Monitoring for a purpose at the Ecological Society of Australia meeting

The Ecological Society of Australia annual meeting is being held from 5-10 December this year, and marks the 50th anniversary of establishment of the ESA. Submissions for abstracts are closing this Friday 30 July, so you need get in quick if you plan on presenting. Update: abstract submissions have been extended to 13 August 2010.

Kerrie and Ayesha are convening a symposium as part of this year’s conference as part of their work on optimal monitoring and evaluation:

Monitoring for a purpose: optimal monitoring and management of cryptic or declining populations.

How should monitoring programs differ depending on their objective? How can resources best be applied to monitoring and measuring the success (or failure) of management? In the face of uncertainty, what should managers monitor, and where and when should this monitoring occur?

Such questions can be particularly pertinent for threatened species, as a poorly-designed monitoring program might have grave consequences for their persistence. The information gained through monitoring can establish the degree of success of management and consequently influence policy and future investment in management actions. However a trade-off often exists between the funding allocated to monitoring and evaluation, and doing conservation action. Therefore, it is important that (a) the objective of the monitoring program is clearly specified, (b) indicators are carefully chosen, (c) the monitoring program is designed with the best available information on the possible distribution of the indicators, (d) and the returns on conservation investment are established a priori and evaluated through time.

Approaching monitoring from a decision-theoretic or an adaptive management framework can allow managers to make decisions in the face of enormous uncertainty, and to improve on those decisions over time. This symposium will be of interest to both theoretical and applied researchers, and also conservation practitioners.