Architecture and Planning ETDs

Author

Cameron Weber

Abstract

In ecosystems undergoing rapid change, habitat management and restoration present special challenges for land managers. To reduce uncertainty about such systems and, thereby, improve the success of their decisions, managers may consult ecological monitoring data. Limitations in time and resources for data collection have highlighted the role that citizen science can play in applied conservation science. One citizen science project, the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (or BEMP), supplies decision makers with ecological monitoring information about the historically dynamic Middle Rio Grande riparian forest corridor (or bosque) ecosystem through engaging nearby K-12 students in collecting ecological data over a large area. However, decision makers’ access to this ecological monitoring information does not ensure its use; bosque land managers are not using the available citizen science ecological monitoring information to the extent they could to inform their decisions. This project’s purpose is to reveal what prevents Middle Rio Grande bosque management from benefiting more from ecological monitoring data in general, and citizen science data in particular, when making habitat management and restoration decisions, while also determining what conditions would facilitate decisions informed by ecological monitoring data in this context. Findings from interviews conducted with 18 individuals from 17 entities concerned with the bosque in the Middle Rio Grande constitute the main body of the research, supplemented by a review of relevant literature and documents. Barriers to the application of citizen science monitoring data in the Middle Rio Grande bosque have to do with the decision-making context and whether monitoring data is simultaneously available and useful for management objectives; that the monitoring data derives from a citizen science project is not a barrier to its use. The identified barriers include the lack of time or staff; priorities driven by funding; lack of requirement to make evidence-based decisions; lack of immediately useful information; and the uncertainty of leadership priorities. Interviewees from entities that use decision-making protocols said these support their use of monitoring data for decisions. BEMP generates the only available long-term ecological monitoring data record for the Middle Rio Grande, and the majority of interviewees have used BEMP data for decisions. However, because BEMP’s study design necessitates retroactive pattern discovery and because BEMP data analyses are sometimes unavailable and/or do not address management questions, interviewees said that data from the BEMP program is not as useful as it could be for informing bosque management and habitat conservation and reducing uncertainty. Having identified what limits the use of monitoring data for improving bosque management, I offer recommendations directed to BEMP and bosque management decision makers. These recommendations aim to strategically increase the use of ecological monitoring data to inform management decisions about the Middle Rio Grande bosque.

Language

English

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Community and Regional Planning

Level of Degree

Masters

Department Name

School of Architecture and Planning

First Advisor

Scruggs, Caroline

First Committee Member (Chair)

Fleming, William

Second Committee Member

Glass, Steven

Keywords

ecological monitoring, citizen science, bosque, adaptive management, monitoring data use, natural resource management, uncertainty, decision making, sustainable land use planning

Included in

Architecture Commons

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