Pre-Congress Short Courses

All pre-congress short courses will be held either the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel or the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel.

Click here for one comprehensive list of pre-congress short courses, workshops, and focus groups (including room numbers). 

Introduction to Open Source GIS
The Zonation conservation prioritization framework and software - hands on
New Media Matters: Communicating Conservation Research and Ideas
Advances in Conservation Impact Evaluation and Causal Inference
An Overview of Structured Decision Making
Using Adaptive Management (AM) to Plan and Monitor the Effectiveness of Conservation Projects
Diversity, Connectivity, and Adaptation: Landscape Genetics for Conservation Biology
Online tools for environmental data retrieval, ecological modeling, visualization and Geo-processing
The Role of the Social Sciences in Conservation
Principles of Course Design and their Application to Conservation Biology (Bases del Diseño de Cursos y su Aplicación a la Biología de la Conservación)

Introduction to Open Source GIS
20 July / 08:30-17:30; maximum participants: 20
Location: Sheraton Hotel - Chesapeake 1 Room
Organizer(s): Leimgruber, P. Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute; Songer, M., Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute; Christen, K., Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation

Click here to read about a related September 2013 course at Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation.

This course will combine lectures with computer tutorials where participants work through GIS examples illustrating the use of open-source GIS for everyday mapping tasks. GIS, GPS, satellite imagery, and mapping have become essentials in the toolboxes of researchers, natural resource managers, and conservationists. Yet, these resources are often not readily accessible to practitioners around the world. Most restricting are the limited access to specialized software and the lack of training opportunities targeted at conservation needs. Most available textbooks provide expansive and detailed instructions in GIS but none focus on GIS essentials needed by conservation practitioner. The one-day workshop focuses on the needs of conservation practitioners who are not GIS experts but need to have basic to advanced instructions at their fingertips to address everyday conservation challenges.

The Zonation conservation prioritization framework and software - hands on

20 July / 08:30-17:30; maximum participants: 25
Location: Renaissance Hotel - Kent Room
Montesino Pouzols, F., University of Helsinki; Toivonen, T., University of Helsinki; Veach, V., University of Helsinki 

The objective of this course is to teach the basic operational principles of the Zonation conservation prioritization framework and software. The course will give the participants the possibility of doing hands-on analyses using Zonation with the developers of the software and documentation. Zonation is a framework and software for large-scale high-resolution spatial conservation prioritization; it is a decision support tool for spatial conservation planning. It can identify priority areas based on a large number of biodiversity features, accounting for considerations such as complementarity and connectivity. Zonation provides a platform for integrating conservation science into real life spatial planning. The operation of Zonation is explained in a comprehensive manual. See appendix (comments) for recent Zonation applications and new methods. Contents: (1) Concepts (~1h30min): conservation resource allocation, operational principles and summary of features. (2) Hands on (~2h): graphical user interface and examples from the Zonation tutorial. (3) Analysis setups based on questions & answers (remaining time, including a break). Topics: (i) main principles, setups for (ii) conservation priority ranking, (iii) identifying the best and worst locations of the landscape, (iv) identifying expansions of conservation areas, (v) species-level vs. community-level analyses, (vi) connectivity and uncertainty analysis, (viii) different priorities at different administrative regions, etc.

New Media Matters: Communicating Conservation Research and Ideas
20 July / 13:30-17:30;  maximum participants: 20; Course participants will need to bring their own laptops.
Location: Renaissance Hotel - Pride of Baltimore Room
Kristen Bullard, Smithsonian Libraries; Kate Christen, Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation; Tina Adams, George Mason University Libraries
This course previews an upcoming course at Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation.

Innovations in digital, information, and computation fields are generating new conservation communication forms and modes of research/teaching, widening collaborative conservation communities, and expanding practitioners' "publics". Addressing a shared need among conservation and wildlife practitioners, the activities in this course explore the evolving range of digital media platforms, enrich participants' understanding of digital tools' potential, and consider best practices/ethics of multimedia publishing. Through two conservation case studies, participants will explore social media and research collaboration tools, and consider how these digital developments may affect publishing and scholarly communication. Tools surveyed will include photo and document sharing, social media, and interactive presentation. We’ll also review ways to integrate literature reviews and current awareness for keeping up with new publications.


Advances in Conservation Impact Evaluation and Causal Inference
20 & 21 July / 08:30-17:30; maximum participants: 40
Location: Sheraton Hotel - Chesapeake 2 Room 
Organizer(s): Ferraro, P., Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University; Hanauer, M., Sonoma State University

Despite decades of research and increasing collaboration across disciplines, the evidence base for the social and environmental effects of conservation programs is weak. This weakness arises partly from failures among conservation scientists and practitioners to collect the right data and analyze them using credible empirical designs for causal inference. To address these failures, a broader awareness of recent advances in the science and art of causal inference is needed among conservation scholars and practitioners. With broader awareness, better data (not necessarily more data) can be collected with the explicit intent of evaluating the environmental and social impacts of conservation actions. The short course covers: potential outcomes and counterfactuals; creative designs for experimental conservation projects; partial identification; conditioning strategies; detecting and measuring sensitivity to hidden bias; estimating heterogeneous impacts; decomposing impacts into mechanism effects; panel data designs; synthetic controls; instrumental variables; and theory-based evaluations. We have experience delivering similar short courses to interdisciplinary audiences of scholars and practitioners for periods ranging from one day to two weeks. The themes of impact evaluation and causal inference clearly connect systems, disciplines, and stakeholders. Moreover, the conservation community lacks opportunities for tailored professional development in these themes.

An Overview of Structured Decision Making
20 & 21 July / 08:30-17:30; maximum participants: 30
Organizer(s): Brewer, B., U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Runge, M., U.S. Geological Service

Structured decision-making (SDM) is the application of formal decision analysis to natural resource management. This introductory course was developed to provide conservation managers, policy makers, and scientists with an overview of SDM and the skills a manager would need to frame and analyze a decision; the quantitative aspects of decision analysis are not emphasized. The course takes managers through the PrOACT process, where decision-makers and stakeholders outline the Problem being addressed, the Objectives of the management program, the Alternative actions that could be implemented, the Consequences of these alternative actions, and the Tradeoff analyses needed to make a decision about which alternative to implement. Other concepts covered include dealing with uncertainty, risk, and stakeholder involvement in decision problems of both small and large scale. This course meets all the goals outlined by SCB by instructing managers, policy-makers, and stakeholders on a systematic and transparent process for making better decisions for biodiversity management. Those taking the course will leave with the knowledge to show others how to use this process for better decision-making and how to engage all decision-makers and stakeholders in the decision-making process. Without such clear decision-making processes and focused engagement of stakeholders, we cannot hope to successfully engage society in conservation.

Using Adaptive Management (AM) to Plan and Monitor the Effectiveness of Conservation Projects
20 & 21 July / 08:30-17:30; maximum participants: 25.
In addition to the registration fee, participants will need to purchase and download Miradi software prior to the course, at $25.00/license.
Location: Renaissance Hotel - Gibson Room
Organizers: Swaminathan, V., Foundations of Success; Crosse, W., Rainforest Alliance; Shurtliff, Q., Wildlife Conservation Society; Christen, K., Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation

Click here to read about and enroll in a more in-depth (2-week) course on Adaptive Management being offered this June 2013 at Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation .

Faced with growing and complex challenges and limited budgets, conservation professionals increasingly need to: - plan and prioritize their actions so their projects are both effective and efficient, - identify and connect with many disciplines and stakeholders to help ensure their actions are well implemented, - measure and demonstrate with evidence that they are making progress, and - nimbly adapt their actions in response to unexpected and rapidly changing conditions. In other words, conservation professionals need to practice adaptive management (AM); an approach that integrates project design, management, and monitoring, to systematically test assumptions, promote learning, and supply timely information for management decisions. By learning and using an AM framework, conservation practitioners will be better able to understand links among systems, disciplines and stakeholders for more efficient conservation interventions aimed at stemming biodiversity loss and maintaining ecosystem services for society. The Conservation Measures Partnership (CMP), a consortium of numerous conservation organizations, serves as a leader in identifying better ways to design and manage conservation projects and measure conservation impacts. The CMP Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation (Open Standards) provide a clear framework, useful tools, and guidance on applying AM and are quickly becoming the industry standard for conservation project management. Please download the Miradi software prior to the course.


Diversity, Connectivity, and Adaptation: Landscape Genetics for Conservation Biology
21 July / 08:30-17:30; maximum participants: 20.
Location: Sheraton Hotel - Harbor View I Room
Organizer(s): Murphy, M., University of Wyoming; Waits, L., University of Idaho

Landscape genetics is an emerging discipline that synthesizes population genetics, landscape ecology, and spatial statistics. Landscape genetics can be used to assess habitat quality via genetic diversity, use genetically based estimates of functional connectivity to design conservation reserve systems or quantify environmental components influencing disease/invasive species spread, and evaluate the adaptive potential in changing landscapes. Landscape genetics assesses system connectivity while connecting multiple disciplines producing results that can be directly used by stakeholders. There is a growing interest in applying landscape genetics methods in conservation. However, the lack of training opportunities makes it extremely challenging for non-specialists to understand, interpret, and apply landscape genetic products. Our short course will introduce overall landscape genetic concepts and how they can be applied in conservation biology. We will first introduce landscape genetics and the breadth of questions that can be addressed. We will then introduce principles of population genetics, landscape ecology, and analytical approaches using a short (~20 min) introduction with example(s) followed by a brief hands-on exercise (~40 min). We conclude our short-course by discussing potential pitfalls, other major methodological approaches and future research directions.

Online tools for environmental data retrieval, ecological modeling, and visualization
21 July / 08:30-17:30; maximum participants: 25
Location: Sheraton Hotel - Loch Raven II Room
Organizer(s): Joppa, L., Microsoft Computational Ecology and Environmental Science; Visconti, P., Microsoft Computational Ecology and Environmental Science

We will spend the first 4 hours demonstrating the integrated application of Distribution Modeller - an online tool that integrates 3 components: FetchClimate a fast, free, environmental data retrieval service that operates over the cloud to return the data you need; Filzbach a flexible, fast, robust, parameter estimation engine, that uses MCMC sampling to parameterize arbitrary, non-linear models, against multiple, heterogeneous data sets; Dataset Viewer a standalone menu-driven tool for quickly exploring and comparing time series, geographic distributions and other patterns within scientific data. We will use these tools combined together to address ecological modelling problems like modelling species distribution and abundance. The demo and tutorials will be followed by an explanation on how to harness the full power and flexibility of these tools with few lines of code. We will spend an additional hour demonstrating the functionality of Swavesey, an online application to build custom databases with useful functionalities such as querying spatial and tabular data and intersecting multiple spatial information, e.g. to identify co-occurrence of multiple species. Swavesey gives the ability to upload any form of tabular or spatial data as well as photos and videos taken at a specific location. We will demo the tool by showing how IUCN is using it to compile and analyse information on threats to species and will provide a tutorial for you to try it out. We will leave at least one hour at the end of the day for Q&A. For questions about the course please contact Dr. Piero Visconti

The Role of the Social Sciences in Conservation
21 July / 08:30-17:30; maximum participants: 40
Location: Sheraton Hotel - Chesapeake 3 Room
Organizer(s): Teel, T., Colorado State University; Manfredo, M., Colorado State University

Successful biodiversity conservation efforts require understanding not only of the natural environment but of the needs and interests of people. Recognition of this has resulted in greater attention to the social sciences within the conservation community. However, despite increased awareness of the importance of social considerations, conservation practitioners often lack the expertise necessary to assess "the human dimension" and to integrate this information effectively into conservation strategies. SCB's Social Science Working Group (SSWG), a global community of more than 500 scientists and practitioners in 60 countries, works to respond to these challenges by providing training and resources that help practitioners better solve conservation problems through integration of social science approaches into their work. To assist with these efforts, we propose a course providing training in social science applications. This SSWG-sponsored event would build from the success of our experiences in South Africa, the U.S., China, Canada, and New Zealand, where we offered courses in conjunction with the 2007-2011 SCB meetings. Course intent is clearly aligned with the conference theme - it will build capacity in the social sciences which are essential to integrated, multi-disciplinary approaches to conservation. The course also supports SCB's goal of education by providing professional development opportunities to support current and future generations of conservation practitioners.

Principles of Course Design and their Application to Conservation Biology (Bases del Diseño de Cursos y su Aplicación a la Biología de la Conservación)

21 July / 08:30-17:30;  maximum participants: 30
Location: Renaissance Hotel - Fells Point Room
Organizer(s): Porzecanski, A., AMNH - Center for Biodiversity and Conservation; Groom, M., University of Washington-Bothell

This course will synthesize course design principles and guide participants as they explore how to develop courses to strengthen interdisciplinary conservation training. After participating in this course, participants should be able to write student-centered learning objectives, design aligned classroom activities that promote development of critical and interdisciplinary thinking skills, and develop assessment tools to measure intended learning. Participants will plan a course on a conservation biology topic and receive resources to support their education and training efforts. The course is open to anyone, but will be primarily in Spanish to convene SCB members from the Latin America and Caribbean (LACA) region who want to share experiences with others involved in conservation training and education. Organizing and guest instructors will contribute their expertise on conservation capacity building and education research as well as in interdisciplinary education and student assessment. The course is designed to connect a group of important but dispersed stakeholders within SCB, and provide tools to train future generations of conservation biologists in interdisciplinary thinking. The LACA Section of SCB, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the AMNH, and University of Washington Bothell co-organize this course.