of citizen science in conservation

In partnership with beekeepers, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology is using pollen DNA barcoding of honey to study the foraging habits of honeybees to monitor changes in the health of our countryside at a time when insect pollinators are in decline in the UK. By tapping into the resource of an important cultural practice as beekeeping, conservation becomes the aligned mission of researchers and beekeepers alike.

Honey samples submitted during the summer of 2018 showed bees forage on a selection of more than 1000 plant species. Non-native species were also identified as important sources of pollen, revealing important information feeding into a long-term monitoring archive. The National Honey Monitoring Scheme is held up solely through involvement from beekeepers who have a unique understanding of honeybee behaviours and interactions with their environment; enabling them a channel to partake in conservation research endorses optimism and solutions for conserving the honeybee. By Ujala Syed from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. 

Conserving Clams and Culture

This talk focuses on the wider success story of one fishery gaining sustainable certification under the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Whilst the MSC standard protects the fish stocks it also encompasses the management of the fishery, protecting the legal rights established by the customs of people dependent on fishing for their food or livelihood. This can result in strong conservation alliances between communities and the sea.

The Vietnam Ben Tre Clam Fishery is a wonderful example that MSC would like to share. The story of the Vietnam Ben Tre Clam Fishery illustrates how MSC certification helped expand the market of a once-domestic fishery while increasing sustainability. The fishery is now managed by a cooperative-based system, allowing villagers to take ownership of the marine resources. By Lauren Koerner from the Marine Stewardship Council. 

Emotions-based Planning Tool – (EBPT) Improving Conservation Collaboration

Collaboration brings together different perspectives, to create better conservation outcomes.  Emotions, which drive our behaviours and responses, are the foundation of this understanding.  This presentation introduces a novel, practical Emotions-based Conservation Planning Tool, to support collaboration during the planning, design and implementation of conservation and recovery projects. This tool rapidly identifies the emotions motivating positive and negative human behaviours and attitudes. Understanding our place on the emotional scale opens up opportunities for better and more meaningful outcomes.

Emotions help keep us on the right track by making sure that we are led by more than the intellectual faculties of thought, perception, reason, memory. More deeply understanding differences, can allow us to move away from often polarized or conflicting positions, towards true, respectful collaboration. Where interests are underlain and defined by negative emotions (e.g., pessimism, envy, anger, fear), conservation outcomes tend to be unbalanced and less effective. Where interests are defined by positive emotions (e.g., diligence, patience, optimism, temperance), outcomes tend to be balanced and optimized. The EBPT is useful in assessing and counteracting less than optimistic perspectives. It provides an emotional roadmap to cross over and affect individuals from various sectors engaged in conservation and recovery of species and places. (e.g., ENGOs, Industry, Special Interest Groups, Conservation Organizations, the Private Sector, Academia). By Tom Hilditch from Savanta Inc.

BioGeoArtBlitzes: interventions for the love of nature

This talk will introduce the concept “BioGeoArtBlitz”, where identifying and counting of species is replaced by a more holistic approach that involves the comprehension of the non-human collectivities and their paths, practices, expressions, experiences and discourses by the means of rhizomatic immersion. These interventions seek to create a change in the perception of nature. The speaker will talk about how his team defied the common perceptions to generate a space for biology, geography and art; where independent of its age, anybody can learn to experience, understand and develop a love for other living things as part of themselves. By Enrique A. Mundaca from the Universidad Católica del Maule. 

Restoration of the European native Oyster Ostrea edulis; Learning from global successes to restore an imperilled ecosystem

Oysters and the reefs they create are hugely important ecosystems with a global distribution. As filter feeders’ oysters pump large volumes of seawater daily, up to 200 L/day, acting as natural filtration systems. In sufficient numbers, oysters can improve water quality, prevent large scale algal blooms and the associated problems of mass fish mortality and dead zones due to depleted O2. Left undisturbed, become ‘ecosystem engineers’ (like corals) and will eventually create a unique three-dimensional reef structure. These oyster reefs provide habitat and refuge for an incredible diversity of organisms and serve as a food source, nursery ground for many fish species, increasing fish biodiversity and abundance.

In Europe native oyster populations have declined by 95% since the 1950s. This has resulted in a growing movement to recover native oyster populations and habitats in the UK and Europe. Efforts to restore oysters, oyster reefs and their services have been underway for some time in the US with a great degree of success. This speed talk will communicate the importance of the ecological function of oyster habitats, the lessons learned from oyster restoration in the US and Australia and introduce the model of the Native Oyster Network- UK & Ireland. By Celine Gamble from the Native Oyster Network.