A critical appraisal of a new paper on “big data and the future of ecology”

By Joern Fischer

“Simply put, the era of data-intensive science is here. Those who step up to address major environmental challenges will leverage their expertise by leveraging their data. Those who do not run the risk of becoming scientifically irrelevant.”

Hampton et al., 2013, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (p. 158)

I just read Hampton et al.’s new paper in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, entitled “Big data and the future of ecology”. In a nutshell, the paper encourages ecologists to more routinely share their data. The underlying premise is that data sharing will lead to bigger and better (or at least additional) insights, because there are large amounts of small datasets that – if widely shared – would allow more effective quantitative analyses using lots of those small datasets in a big way. Other disciplines, according to Hampton et al., are ahead of ecology in sharing their data – among ecologists, only geneticists share their data widely (partly because they have to), while many others don’t.

Several journals have now made it a requirement to share data (unless there are strong reasons why you can’t), e.g. Proceedings of the Royal Society London B and Journal of Applied Ecology. What’s going on here? Is this an obvious case – so much more could be gained if only we all had access to more data?

That, it seems, is what Hampton et al. genuinely believe. They suggest there are four things we ought to do:

  1. Organise and preserve our data for posterity, no matter how small the dataset, including appropriate meta-data.
  2. Share data through publically accessible databases.
  3. Collaborate in networks where data are shared, e.g. to combine the insights of multiple case studies.
  4. Address issues of data management with students and junior researchers in your labs.

I immediately agree with points 3 and 4. One my recent posts in this blog was about the PECS network, for example – which is exactly about the kind of thing raised in point 3. It is a network of people who each do local-scale studies, but would like to see their findings synthesized in a useful way.

I kind of don’t have much of a problem with point 1, but I’m not terribly convinced about point 2. I see the following issues with a generic “you ought to share your data”:

  • I think there is a misunderstanding that “big data” is what is needed to solve today’s problems. From data, we need to get to information that is usable; from their to analysis and insight; and from there to wise societal decisions. I would argue that if there is one problem we DON’T have in our modern world, it’s a lack of data! I would argue the opposite in fact: that the ever-increasing availability of data is blinding us from the real problems. It looks as if additional data would somehow help – it’s an enticing prospect to have all this data! Wow! But as I argued in “Human behavior and sustainability” (also in Frontiers), a lack of data, information, or knowledge is not the problem for sustainability. We know well enough what we ought to be doing; we lack the means of putting our knowledge (based on information, based on data) into action.
  • I think there is a serious risk that data is misinterpreted if used by others who are NOT explicitly chosen collaborators in a network. This is not a matter of meta-data. It’s a matter of ecological field data coming from places, and being appropriately understood only if one understands the place. That is why Discussion sections of journal articles aren’t auto-generated once you have written the Results, but require (subjective!) expertise. Meta-analyses channel our focus towards questions that can be asked, not towards questions that must be asked. There is a real risk that we search for universal truths across study systems, at the price of glossing over local details that are fundamentally important. A simple example is what constitutes a “patch”. This is assessed differently in different parts of the world. Just using people’s data on “patches” could lead to serious misinterpretations about many things, including patch-size-effects (for example). I am critical of many existing meta-analyses for this reason already – having all data available to everyone, to my mind, will simply increase this trend away from deep, locally based ecological knowledge.
  • Following on from the previous point, what happened to the argument by Lindenmayer and Likens on losing the culture of ecology? Ecology is about places, just like geography and anthropology are. Good ecologists go in the field and learn about life there; they develop an ecological intuition, which is the only way to stop them from writing nonsense in their Discussion sections. I am deeply concerned that a trend towards yet more data will even further erode the field-based culture of ecology. Yet more PhD students will make their careers out of modeling, rather than going in the field.
  • Finally, this raises important ethical issues. Modeling experts will then “own” top journals like Ecology Letters, and (I hope not) Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. But none of those will be field ecologists!… those, in the meantime, have to publish their work in “regional journals” (i.e. not widely read ones) because their stuff is less relevant. Basically, they had to spend months in the field for someone else to get a free ride out of it in a more esteemed journal.

I’m all for addressing big questions. I’m all for synthesis, though I believe much of the societally relevant stuff will be qualitative not quantitative. I’m all for sharing data with the right people for the right reason – but I do not believe that universal sharing either is a safe recipe towards a better science of ecology, nor do I believe that a lack of data is in fact the primary problem we face today. And universal sharing does have risks of data being used wrongly by others, and some taking a free ride on the backs of field ecologists.

Big data? Sure, it can be a part of what ecology does, too. But I found that Hampton et al. were far too one-sided about this issue, essentially seeing no downsides or limitations.

Finally … (deep breath), this is an issue I may yet change my mind on. For now, I don’t buy the arguments put forward, but undoubtedly I will be confronted with this over the next few years again and again (say because I want to publish in one of the journals requiring data sharing!) … so who knows, I may yet change my mind. It’s worth putting the issue on the table, and Hampton et al. have done that nicely. As I said, some of their points and conclusions I agree with – but some I don’t, and so overall, I’m a lot less enthusiastic about big data than they are. According to the quote above, my skepticism towards big data will render me scientifically irrelevant in the near future… I can’t wait.

I’d be really interested in other people’s comments on this!

About nature and people

By Tibor Hartel

I am reading the book of Juhász-Nagy Pál entitled “Nature and people: small variations for a big theme” (the book is in Hungarian, the translation of the title is just a trial). In one of his insightful essays, starting with the name of the UNESCO program called “Man and Biosphere” he reflects about the need for recognizing the right/healthy order of things when we speak about something, especially if we address nature conservation issues.

He highlights that the order of things in this title (i.e. man first and then biosphere at the second level) reflects human arrogance and is somehow similar with the situation when someone places himself/herself in the front of his/her own mother (i.e. by saying: “Me and my mother”).

Such an order, in his view, is against some ethical fundaments which need to be considered both at societal and nature conservation levels. These hidden/latent ethical/philosophical fundaments may greatly influence our attitude toward nature, our ability to find our correct place in the biosphere, and ways how we build our strategies and the outcome of our activities. It seems that certain fundamental things in our thinking about the nature and us and our relationship with the broad ecological systems around us never change: the caveman seem to be similar with the modern “conservationist” (ok, I am a bit extreme, but I am aware about this and about the fact that I am not an exception from this general and probably sad rule) in this respect, i.e. both say “me and nature” (with its variations, but always the same order).

This writing was published in 1993 but it was finished much before that. The author died in 1993. He therefore is unaware about the fact that a new framework is starting to get roots in the academic thinking: the social-ecological framework. What would Juhász-Nagy think about this? What you think about this? How it would sound to reverse the terms, e.g. to say “ecological-social systems”. To be honest, when I reversed the term, I had a strange feeling. What about you?

Have a nice weekend!

Reference

Juhász-Nagy Pál 1993: Természet és Ember. Kis változatok egy nagy témára. Budapest, Gondolat.

About valuing people – quote of the day

by Tibor Hartel

Here is a quote for this day from Béla Hamvas, a Hungarian philosopher. Replace ‘people’, ‘true values’ and ‘actorial performances’ from the second sentence with ‘scientists’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘ability to sell’ and ‘impact factors’ and see how beautifully this statement of Hamvas decades ago became a very (and sadly increasingly) actual problem even in science. (PS: the selected picture about Hamvas is to show the fate of an extraordinary person and thinker, who was unable to make compromises when it was about strong principles. He then preferred to be outsider, and resist even to high level invitations from western Europe which promised a better intellectual life.)

‘The world is that place where things are not valued as they are, but rather through their impact. People are judged not according to their true values but according to their actorial performances.’ (Béla Hamvas)

The violinist and the woman or the music of nature conservation in farmland

by Tibor Hartel

In a small Hungarian village there was once a man who played the violin every night, while walking up and down the street. People were angry because of this behaviour, but they could not at all convince him to stop it.

One woman had a clever idea and said to the man playing the violin: “You are playing the violin so beautifully! Come in, I’d like to offer you a drink for this!”

The next night the violinist goes straight beneath the window of the woman and played even louder and with more passion than usually. He received drink and even cake this time!

After a while, however, the window stopped opening and he was not invited inside, no matter how passionate he was. Then he said angrily: “You know what, if you don`t reward me, I will never sing again for you or for others.” And since then, there was silence on the streets throughout the night in that village.

I wonder how relevant the above joke is today, in the world of financial incentives. For example, replace singing with traditional farming and the reward with drink and cake with agri-environment payments in this story and see what happens:)

Stories from the Eastern Carpathians 1

By László Demeter – Misgurnus Association, Csikszereda, Romania

We just finished putting up some information boards of a newly created nature trail on the Pogány-havas (Hungarian, HU name) (Pagan mountain), part of Csíki havasok (HU), (Munţii Ciucului – Romanian name), Mountains of the Weatherfish land (translated from the original HU name), in the Eastern Carpathians, Romania. There was a small party with local land owners and other people involved in the project. I sent out my colleague to map mown mountain hay meadows while we ate and drunk – not a very nice thing from me, but time is limited and it’s too much luxury if we both eat and drink and nobody maps the meadows.

I wait for him at a place called Küpüs kút (Well with a frame carved of a tree trunk) and meet Joseph, a Csángó farmer who has a chat with his neighbor while waiting for the cattle to start descending to the stable near the house down in the valley. It’s a clear October evening on 1300 m asl, and the air is chilly. Joseph is not disturbed at all by this, his coat is open, and so is the top button on his shirt, leaving his muscular neck open.

I remember him during an earlier occasion, making a remark that a boy’s neck becomes thicker from mowing by hand. This rule certainly worked in his case, both his hands and voice are bear-like.

While I am kind of freezing while waiting for my colleague to appear, the two Csángós cheerfully chat about recent happenings, like the bear coming to a shepherd in the valley who fed his dog with carrion, and a Hungarian city-man who spent the summer up here in a kaliba, and another neighbor’s bull that attacked Joseph one summer day. He was on open meadow during haymaking, nowhere to hide. The bull charged and he was on the ground. The bull charged again and he thought that this game could be over for him soon. When the bull hit him the second time, he grabbed its horns and the bull started to run with him hanging on the horns. He mows 10 hectares a summer by hand scythe, and all the physical work he does allow him to do this maneuver. The bull found the 80 kilos load heavy on its head after running around for a while, so Joseph managed to pull its head to the ground and they rolled over their heads. And then, the bull wanted to charge again. Luckily, a neighbor boy came running with an ax to help Joseph and chased the bull away. Without his help, things could have ended badly for the man. This way he had no serious injury.

Joseph told this story so vividly and jovially that we almost saw his wrestling with the bull. I wonder how many things must have happened to people on the same place throughout history, and how many are still living in local people’s minds. Somehow, these stories give a personality to the land and make you feel familiar with it.

joska bacsi poganyhavason

Joseph on the left in the meadow where the bull-fight happened

So why is all this relevant to sustainability? Should we be prepared for bull-fights if we start practicing sustainability? Yes and no, as a good friend of ours would say. No because you wouldn’t do this on a regular basis. However, keeping animals in these mountain landscapes is an essential part of sustainable living. With all the beauties, there are the risks. Survival skills and cooperation are highly needed for a successful career in this field (or better a meadow 🙂 )

Scientivists urgently needed!

Guest post by Pim Martens and Jan Rotmans

(Pim Martens is Professor of Global Dynamics & Sustainable Development, Maastricht University, Jan Rotmans is Professor in Transitions and Transition Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Almost every scientist recognises this picture. Having devoted much of their lives to perform research on a specific issue, but not being able to get the message outside the academic walls (and it’s not only the government that’s ‘out there’). This holds for the more fundamental sciences, but even more so for research on more complex issues, like climate change, poverty, biodiversity loss and the financial-economic crisis.

Of course, many scientists are to be blamed as well. Being so caught up in their own scientific square centimetre, they are unable to communicate the main message of their research to others. Stimulated by the perverse publication system that only accounts for peer-reviewed publications (and not so much for more understandable messages), leaves people outside academia with only scientific papers. Not very useful in the public arena.

But still. Isn’t it funny, that a society that pays lots of money to universities and research centres, that does value teaching and research done at these places highly, then dismisses results of these institutes if it is not ‘handy’, and perhaps a little too vague?

Academia has responded through the initiation of new fields of research, such as sustainability science, focusing on research collaborations among scientists from different disciplines and non-academic stakeholders from business, government, and the civil society. Not so much for the fundamental sciences, but for the earlier mentioned ‘complex societal issues’ humanity faces today. The idea behind this is that we all need to work together in order to address sustainability challenges and develop real solution patterns.

Well, that’s a step in the right direction. However, being good scientists, this idea of ‘sustainability science’ is becoming formalised rapidly. And  – although classified by concepts such as post-normal, mode-2, triple helix, and other science paradigms – it still are ‘scientific’ classifications. With other words, it is being ‘bounded’ by similar rules that apply to other sciences as well.

From a scientific point of view, this is fine. But what about the point of view of moving forward to a more sustainable world? Does this not oblige scientists to take more responsibility, especially at times when many signals in nature and society are red? Or do we (scientists) continue to discuss the rules under which ‘sustainability science’ needs to be operated? Rules that probably will be ‘dismissed’ by the other stakeholders if it suits their purpose?

It is about time for many (more) scientists to become scientivists. Scientivists are people that are engaged in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge (the ‘science part’), to promote, impede, or direct societal change (the ‘activist part’). Scientivism can take a wide range of forms from writing letters to newspapers or politicians, to economic activism, such as boycotts, sit-ins etc. Scientivists are not afraid of interfering with legitimized procedures and official politics when science shows this would be needed.

On the other hand, scientivists must be aware that their actions may increase the risk of scientific results inappropriately being used into social discourses and in the media. This might lead to situations where, for instance, researchers find themselves unwittingly “supporting” an application of the generated knowledge they might strongly disagree with.

It is, therefore, not a ‘job’ (as for most of us ‘being a scientist’ is), but rather an ‘attitude’. An attitude that may be urgently to move forward to a more sustainable society. As in this era of social media, opportunities for scientivists will increase as we speak, there are no reasons not to join…

ES = E$ ? (Kai Chan) … and other insights on cultural ecosystem services (#ESA2012)

By Joern Fischer

Here is a work in progress report on the symposium on cultural ecosystem services, happening right now!

Anne Guerry started the session with a broad overview and showed that the classic notion of looking at total economic value for ecosystem services doesn’t work in practice. Anne went to great lengths to argue that the concept of ES is still useful, but that we have to get beyond dollars.

Anne then discussed several case studies (e.g. here), which basically used the INVEST method developed by the natural capital project. More strongly re-focusing on cultural services, Anne then reported on how the working group at NCEAS had tried to bring CES into decision making and into the dialogue about ES:

  1. By cataloguing and addressing issues that hamper their inclusion – e.g.
    1. Many challenges are exaggereated or misunderstood (e.g. $ valuation);
    2. Many different metrics could be used;
    3. By trying to develop a framework to operationalise CES;
    4. By testing that framework;
    5. And by synthesizing literature connecting non-material benefits and wellbeing.

Picking things up pretty much at this point, Kai Chan then spoke about integrating cultural ES into decision making. He observed that CES were “everywhere and nowhere” – aesthetics and recreation seem to always be considered, but most other CES rarely appear to be considered in as much detail as they deserve.

Presenting a fisheries examples, Kai showed that the monetary value of a particular fishery had increased, and also overfishing went down. Traditionally, this would be considered a win-win solution for ecology and the economy. However, through the cultural changes that went hand in hand with these changes, many local fishermen and indigenous people had suffered; their culture, their traditions, social cohesion, identity, and so on. So just dollars and fish were unable to capture the complexity of the situation. Social and ecological changes co-occur and cannot be meaningfully separated in this example.

Kai concluded by summarizing a framework how cultural ecosystem services might be better included in decision making in the future. This framework will be published this month in BioScience – so keep an eye out for that one! The framework involves steps such as:

  1. Get consent by people to engage;
  2. Figure out who is deciding and why?
  3. Characterize social-ecological context;
  4. Look at benefits, ecosystem services and values;
  5. Determine influence diagrams and feed that back to decision makers.

One problem I have with this, and with much other “natural capital project” work on ecosystem services is that it all seems very top-down. Who are these all-powerful decision makers that must be informed? Is this how societies actually operate? I feel something here is lacking. Despite attempts to empower local people (somehow), in the end, it seems to boil down to these all-powerful decision makers, who rationally compare scenarios and make informed decisions. I am just not sure that this is how the world works…. Thoughts on this, anyone?

Antlers, advocacy and agriculture (at annual #ESA2012, America)

By Joern Fischer

Enough with the letter A.

Today I’m going to report on a few random highlights that I witnessed today, and that I feel are worth drawing your attention to. In this morning’s session on ‘sustainability’, I saw a really nice talk by Inger Maren Rivrud, on trophy hunting of red deer in Hungary. The nice thing about this data was that Inger presented really long term data on hunting, and on antler sizes in red deer — over 100 years in fact! She contrasted different hypotheses. If trophy hunting for the largest antlers, for example, was in fact an enduring problem, then through time, we should witness a decline in antler size. Similarly, she reasoned, if hunting pressure was effectively regulated, then the gene pool should not be affected — then declines in antler size might simply show that smaller (younger) animals may be hunted, but when hunting pressure eventually does go down, we would expect that antler sizes will again grow up (as older animals are again available in the population). Inger showed that during the world wars, hunting pressure indeed led to a decline in antler sizes — but then more recently, antler sizes have increased back to their original sizes. So, the gene pool did not seem to be permanently affected; smaller antler sizes by the middle of last century thus probably just indicated that younger animals were hunted; few really old ones with big antlers were around. Nice to see data from Eastern Europe, and have such clear hypotheses, tested via long-term data.

One of my favourite talks came right after this. Kai Chan, from the University of British Columbia, talked on scientists engaging with policy. Following a survey hundreds of scientists, Kai found that many believed ecologists should engage with policy; but relatively fewer actually did so. Looking at the reasons for this discrepancy, Kai showed that perceived own competence and confidence were major factors — communication programs or courses therefore are important, and can and should be designed, to further foster the engagement of scientists with policy makers.

Later this afternoon, I went to talks on the interface of justice, agriculture, and biodiversity conservation. Gretchen Daily impressively demonstrated how the ecosystem service planning software INVEST had been used in South America, Hawaii and China to work towards outcomes that catered to various objectives simultaneously. I have often wondered if this kind of approach is not a little too top-down — in the sense that spatial planning and then implementation of those plans is probably the exception in the world rather than the norm. Despite that, the approach is definitely doing a lot of good — nobody can convey this better than Gretchen!

Indirectly, however, my concerns were then mirrored in the very next presentation, by Sieglinde Snapp. She argued against a narrow focus on increasing agricultural yields, and instead advocated using a more agroecological approach – with new, holistic practices deemed as the way forward. She considered education and participation to support empowerment as critically important to advance agricultural development, and demonstrated this via a successful case study in Malawi. Here, participatory engaged research was used; options for agricultural development considered issues of diversification, longevity legumes, recycling of inputs, and considering farmers’ priorities. Overall, Sieglinde conceptualised the challenge as an experience of co-learning with people; her approach was deeply participatory, and data proved that it led to improved yields across a variety of crops. What does top-down planning have to do with this? Not much, arguably. I suggest that probably both Gretchen’s kind of approach and Sieglinde’s are valuable; but in different contexts. In both contexts, governance will be critically important. Careful planning demands strong top-down governance to enable the implementation; similarly, Sieglinde showed that poor governance had impeded the uptake of agroecological practices in Rwanda (where yields have increased massively, but outcomes are not distributed equitably).

Ivette Perfecto then talked more about how environmental and social justice concerns met with agroecological principles in the new paradigm of food sovereignty. Her basic argument was that the current paradigm is failing the world: in a world with both obesity and hunger co-existing, something about our food systems is fundamentally problematic.

I’ll close with a nice quote that Gretchen put up, though my wording here is slightly different.

Confucius said: “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

I suggest we contemplate this more often in science.

Human behaviour and sustainability (#ESA2012)

By Joern Fischer

So, this morning we had the symposium on human behaviour and sustainability. The session was organized by Rob Dyball, who leads the Human Ecology Section of the ESA. Rob also was one of the most important contributors to our paper on “human behavior and sustainability”, which appeared in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment earlier this year (available here).

I kicked off the session, with some basic comments on the role of policy change. In a nutshell, I argued that policy change is important to work towards sustainability, but that we need to look beyond policy — towards underlying, foundational issues regarding human behaviour, like our value and belief systems. It’s those foundational issues that we rarely discuss, and should have more debates about.

As a case study on how civil society can (and should) be engaged to foster sustainability, Dale Blahna then talked about a neat case study of public engagement to assess ecosystem services in the Deschutes National Forest. His talk was followed by Chiho Watanabe, from Tokyo University, who impressively outlined some of the major challenges involving food production and consumption in Bangladesh — too many people, on too little land, dependent on just one staple crop, namely rice. Population is obviously a critical driver of un-sustainability, and we can’t ignore it in public debates, even if that would be popular.

Over-consumption in rich nations is a major issue in sustainability, but did not receive the same attention in the symposium today as in our paper mentioned above — I think that’s a bit of a shortcoming, since it’s such an important issue. All of us flying here, really — we must do a lot of good at this conference to make up for the bad we have already done by getting here!!

Thomas Lovejoy then gave an insightful talk about how major financial players like the world bank had in fact made a lot of progress when it comes to sustainability issues; nice to get some good news for a change.

Rob Dyball presented a talk by Catherine Gross (she couldn’t make it) on key issues of justice, emphasising that just outcomes must consider both the process and the way in which people are involved in decision-making; AND the outcomes. Procedural, interactional and distribute justice all are important concepts, and should be routinely considered in natural resource management.

Amy Freitag gave a really nice overview of how different worldviews at times collide in fisheries systems of North Caroline. Superb case study, and especially for natural scientists, I think, probably quite eye opening. There’s more to science in the real world than objective measurements … and there are many ways of knowing a fisheries system.

Then the stage was open for two “rock stars of ecology”, as someone termed them in real time on twitter: Will Steffen and Paul Ehrlich. Will gave one of his unbelievably good synthesis talks of where the science of climate change is at — there are few people who so succinctly and elegantly present such huge amounts of information. The bad news, between the lines — Will gives us many reasons to be concerned about the future: climate change really will hit us hard, sooner or later, it seems. Courtesy of Kai Chan, here is a link to a recent video featuring Will and his explanations of climate change:

And then Paul Ehrlich and his overly large charisma had the stage, last but not least. The most fun way to cover what he talked about is to simply put a few quotes here, of what he said during the talk (thanks to those tweeting the talk!):

  • need equal rights for women, including access to birth control & abortion, as a way to control population.
  • we don’t know what exactly will happen with climate change, but we know it will bring unwanted surprises.
  • “What are we going to do abt it? Nothing. I see no sign of our society doing a WW2-type mobilization.”
  • “you’re not in a scientific debate, you are in a street fight”. Get out there and work for change!
  • “Have fun with your science but put a good chunk of your time into trying to save your civilization.”

Overall, a successful session, I think — though I would have preferred more on the needs to question our value and belief systems, and more on the role of civil society in bringing about change. Comments welcome, of course!

Reflections on the keynote by Jerry Franklin (#ESA2012)

By Joern Fischer

Jerry Franklin just gave a very inspiring keynote address, on his favourite topic, the forests of the northwest of the US. This was one of the most beautiful speeches I have heard in some time – mostly because Jerry shines with such a genuine passion for ‘his forests’, and a genuine humility. It is clear that Jerry is out for the forests; not for himself. This is what people feel; it is the difference between a keynote by someone who is clever and somebody who is wise. The audience appreciated it, and gave Jerry a standing ovation.

What kinds of topics did Jerry cover?

First, Jerry highlighted how much ecologists had actually learned in the last 50 years. Jerry recalled how a long time ago, people didn’t really know anything about northwestern forests as ecosystems – and clearcutting was the natural mantra that nobody had in fact ever questioned. Science started “without hypotheses”, simply to describe and learn about these forests. And people did learn: about the structure of the forests, about canopy development through time, about the importance of dead wood (standing and fallen) and about the importance of biological legacies, after disturbances.

Eventually, Jerry recalled, much of this knowledge led to changes in policy. Variable retention harvesting is now practiced in many places around the world, trying to mimic natural disturbances rather than continuing clearcutting. Locally, most progress happened in 1994, through the Northwest Forest Plan, under the Clinton Administration. That plan protected 80% of the forest estate from logging – a landmark achievement. Curiously, that plan is now being revisited, and will be changed. One new insight is that active management is in fact important; just a preservation strategy won’t be appropriate, partly because a mosaic of different forest ages is needed.

Jerry concluded that:

  1. A landscape scale (or coarse filter) approach is useful and “our only hope”, but species do matter (including natural history of those species);
  2. There is a need for active management of ecosystems, including active stewardship (not just “preservation”);
  3. Tongue in cheek Jerry remarked that “I went into this profession so I wouldn’t have to deal with people”, but went on to explain that engagement of people is vital: for policy to be sustainable, it has to be socially acceptable.

I’ll sum up with one last gem of wisdom that Jerry had to offer: “Education opens your eyes, but it can close your eyes, too – be aware of the limitations of what you are taught.”