For the month of June I was very fortunate to visit E.J. Milner-Gulland’s lab – the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS) at the University of Oxford. While there I helped organise the Interdisciplinary Conservation Network (ICN) workshop, the aim of which was to allow early career researchers the opportunity to interact with other conservation scientists and to learn key career skills.
It was also a great opportunity to visit Oxford and take in all the beautiful scenery and historic buildings. This included one of the oldest pubs in Oxford, the Turf Tavern, where Australian Premiere Bob Hawk set a Guinness world record for beer sculling as well as the Eagle and Child Pub, the stomping grounds of literary legends J.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. The Oxford Museum of the History of Science was also a rare treat, where I got to see Einstein’s chalkboard, perfectly preserved from a lecture he gave at Oxford on general relativity in 1931!
The big theme discussed while I was there was the feasibility of achieving no net loss of biodiversity in the marine environment. Biodiversity offsetting is a fairly new field that aims to counterbalance the impacts of development in one area, by conserving biodiversity in another. Offsetting in the marine environment is comparatively more complex because of a lack of research, however is increasing in scope around the globe. E.J. recently received a PEW fellowship and is researching how marine biodiversity offsets might be applied as an incentive based mechanism to reduce fisheries bycatch. As my PhD research focuses primarily on the improved implementation of no net loss (NNL) of marine biodiversity, spending time with E.J. and her students was the perfect chance to collaborate and exchange ideas with others working in the same space.
The workshop itself was 3 days, and was organised jointly by ICCS, Stirling Conservation Science (STI-CS) and the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science (CBCS). The workshop consisted of three separate research groups, and several ‘working in conservation science’ and ‘transferrable skills’ sessions – such as a career pathway discussion that focused on how to choose between academia and NGO work, and another session about getting published. The sessions allowed us all a chance to ask questions and get to know the prominent conservation scientists that chaired the panels, James Watson and Liz Bennett from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and E.J Milner-Gulland.
The future of marine NNL research session was developed and organised by Will Arlidge a PhD student at Oxford, Prue Addison a Post-doc at Oxford, and myself. For the weeks leading up to the workshop we had many discussions about the increasing use of biodiversity offsetting and the need to refocus the conversation on the achievement of NNL by using the entire mitigation hierarchy rather than focusing primarily on offsetting. Given the lack of data in the marine environment, avoidance will be a key component of successful NNL. The workshop got together people from varied backgrounds to discuss the application of NNL in other industries and what factors could be hindering a broader application of the mitigation hierarchy. The workshop was only two days, but was an amazing chance to get other perspectives on my PhD research, and network with other students and researchers working in biodiversity conservation in other interdisciplinary fields.
To learn more about marine no net loss, see the blog we wrote on a new UNEP-WCMC report on the feasibility of marine NNL, available here:
Also, stay tuned for an upcoming Business and Biodiversity Offset Program (BBOP) webinar that I will be hosting on ‘Confronting threats to marine ecosystems through the use of biodiversity offsets’ based on a marine biodiversity offsetting symposium from the Society for Conservation Biology Oceania (SCBO) section meeting - August 18th, 10am AEST.
You can also find out more about upcoming events by following me on twitter! Nicole Shumway (@Nicki__S).
A special thanks to EJ Milner-Gulland, Prue Addison and Will Arlidge at The University of Oxford for hosting me, and to James Watson, Martine Maron, Hugh Possingham, and the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decision (CEED) for supporting my participation.