Advancing Science in the Southwest
The American conservation movement took root during the 20th century. The investments we made to protect and sustain our natural assets are unsurpassed throughout the world. The United States has grand networks of public lands and waters, special programs for wildlife-rich wetlands and waterways, a variety of pollution controls, unique sources of sustained conservation funding, and strong protections for imperiled wildlife.
But we realize conservation in the 21st century is much different. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is acting pragmatically to confront today’s environmental challenges. We are ramping up our scientific expertise and approaches to accomplish our conservation mission in light of rapidly changing climate conditions, widespread landscape transformation, habitat fragmentation, and an onslaught of invasive species, among other challenges.
Advancing science and technology helps us better forecast the impacts of environmental changes, proactively develop ways to resolve problems, and evaluate our efforts so that they can be continually refined for better results.
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s Science Applications program leads efforts to advance science in three main ways: by expanding the availability of science and technology relevant to the conservation community, ensuring the quality of scientific information we use in decision-making, and continually building our capacity to integrate emerging science into our work.
Expanding Scientific Information and Technology
The Science Applications program helps identify and secure information—from both natural and social sciences—needed to further landscape-scale conservation. For example, when Landscape Conservation Cooperatives were established, one of the first steps partners took was to assess conservation science needs so that critical gaps could be filled. We do the same in support of our agency’s specific efforts relating to aquatic resources and migratory bird conservation, endangered species recovery, and national wildlife refuges.
We fund applied research to help fill those gaps. The Science Applications program in the Southwest has provided about $3.5 million for studies over the last three years. More than $3 million has been provided directly to Landscape Conservation Cooperatives to fund the partnerships’ highest science priorities. We leverage these resources to advance high-quality scientific research and multi-organizational, interdisciplinary, applied-science projects through our broad collaborative role with partners and the scientific community. Another $200,000 has supported the integration of Fish and Wildlife Service program science needs with those of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.
We help secure additional priority conservation science for our agency programs and partnerships through the Science Support Partnership Program with the U.S. Geological Survey. This partnership provides more than $4 million for critical research nationwide each year. For 2013, there were six new projects in the Southwest started with more than $200,000, including studies related to contaminant effects on Eurycea salamanders, whooping crane reproduction, and the impacts of energy development on lesser prairie-chicken. Several others are ongoing.
There are many other ways we expand the availability of science and technology relevant to the conservation community:
Ensuring the Quality of Scientific Information
All Federal Government agencies have a formal process in place to ensure the quality and credibility of scientific information used for policy decisions with potentially significant societal impacts. For the Fish and Wildlife Service, these kinds of decisions often relate to the Endangered Species Act and comprehensive conservation planning for national wildlife refuges.
This quality assurance process, called “peer review,” taps professionals with demonstrated expertise and specialized knowledge related to a scientific area under consideration. Independent peer reviewers evaluate information to ensure it is scientifically sound and objective. They are selected from the academic and scientific community, Tribal Governments and other Native American groups, State and Federal agencies, and the private sector.
In the Southwest Region, we have identified for peer review the following decision documents shown in the table below. Click on the title to get more information about each subject and how the peer review process will be conducted.
For more information on the following policy decisions that will undergo a peer review process, contact:
For more information on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s policies, processes, and guidelines related to ensuring the scientific integrity of information we use in decision-making, please visit the Fish & Wildlife Service Peer Review page.
Integrating Emerging Science into our Work
The Science Applications Program does more than expand conservation science and technology and help ensure its quality. Another valuable role is making sure the best available science gets into the hands of those who need it, and that they are able to use it to make our collective conservation efforts even more effective. This role has become even more critical in light of the complexity of modern landscape ecology and the uncertainty of changing climate conditions.
Here are some of the important ways we help our colleagues in the Fish and Wildlife Service and conservation community apply science more effectively on-the-ground:
For more information on the Science Applications program, please contact:
How we are carrying out Strategic Habitat Conservation in the Southwest