Geography / Geology
School of Environmental Sciences

Bridging the Gap

Researcher: Jane Bunting

The 'Bridging the Gap' network is an informal group of ecologists, conservation managers and palaeoecologists interested in exploring the ways in which long term perspectives (considered as 100-10 000 year time spans) can contribute to understanding present ecosystems and ecosystem processes and to predicting future responses to environmental and management change.  Methods such as palaeoecology allow generation of 100+ year monitoring series from a few months in the lab, and although the value of these approaches is argued in broad terms (e.g. Froyd & Willis 2008; Swetnam et al. 1999), examples of actual effective input to conservation practice and ecological planning ‘on the ground’ are rare (e.g. Chambers et al. 2007); we argue that long-term methods have the potential to improve ecological understanding and conservation practice, especially in times of rapid change.

bridging the gap figure 1

Research at Hull

Research at Hull focuses on efforts to improve the translation of palaeoecological data into formats both easily understood by and useful to conservation practitioners and ecologists.

Network activities

Workshop 1:  Supported by the Hull Environment Research Institute (HERI) and NERC grant (NE/D007577/1, to Dr Nicki Whitehouse (QU Belfast) and Dr David Smith (University of Birmingham))

Discussion focused on identifying barriers to better collaboration:

Barrier 1: ‘not knowing who to talk to’ – networking is not helped by time and money limitations. The proliferation of relevant conferences, and of sessions within conferences, tend to segregate academic from practitioner and ecologist from palaeoecologist.  In response: the group has set up an informal newsletter, for events, discussion and information sharing, is organising a conference in January 2010 (workshop 2), and currently seeks funding for other activities

Barrier 2: ‘who reads what’ – academics gain more ‘career rewards’ for publication in academic, peer-reviewed journals than in outlets broadly read by practitioners (Nature versus British Wildlife), and such articles are usually written in a style which is not easily accessible for practitioners (those who have access to libraries that carry the journals), whilst many practitioners wishing to write papers reflecting on their work must do so in their own time, not as part of their regular duties.  Short notes summarising recent publications of interest in the group’s informal newsletter are a small step towards lowering this barrier

Barrier 3: ‘what are you on about?’ – the challenge of translating data into meaningful formats, of transferring knowledge for different purposes without losing detail or uncertainty, and therefore of using palaeoecological data in the planning and management process:

Workshop 2



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