Shift investment to urban biodiversity

by David Maddox, Sound Science LLC

Numerous governmental organizations and NGOs devote themselves to the protection of biodiversity. It is difficult to know how much money is spent in these efforts, but some have estimated it to be $7-10B worldwide (source: IUCN). Even this is certainly insufficient for the need; some have called for worldwide investment of $20B or more.

Conservation and biodiversity organizations principally devote themselves to the protection of (and to a lesser extent the management of) wild lands (or at least as wild as continue to exist) or the restoration of lands to natural states that best support broad and species-rich habitats (that is, high richness with many rare and endemic species). This needs to change.  Continue reading

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Clear as mud

by David Maddox
Sound Science LLC

Must deep and illuminating content be at odds with clear and effective communication? I hope not. Informed policy requires information and data needs to be effectively transformed into information that is appropriately delivered to various audiences. But scientists are sometimes awful communicators, and there is the seduction of “simple” messages that are sometimes just simplistic. Continue reading

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Posted in Action, Measures of Success, Science | 2 Comments

Lorca’s poetry about nature and place

by David Maddox
Sound Science LLC

As part of the New York Botanical Garden exhibit on the gardens of the Alhambra (Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra), the designers beautifully incorporate many of the poems of Spanish writer Fredrico García Lorca (1898-1936), among whose most famous works is “The house of Bernarda Alba.” Continue reading

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Posted in Art, Art, Imagination, Imagination | 1 Comment

We need to measure urban sustainability

by David Maddox
Sound Science LLC

Early references to “sustainability” in an ecological sense referred to sustainable harvests in agriculture. For example sustainable harvests of trees were those that did not exceed the replacement capacity of the forest. Similarly for harvests of food from agriculture fields or fish from oceans, if you take more than is being replaced the resource will eventually diminish to zero. In relatively simple contexts such as these, measurement is likewise relatively simple: measurements of harvests vs. replacement, at least over small scales, generally tell the story. Continue reading

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The Future of Urban Forestry

by David Maddox
Sound Science LLC

Whether a work of art, the creation of a new business, or the development of a green city, all successful endeavors begin with a vision.  A clear vision of what one hopes to accomplish is paramount for success.

In the case of urban forestry, what do we want our cities to look like?  What do we want our urban canopy to accomplish in terms of human health and wellbeing, social justice, and ecosystem services such as storm water management, air quality, and biodiversity?  How should we manage and steward our investment in urban tree canopy for maximum benefit and increase public awareness of the urban forest? Continue reading

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Global Chemistry Class

by Michael Batcher
Sound Science LLC

Global climate change refers to all of the possible changes in climate that may result from the addition of global warming gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and chlorofluorocarbons. Some critics feel that changing the discussion from global warming to global climate change indicates a flaw in the argument. Since the discussion is now much more broad, scientists can cast a much larger net and find evidence of climate change and “blame” that on human actions when it may be part of some natural cycle. I believe the term global climate change is not broad enough and would suggest a new term: global chemical change. Continue reading

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It is difficult to take in all the glory of the Dandilion

by David Maddox
Sound Science LLC

“It is difficult to take in all the glory of the Dandilion, as it is to take in a mountain, or a thunderstorm.”

Charles Burchfield (1893–1967) is legendary for his watercolor landscapes, painted near his Buffalo, NY, home.  His paintings are typically about nature: swamps and forests and backyards that include plants and birds and insects and rays of light.  They are full of shapes and living things.  His late period pictures, especially, are intense and even hallucinatory.  There is an exhibit of his work at the Whitney Museum in New York City this summer.

He was also a great journalist and over his lifetime wrote over 10,000 pages in various handmade volumes.  It is there, on 5 May 1963, that he wrote: “It is difficult to take in all the glory of the Dandilion, as it is to take in a mountain, or a thunderstorm.” Continue reading

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Posted in Art, Conservation, Imagination, Measures of Success, Science, Science | 2 Comments

Ecologists Should Try to Understand “Climate Deniers”

by Cindy Salo
Sound Science LLC

This piece appeared previously on Sagebrush and Spuds

Ecologists have accused “climate deniers,” who do not believe that the world’s climate is changing, of “not thinking” and have described them as “angry.” Climate deniers cause heart burn in ecologists who are documenting changes in our climate and developing strategies for dealing with the impacts of warmer and more variable weather.

Understanding the apparent intransigence of climate deniers, how they think and why they respond the way they do, can help ecologists present their message more effectively and reduce anger and heart burn. When both sides communicate clearly and calmly we can meet in the middle to solve the serious challenges facing us. Continue reading

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Posted in Action, Conservation, Science | 3 Comments

1+1+1=2

David Maddox
Sound Science LLC

I participate in lots of discussions about data, and information, and how to design databases. Sometimes a database is just a repository of data – a place to store it for some future use. More often, though, a database is meant to be an active information delivery system. Let’s call such a thing an IDS.

And what’s the most important function of an IDS? It is the delivery of (1) information that users want and (2) in a form that users can use for their purposes.  Maybe I should say that this really is the ONLY useful function of an IDS. Continue reading

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Posted in Measures of Success, Science, Uncategorized | Comments Off

The only constant is change. So why don’t we know more about what’s going on?

David Maddox
Sound Science LLC

“How we doing?” asked the Ecological Manager? “Pretty well”, replied the Ecologist. “How much is pretty well?”, asks the Manager, since that’s what s/he needs to know. And not even just how much, but rather how much relative to what they wanted to accomplish in the first place.

Whether they are called “Measures of Success”, “Theories of Change”, or “Impact Monitoring”, or just “monitoring”, organizations should know whether their actions are effective, and whether they are making progress toward their organizational goals. They need to evaluate both the effectiveness of individual projects and the overall impact of their work; that is, they need to seek to understand how effectively their mission is being achieved. Such assessments involve specifically devised measures of success that are matched to institutional goals and rely on objective, transparent, and repeatable measurement methods. Continue reading

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Posted in Action, Conservation, Measures of Success, Science | 1 Comment