Lynn Huntsinger and Tracy Hruska at a cafe in Reno, the biggest little city in the world
I am in Sparks, Nevada, at an invited meeting of rangeland social scientists (RSS) organized by Hailey Wilmer and Mark Brunson before the Society for Range Management meeting. I arrived in San Francisco late Friday to visit with Berkeley professor Lynn Huntsinger and her UNevada Geography professor husband Paul Starrs. The view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the harbour was stunning as the sun set, and Paul’s posole a delight. The next morning Lynn and I transected California’s many landscapes and production systems up across the snowy Sierra Nevada (and the notorious Donner Pass), with two of her Berkeley lab PhD students, Tracy Hruska and Sheila Barry.
DRI research professor Tamara Wall prepares to chair us in our RSS unconference
Both Sheila and Tracy have led papers or chapters I really like, so it was the beginning of a day full of happy name recognition. Awaiting us at the lovely Desert Research Institute where the RSS meeting was being held: thirty more people whose work I have enjoyed and cited since my Australian post-doc. Simply meeting them has made the trip worthwhile, and hearing kind words of appreciation in turn a bonus, particularly for my new commentary on standalone social science in rangelands. The meeting is following an un-conference format, which is new to me, but allowed for a very egalitarian agenda design, and productive discussions in small groups and together. I joined a group on community-building and integration, where those from a mix of career stages discussed the importance of an attractive career script for RSS practitioners, and how this nascent community could help. We’ll pick up some of the threads later today for day two of the un-meeting.
New BioLOG banner at NSFA AGM, December 2017.
Simon Greenland-Smith is representing the lab and Wood Turtle Strides today at the AGM for the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. Great to see this new banner for BioLOG in place at the trade show component, thanks to our collaborators at the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. Love the boots! The DNR’s gorgeous new Field Guide to Forest Biodiversity Stewardship are also available for pick-up.
Carolyn won’t be wielding any test tubes with us.
Great to have Carolyn Mann joining our sustainable grazing team, working remotely from Ottawa. Carolyn is finishing up her Masters at Dalhousie’s Agricultural Campus in parallel with this part time research contract. Her Masters sees her combining soil testing with farmer interviews about soil quality. She won’t be wielding any test tubes in her work with me, however. Carolyn will be launching the third stream of our Reconciling HM SSHRC project: talking to HM trainers to understand whether HM farmers are born, or made. Welcome aboard.
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.
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?”).