Saving a threatened species is a big task often requiring the effort of many people over a sustained period. The way these people organise themselves (the
rules they follow, the networks they form, the way they make decisions) is critical to the success of any species recovery program. The way people
organise themselves is known as governance and Angela Guerrero is working with the TSR Hub to understand what forms of governance help a recovery effort
(and what forms may hinder it.)
“The majority of science on saving threatened species focuses on the ecological side of the problem,” says Dr Guerrero. “My research focuses on the people side; how governance systems and the decision-making processes can be designed to enable effective management. At the end of the day, species are saved by people so understanding how people organise themselves to undertake this task is important.”
The work is part of her broader interest in understanding the human and ecological dimensions of conservation. She applies research methods that allow her to analyse social-ecological systems, to map their structure and attempt to understand how they operate over different scales of space and time.
“My research looks at complex interactions between humans and nature,” she says. “A better understanding of these interactions helps us to design effective management interventions.
“My work with the TSR Hub focusses on the governance of threatened species recovery efforts – in particular the processes of implementing recovery plans. I’m examining recovery efforts across Australia in an effort to identify the barriers and enablers of successful recovery efforts.
“In the broadest sense governance can sometimes be characterised as being ‘bottom-up’ where people and groups organise themselves; or ‘top-down’ where people follow instructions from above. My research shows that while bottom-up governance structures enable some environmental challenges to be addressed, they are not always the most effective approach. Depending on the governance challenge, top-down guidance is sometimes necessary so that ecological complexity that sometimes cuts across multiple management scales can be adequately dealt with.”
The more she studies governance, the more Dr Guerrero has come to realise how important it is to good conservation outcomes.
“I’ve discovered there is so much we still do not know about effective governance in conservation,” she explains.
“In many ways Australia is at the forefront of conservation science. We are world leaders in the science that underpins ‘good’ conservation and environmental decision making. However, it has become clear to me that we need to better understand the governance behind our decision making and incorporate this in the management tools we produce.
“It’s a fascinating challenge and one I hope to advance in the years ahead.”
Top image: Angela Guerrero has interviewed a wide range of people about how team structure can help or hinder effectiveness of recovery groups. Image: Jaana Dielenberg
New Hub research has quantified the extent of predation by cats on Australia’s birds and identified the species and types of birds most vulnerable to cats. The team found that cats kill over 1 million birds per day in Australia. The total is made up of an estimated 316 million birds killed by feral cats and 61 million killed by pet cats each year.
Sound recorders have been installed across farm land in south-western Victoria and on Kangaroo Island in research to help threatened glossy black-cockatoos and south-eastern red-tailed black-cockatoos, by learning more about their breeding.
As cats and foxes have spread across Australia, islands have prevented the extinctions of several mammals like the boodie. Associate Professor Sarah Legge discusses the importance of safe havens and also summarizes the highlights of a recent 'safe-haven' symposium held at the International Mammalogy Congress in Perth.
The TSR Hub is one of six National Environmental Science Programme hubs and each is making its own important contribution to the national effort to recover our threatened species. Hub Director Brendan Wintle takes a look beyond the TSR Hub to highlight the good work being done on threatened species by our sister hubs.
On sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island a multi-million dollar eradication program removed cats in 2000 and rabbits, rats and mice in 2013. In the aftermath of this effort, beautiful things are emerging. Dr Justine Shaw is leading a TSR Hub project to learn from this experience and monitor how ecosystems respond.