What We Read- Favorite Papers of 2017

My favourite paper of 2017 was “Devil Tools & Tech: A Synergy of Conservation Research and Management Practice” (open access). This provides a great example of how to effectively bridge the “research-implementation gap” in conservation management. Instead of what could be called the “traditional model”, where scientists conduct and publish research, and only then engage with practitioners and policy makers, this paper provides a framework for integrating research and management questions into a scientific program from the start. The example provided is the management of the remaining wild and captive populations of the Tasmanian devil, which has been threatened in recent decades by devil facial tumour disease. I know of a few other programs that have adopted similar principles in the past, but it is great to see an accessible discussion here of the factors that make this applied science really work.

[Postscript: I had to laugh a little when I saw that Emily and I have – completely independently I promise – both selected our favourites from the Policy Perspective section of Conservation Letters. I guess we are on very similar wavelengths!]

My favorite paper of 2017 was “Redefining the role of admixture and genomics in species conservation” (open access).  I put this one in our regular “What We’re Reading” series because it has all the things I like to think about: admixture, genomics, clustering, species delineation, species of conservation concern, and policy.  The paper points out the messy reality of applying strict policies to the natural world where gene flow, mitochondrial-capture, and ancient hybridization are realities for species.  The authors argue that as genomics provides more detailed information about population histories, we should rethink policies in a way that increases flexibility and allows for more biological reality.  I appreciated the authors’ nuanced take, particularly that genetic ancestry is not the sole answer for or against conservation, but that the ecological role of the admixed and/or hybrid species should be considered when determining conservation statuses.  After each read I have found myself thinking about how would I write a policy document that incorporated the complexity the authors talk about that would be robust into the future.

Side photo by Dave Watts via ARKive of a Tasmanian Devil with Devil Facial Tumor Disease.

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