Trina Rytwinski, Carleton University – Evidence Based Management

What’s the best way to conduct environmental management?

Trina Rytwinski, post-doctoral fellow in biology at Carleton University, looks into this question.

My research focuses on understanding the circumstances in which roads and traffic affect wildlife populations. I am particularly interested in looking at species traits and their behavioral responses to roads, to determine which species or species groups are most vulnerable to road impacts, and determining ways to mitigate road effects.  My current research focuses on two aspects: (1) determining ways to improve knowledge on the influence of mitigation measures on wildlife populations through experiments, and (2) assessing the use and effectiveness of mitigation measures intended to decrease road related impacts on wildlife.

Evidence Based Management

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The development of evidence-based management came about nearly three decades ago in the medical field to help reconcile the discrepancy that many of the common medical practices being used were not well standardized and were not always the most effective. Yet, the concept of using systematic reviews to support evidence-based management is a relatively new concept to be adopted by the environmental management and conservation communities.  Systematic review is a method of collecting, evaluating, and synthesizing all relevant research findings on a given question to provide defensible and credible evidence to inform decision-making processes and policies for government and other natural resource management groups.

In Canada, efforts are currently underway to try to build capacity to conduct systematic reviews for environmental management and conservation purposes as well as to find ways to disseminate review findings in accessible, meaningful, and comprehensive formats to its various user groups.

Many of the environmental and natural resource management agencies in Canada have developed the management tools and science advice mechanisms that are employed in Canada. We are not suggesting that systematic reviews should replace these frameworks. Instead, systematic reviews can easily be incorporated into these and other processes and frameworks.  We argue that systematic reviews have the potential to support existing management actions or identify those that need to be rethought based on a critical review of the totality of the evidence. An evidence-based, transparent process for decision-making would help to ensure the actions chosen are the ones most likely to achieve the desired outcome.

Although the Canadian context creates both opportunities and challenges for implementing an evidence-based approach to conversation and environmental management in Canada, it is our hope in the coming years that evidence-based conservation and environmental management will become the gold standard for collecting, appraising, and synthesizing scientific evidence within the existing Canadian context.

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