Casting a Wider Net: Increasing Stakeholder Communication and Collaboration as an Early Career Scientist

It is increasingly evident that rigorous science and successful management and conservation of our natural resources requires collaboration and strong communication with stakeholders. This is a skill that receives little application and development in graduate programs. Further, it is not widely encouraged within academia. In line with our first-ever joint national conference of AFS and TWS, the goal of this symposium is to display current efforts in building fruitful collaborative research, management, and/or outreach initiatives by students and early career professionals in both societies. We welcome all presentations working to increase interactions, tackle complex issues, incorporate traditional ecological knowledge, and break down barriers between stakeholders, addressing the very “human” element of fisheries and wildlife. Whether working with tribal fisheries commissions, recreational and/or commercial fishers, industry partners, NGOs, the public, or zoos/aquariums, we encourage presenters to share successes, experiences, and lessons learned with others in the early stages of their career.

8:00AM Improving Communication and Collaboration in Fisheries Conservation through Increasing Transparency of the Process and the Science
  Steve McMullin
Evolution of the process of fisheries management has progressed from a prescriptive approach (leave management to the experts), through various levels of advisory and participative approaches (increasing the role of stakeholders in making management decisions), to collaborative approaches (involving stakeholders in formulation of management alternatives as well as decision making). Collaborative decision making works best when stakeholders value and trust the professional expertise of fisheries professionals and the professionals value the role of stakeholders in setting goals, and assisting in development of management alternatives and in evaluating the effects and likelihood of success of those alternatives. When collaboration works, professionals trust that stakeholders make informed decisions and those stakeholders develop strong commitment to proposed management alternatives. Fisheries professionals must effectively communicate technical information in terms that stakeholders can understand to build trust and help those nontechnical participants in the process make informed decisions. I present case studies from my experiences as a fisheries manager in Montana and as an academic in Virginia to illustrate the critical importance of effective communication among professionals and stakeholders in making collaboration work.
8:20AM More Than a Tradition: The Importance of Understanding the Perspectives and Baselines of Indigenous Nations with Respect to Modern Natural Resource Challenges.
  Zach Penney
My goal is to highlight the importance of engaging and understanding the perspectives and baselines of indigenous nations in modern natural resource decision-making. The indigenous nations of North America are land-based peoples that share different histories, agreements, and relationships with federal, provincial, and state governments, as well as one another. With few exceptions, indigenous nations are sovereign entities that require consultation about decisions and/or management actions that impact their reserved or retained rights. Because indigenous nations consider themselves part of the landscape, natural resource management actions can have significant impacts on the fundamental components of subsistence, ceremony, economy, and identity. While the “duty to consult” indigenous nations has not always been historically honored, the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous sovereigns and stakeholders is improving. However, an inherent challenge for many indigenous nations is the complication of false equivalencies related to “fair-play” and compromise. For most indigenous nations, resource losses are a direct consequence of the resource gains of non-indigenous counterparts. In other words, they have already given or ceded rights to the benefit of non-indigenous nations and citizens. It is essential to understand historic baselines when engaging with indigenous nations, as historical gain/loss balances weigh heavily against them.
8:40AM Advocacy, Breweries, and Collaborative Science: The ABCs of Successful Stakeholder Engagement
  Brendan Runde
It is easy for graduate students and other fisheries scientists to forget the most important species we are trying to manage: humans. In this talk, I outline my recent re‐energizing experience meeting with stakeholders about a challenging issue in marine reef fisheries. Keys to success in interacting with the stakeholders of your fish include finding an appropriate venue, losing the usual jargon, identifying common ground between at‐odds groups, and collaborating with stakeholders when doing research.
9:00AM #Fishmas Time Is Here: Using Social Media for Stakeholder Engagement As an Early Career Scientist
  Katherine O’Reilly
Individuals increasingly turn to social media platforms such as Twitter for news about science and the environment. By meeting audiences where they go for information, early career scientists can develop strategies to engage with stakeholders in meaningful and productive discussions about complex environmental topics. I use a case study of a popular science communication event on Twitter I created called #25DaysofFishmas to highlight social media techniques scientists can use to foster engagement among diverse stakeholder groups. #25DaysofFishmas began as a lighthearted way to showcase the freshwater biodiversity found in the North American Great Lakes and has since evolved into an annual forum to discuss connections between humans and the aquatic environment. Social media, particularly Twitter, is not simply a tool for scientists to broadcast their research to audiences, but a platform to engage and affect personal responses towards science. While a low-cost outreach tool, time must be invested to build relationships and trust before social media platforms can be effective avenues of audience engagement.
9:20AM Combining Traditional Farming with Modern Science
  Alixandra Godar, David Haukos
Collaborating with private landowners is critical to the success of research measuring effects of agriculture on wildlife. Our goal is to present a case study of successful collaboration with a large number of private landowners to successfully complete a large-scale research project. We wanted to understand how ring-necked pheasants utilize spring cover crops and the influence of spring cover crops on population demography. The main concern of the investigators was finding landowners who were willing to join the project by planting treatments or allowing access to trap or monitor pheasants. Landowners were responsible for the planting and termination of the cover crops and allowing access to capture and monitor pheasants on their property. Our narrow criteria made it challenging to find interested parties. Our search was further limited by a lack of social media use and other efficient mass communication methods in the areas where we wanted to work. The project depended on a massive networking effort from all the agencies involved incorporating flyers, phone calls and word of mouth. We had successes and failures over the course of the three-year project. We will discuss the strategies we found useful and some common barriers we faced.
09:40AM Break
1:10PM From Hostile to Helpful: A Success Story of Stakeholder Collaboration
  Addie Dutton
Working as an agency biologist in the natural resources field provides a diverse array of species, habitats, and stakeholders to interact with. Specifically, in fisheries, there can be numerous stakeholder groups representing a single body of water or a stakeholder group that has an interest in many bodies of water with similar characteristics. Trout Unlimited (TU), widely known across the world for their work on restoration and conservation of cold-water trout resources, is a great example of one of these groups. As a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist, I have been privileged to work with great local TU chapters. However, my initial interaction with one local TU chapter was unproductive, unprofessional, and hostile. This talk will discuss how an extremely negative start transformed to a positive cooperative relationship. I will share invaluable communication skills and techniques that have improved my ability to work with stakeholders on fisheries topics from trout to carp and how the TU chapter has flourished in ways I didn’t think possible after our first meeting.
1:30PM Communication and Collaboration within the Atlantic Salmon Governance Structure of Maine
  Melissa Flye, Carly Sponarski, Joseph Zydlewski, Bridie McGreavy
Atlantic salmon populations in Maine remain critically low despite extensive hatchery supplementation and habitat improvement efforts. In 2000 the Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment was listed as Endangered under ESA with joint listing authority shared by the NOAA and the USFWS. Because, regulators and managers from federal, state, and tribal contexts operate with independent authorities, recovery decisions depend upon effective communication and coordination among groups. Using a mixed-methods approach, we surveyed (n=46) and interviewed (n=28) members of the Atlantic Salmon Recovery Framework (ASRF), the governance structure responsible for Atlantic salmon management in Maine. We used survey results to examine the communication between members of the ASRF through communication network analysis. While there is a relatively high network density for individual communication (56%), connections are decentralized, a characteristic that can be incompatible with some organizational structures. Within the ASRF three distinct communities formed along organizational boundaries. Challenges reported by members fit into three general categories; membership confusion, mismatches between ASRF and organizational structures, and poorly defined responsibilities. Despite these challenges, participants reported a commitment to maintaining a collaborative governance structure and a long history of inter-organizational relationships. This introspective effort has led to a reorganization effort to optimize communication pathways.
1:50PM A Strategic Plan for Monitoring Birds in the Gulf of Mexico: Translating Stakeholder Values into Priorities
  Auriel Fournier, James Lyons, R. Randy Wilson, Jeffrey S. Gleason, Evan M. Adams, Janell M Brusch, Robert J Cooper, Stephen J. DeMaso, Melanie J.L. Driscoll, Peter Frederick, Patrick Jodice, David Reeves, Michael A Seymour, Stephanie Sharuga, JOhn Tirpak,
Conservation planning for large, dynamic coastal and marine ecosystems has multiple benefits, but is often challenging to implement. In addition, decision making can be hampered because many frameworks do not have a way of addressing and incorporating the multiple values and concerns of stakeholders. Prior to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, avian monitoring projects frequently used study designs which were inconsistent with understanding species trends, response to management or understanding ecological processes at the Gulf of Mexico scale. In response to this, the Gulf of Mexico Avian Monitoring Network was created and subsequently, used the principles of structured decision making to identify stakeholder objectives and values, which were used to evaluate and rank bird monitoring priorities. By using stakeholder objectives and values to identify bird monitoring priorities, practitioners and decision makers have: (1) a set of agreed upon objectives and core-values; (2) a transparent means of setting priorities across political and jurisdictional boundaries; and (3) a framework to facilitate communication and collaboration of data needs.
2:10PM Evaluating and Improving Lake Management at Broad Scales: The Payoffs of Stakeholder Collaboration in Research
  Michael Verhoeven
While management of invasive aquatic plants is widespread, we lack broad scale evaluation of the outcomes of our efforts. Through collaboration with lake management stakeholders, I have assembled existing survey data—data currently underutilized in literal and figurative “file drawers”—to create a two-decade long lake management dataset encompassing tens-of-thousands of hours of aquatic plant surveys and hundreds of aquatic plant management projects across Minnesota. Investing in stakeholder collaboration has allowed me to build my research out to an otherwise unachievable scale and has allowed stakeholders to inform research questions. Finally, I have used stakeholder relationships as an avenue for the communication of my results at agency and local community meetings, and via University events targeting stakeholder audiences. These investments in stakeholder communication enabled the creation of a powerful dataset and have created a pipeline by which results can quickly affect change on the landscape. From natural resource agencies to local governments and community groups, I will discuss how I worked with various stakeholders to develop timely questions relevant to their needs, provided advising on topics of interest to them, and harnessed our relationships to communicate the results of my research.
2:30PM Making Science Useful to Stakeholders in the Context of Tidal Power Development
  Gabriella Marafino, Jessica S. Jansujwicz, Teresa Johnson, Gayle Zydlewski
Scientific information (data) are often not presented in a form that fits the specific needs and capacities of diverse stakeholders. In response to this lack of “usable” information, we are collaborating with regulatory, industry, and community stakeholders to co-produce knowledge in support of decision-making for sustainable tidal power development in eastern Maine. Federal and state regulators, the industry developer, and a tribal environmental department representative are engaged in a series of four facilitated workshops to discuss existing information, knowledge gaps, and data integration strategies. Using facilitation techniques to foster small group dialogue and hands-on interaction with different data types (raw, synthesized, and web-based repositories), we identified patterns in how stakeholders access, use, and perceive data. Workshop outcomes suggest pathways for better decision-support; integration of available spatial ecosystem data into an interactive map and creation of a central data repository for existing non-spatial information. Subsequent meetings and interviews will be used to monitor how responsive these data integration strategies are to stakeholder interests. This presentation will discuss results from the workshops and lessons learned related to supporting stakeholders with diverse information needs. Findings from this study could help improve stakeholder engagement and information sharing to support decision-making in other locations.
2:50PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM Integrating Stakeholder Engagement into Project Design: The Lenfest Approach
  William Goldsmith, Emily Knight, Charlotte Hudson
The Lenfest Ocean Program is a marine science grantmaking program that uses as a metric of success the degree to which supported projects inform decision-making. Rather than considering stakeholder and policymaker communication as a project reaches its conclusion, Lenfest initiates dialogue with interested parties during project scoping and development, defining the policy landscape, building collaborations, and securing buy-in. Mapping the stakeholder universe, including identifying key actors and relationships, maximizes the impact of targeted outreach activities. Sustaining and revisiting these engagement efforts throughout the lifespan of a project provides a solid foundation for transitioning research findings into an accessible and actionable format for consideration in a decision-making context. In this talk, we will present case studies that illustrate the Lenfest approach to stakeholder engagement and communication while also sharing key lessons learned. Our approach is broadly applicable to other fields of resource management outside marine science, including freshwater fisheries and terrestrial wildlife contexts.
3:40PM The Human Dimensions Revolution for Florida Fish and Wildlife
  Allen Martin
Over the past 15 years, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has gone through a revolution of sorts. Like many state fish and wildlife agencies, in the past, research and management decisions were made based purely on technical biological data. Realizing that stakeholder needs and desires were not being met as best they could be, FWC staff began incorporating more stakeholder communication and collaboration in management decisions in order to best achieve the agency’s mission statement of “Managing fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people.” FWC now provides human dimensions and stakeholder engagement training to biological staff of all levels and all levels of staff incorporate stakeholder input into their decision-making processes. This presentation will highlight recent Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management projects as examples of how FWC has increased stakeholder communication that utilizes human dimensions and biological data to manage fish and wildlife resources as well as the role of early career scientists in these processes.
4:00PM Engaging Governmental and Private Stakeholders to Implement and Maintain Adaptive Management Projects – Challenges and Accomplishments
  Kristie Coffman, Rasika Ramesh, Sean Blomquist, Maureen Walsh, Sarah Miller, Heather Bulger, Elise Irwin
Many Cooperative Research Unit (CRU) scientists engage graduate students in assisting diverse stakeholders with decision-making frameworks for complex socioecological problems. Graduate students either observe these problem-solving activities or actively work with resource professionals to promote interdisciplinary cooperation when making decisions concerning shared natural resources. Currently we are involved in two different efforts to apply structured decision making and adaptive management to projects in Alabama, Georgia and Florida. The first example involves eliciting expert opinion from scientists from both state and federal agencies to inform conceptual ecological models, recovery objectives, and environmental flow-species relations for 5 species protected by the Endangered Species Act from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin. The second example describes the role of private landowners and non-profit environmental organizations in eliciting change from a private utility in an ongoing Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process for R.L. Harris Dam on the Tallapoosa River, Alabama. In both cases, we will discuss how listening is both one of the greatest challenges and easiest remedies, how government agencies can often be limited in the assistance they can provide to the public, and how the voice of the public can be one of the greatest leverage tools when it comes to conserving natural resources.
4:20PM Guides Guiding Graduate Research
  Steven Lombardo, Ross Boucek, Aaron Adams, Jessie Stevens, Matthew Ajemian
Cross-institution collaborations are effective when covering logistical or laboratory problems, but often fall short in the fish and wildlife fields where institutional knowledge is required to locate organisms of interest. Stakeholder engagement is essential, and unfortunately repeatedly overlooked, when academics are working to further understand species of economic and cultural importance. Faced with locating juvenile bonefish (Albula vulpes) in the Florida Keys, a declining species whose adults contribute to the $427 million per year flats fishery, we actively engaged stakeholders (guides, fishermen, residents) through multiple media to locate these fish. With stakeholder assistance we can more effectively cover the 2,000 square miles of potential habitat, as habitat preferences in the Florida Keys have yet to be described and are complicated by a complex life history. Furthermore, engaging stakeholders early in the research process may later facilitate conservation/management action at the community and legislative levels as a direct result of the collaborative work. We present how partnerships can be formed and knowledge gaps filled by engaging the community with fliers, blogs, social media, and open-forum talks.
4:40PM Engaging Undergraduates: Introducing Students to Working with Private Entities
  Lindsey Dice, Jason Jaworski, Logan Halderman
Engaging undergraduates: introducing students to working with private entities Lindsey M. Dice and Jason J. Jaworski Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN The Purdue University student subunit of the American Fisheries Society (Purdue AFS) strives to provide its members with well-rounded experiences to begin graduate school or enter the workplace. The fisheries and aquatic sciences curriculum at Purdue University provides a rigorous scientific education to undergraduates, but does not provide direct training and experience with fisheries stakeholders and members of the public. To address this gap, Purdue AFS has created opportunities through its events for students to work with stakeholders, engage with private entities and interact with the public. One example of stakeholder engagement is Purdue AFS’ pond sampling program. This program applies skills learned in class to help pond owners develop management plans and solve real-world problems. Purdue AFS members interact directly with stakeholders throughout the planning, sampling and reporting process, which allows them to develop essential communication skills. These experiential learning opportunities help to better prepare students for their postgraduate careers.

Organizers: Heather A. Stewart, Lisa K. Izzo
Supported by: AFS Student & Early Career Professionals Subsection

Location: Reno-Sparks CC Date: September 30, 2019 Time: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm