Wood Turtle Strides has collaborated (again) with the clever people at Wonderlust Media to develop a video for farmers explaining the biology of wood turtles, a species at risk in Nova Scotia, and how to protect them. This is the third video in our extension series. The first two were about modified harvest, and riparian management. All three can be found at the YouTube channel for the Biodiversity Landowners Guide, our extension website. Simon Greenland-Smith has been busy this summer signing up farmers that host critical wood turtle habitat in the incentive-based Strides program. Participating farmers get financial compensation for the management changes they undertake on that habitat to help protect the species. Wood Turtle Strides is a partnership with NSFA and Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The cover slide of my Energy Impacts presentation, a synthesis of landscape work on several fronts.
The last two days I spent at the gigantic Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio (it has it’s own traffic radio station), in a gaggle of energy impacts social scientists. The Energy Impacts Symposium was a product of a US NSF Research Coordination grant co-held by Jeffrey Jacquet (OSU) and Julia Haggerty (MSU). The event brought together some great keynotes on energy issues, including Benjamin Sovacool on energy justice, Monica Ehrman on energy realism, and Janet Stephenson on long-term shifts in energy cultures. Despite the heavy and understandable focus on the US shale experience, given what Stephenson described as the American “state of siege” by that fuel, the commonwealth made a strong showing. In addition to Stephenson, from New Zealand (and Ehrman, a Canadian living in the US), there was a strong contingent of Australian, UK and Canadian academics across all stages. It was a great opportunity to catch up with friends like Tom Measham and expand networks in those of us working under Westminster settings, that (thankfully) results in very different outcomes in governance and on the ground.
The engagement with scholars across career levels was very strong thanks in part to a competitive ‘Symposium Fellow’ program. A number of ‘Fellows’ were Commonwealth: Bec Colvin (ANU, my alma mater), who gave a fantastic talk on social rifts as a result of wind energy consultation in King Island, Nichole Dusyk, working across hydro and pipelines in postdoctoral work at SFU, and Eryn Fitzgerald (UVic) who as a Masters student among PhD and postdocs won second on the poster award for her work on indigenous hydro in BC. Leah Stokes (originally Canadian, now UCSB) gave a great talk on the degree of public backlash from wind projects. This is not to slight the Americans, of course. I saw a great presentation by Weston Eaton (Penn State) on biomass crops, and Julia Haggerty on ‘social license to exit’, as well as super posters by scholars such as Kristin Smith (MSU), Chris Podeski (Bloomsburg U of Penn), Meryl Gardner (Delaware) and the talented Anne Junod (OSU). Such riches of relevant research solidifies for me the value of prioritizing the attendance of problem-based, rather than disciplinary, meetings.
I was honored to receive a travel award to attend this event on the strength of my submitted abstract, Toward a non-equilibrium model of change in cultural landscapes. I was also grateful that the funding gave me a hard deadline for doing this planned synthesis around landscape emerging from SSHRC-funded work on energy (hydro and dam removal, renewable transitions) and agricultural dykelands. This presentation will now be converted to a chapter for a collected volume being co-edited by the conference steering committee this fall.
Sitting in Steve-o-Reno’s before last week’s holiday, over a coffee, I overheard an elderly woman describing her quest to eliminate coyotes on her farm. She worried for her grand-daughter after seeing six after the family dog. Her son told her she could only shoot one. First she soaked sponges in something delicious, hoping eating the sponges would make them sick. Coyotes stuck around. Then she smashed wine bottles to powder and made meatballs with the shards. That worked. Horrifying to hear, but an important reminder of challenges to biodiversity on farms. Threatening species often inspire responses that are disproportionate to the financial risks they represent; damaging species are the opposite.
I can sometimes be naive in how I engage with conservation stakeholder groups like farmers and anglers. I say to my collaborators, “I think most people want to know how to be ‘good'”. I encourage biologists to bring stakeholders into conservation discussions as experts and stewards. To assume the best rather than the worst. But it doesn’t always work. A survey we had in the field with anglers about shorebird conservation recently was trolled on Facebook by the head of an NB fishing group. He was discouraging anglers from participating in this research, because despite our collaborative intentions, the resulting paper may be used by others to refuse them access to beaches. It is disappointing to see that science is perceived as a threat.
It is perhaps characteristic of such groups to default to the most conservative mindset among their membership, leading from behind rather than out front. I found this interesting in the context of producer organizations. In research last year we found that Alberta groups with farmers as members (as opposed to their umbrella national organizations, often with organizations as members) tended to talk about weather instead of acknowledging climate change. It is not always this way, though. The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, a frequent collaborator has been a strong advocate of “mainstreaming” biodiversity-friendly farming, as evident through their partnership on Wood Turtle Strides.
Guest post by Simon Greenland-Smith, Wood Turtle Strides project manager and MES alum 2014
An elusive wood turtle found is a good day (photo: Simon Greenland-Smith)
Working with species at risk almost never provides instant gratification. Wood Turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) are a long-lived, slow-to-mature species that have a bad habit of getting struck by farm equipment, often not making it to reproductive age. This has led to a steady decline in their populations in Nova Scotia and beyond. The same traits make their recovery a particular challenge.
Since August 2016, a collaborative team (Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, Environment and Climate Change Canada and many other organizations) has been working on a novel approach to Wood Turtle conservation in Nova Scotia. Wood Turtle Strides is a program design to encourage farmers to sign stewardship agreements and implement Beneficial Management Practices that will help avoid striking and killing Wood Turtles. Uniquely, Wood Turtle Strides offers financial incentives to farmers that are designed to help farmers meet their production goals while also meeting their conservation goals. Time after time through surveys, interviews and other social science methods, we have learned that both these goals are important to farmers and striking a balance between them is a concept that resonates strongly with farmers. For instance, farmers can receive ‘per-hectare incentives’ to raise their mower blades above the maximum height of the turtles, increasing their chances of survival to reproductive age. Currently, Wood Turtle Strides has 7-9 enrolled farmers, but we are hoping to attract around 30 farms and sign incentive-based stewardship agreements worth over $100K (CAD).
Wood Turtles live a slow life, and working toward their conservation can be equally slow, but finding Wood Turtles alive and well in the wild can be particularly rewarding. It certainly keeps the energy high among the Wood Turtle Strides team!
For more info on Wood Turtle Strides visit farmbiodiversity.ca/strides. Also, keep an eye out for our new Wood Turtle animated video which will be available (along with two other great animations on biodiversity-friendly farming) on our extension YouTube channel (Kate says, “we have a YouTube channel?”).