Snowbird • Lara J. Hansen, chief scientist and executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based EcoAdapt, doesn't care whether you believe climate change is caused by human behavior.
She cares whether wildlife managers and conservationists have access to the latest and best in scientific and policy information as the Earth's climate changes.
In the world of wildlife management, where warming regions mean more forest-chomping insects and more polar bears rummaging through village dump sites in Alaska, information is power. That power, in turn, is meant to be shared.
That's why Hansen wants academics, scientists and wildlife managers with solutions and advice to visit EcoAdapt's Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) site at http://www.cakex.org.
"We want case studies, and we want success stories," Hansen said. "We want instances of people taking action, not just people wringing their hands and saying, 'Oh, isn't this dreadful.' "
Hansen spoke to a roomful of wildlife managers on the opening day of The Wildlife Society's annual conference, which runs Saturday through Wednesday at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort's Cliff Lodge. The yearly confab gathers more wildlife professionals in North America than any other event, with 1,500 attendees hearing about 330 new papers in conservation science and policy. Public employees of federal and state agencies and interior departments make up a good chunk of workshop participants, but large land owners, consultants, academics and university students could also be seen walking the Cliff Lodge's luxuriant halls.
Workshops on climate change are nothing new to the conference, said Darryl Walter, director of marketing for the conference. "We are a scientific society. That's how decisions are made," Walter said.
But it's the first society conference that features sessions on providing online climate change information to wildlife managers and the masses beyond. CAKE was launched in July, Hansen said. Another website presented Saturday morning, databasin.org, was launched last May. While CAKE specializes in case studies and policy information on attempts to ameliorate the impacts of climate change on watersheds, shorelines and animal populations, databasin.org offers visual and mapping tools based on biological, physical and socioeconomic data.
Using the North American lynx population as an example, Tosha Comendant, senior conservation scientist with the Corvallis, Ore.,-based Conservation Biology Institute, showed how a climate change scenario extended to 2050 and 2090 would affect the species' migration. As more lynx migrate northward, as is likely, concerns arise about whether the animals will find habitat similar to the kind they enjoyed in former protected areas they used to live in.
Comendant, Hansen and others behind such sites admit they're a work in progress. The first step is amassing studies and information as it enters the public domain. The key question for all wildlife managers, Hansen told attendees, is to ask how climate change makes certain wildlife management goals vulnerable. Some solutions, such as discouraging construction of road projects close to disappearing shorelines, are easier to find and recommend than others.
"The problem, though, is not a lack of information. It's knowing where the information is and how to use it," Hansen said. "In confronting these challenges as they develop, we want to make sure people don't have to reinvent the wheel if someone else has a solution or recommendation."
Mary L. Rabe, wildlife diversity coordinator with Alaska's Department of Fish and Game, said she expected both websites presented to improve over their initial offerings.
"There's a lot we don't know, and a lot of uncertainty, but that shouldn't stop those of us who care about wildlife from acting," Rabe said.
The Wildlife Society's annual conference
When • Through Wednesday.
Where • 9600 E. Little Cottonwood Canyon Road, Cliff Lodge at Snowbird.
Info • Call 301-897-9770 for more information, or visit http://www.wildlife.org.
Website resources about climate change and wildlife
Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE)
Offers a database of case studies and other analyses of environmental management as it responds to climate change.
Info • Free. Visit http://www.cakex.org.
A database of climate change information and network resources for conservationists making decisions based on the latest science.
Info • Free. Visit http://www.databasin.org.