This past Christmas I got an awesome present – an offer to join the GCPO staff as Science Coordinator. It was an opportunity to join a great team doing great work in the service of our environment and our country. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. As with any such opportunity, it comes with great responsibility and formidable challenges. I believe my past experience has prepared me well, and I am excited about what the future holds.
For the last 5 1/2 years, I have served as the Science Coordinator for the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture (CHJV), which overlaps the GCPO LCC in the Ozark Highlands. The CHJV serves on the GCPO LCC’s Partnership Advisory Council and I served on the Adaptive Science Management Team as the bird expert for the Ozark Highlands sub-geography. I also played an active role in the Ozark Highlands Comprehensive Conservation Strategy (CCS) project, which the Steering Committee recently approved as the template for a Landscape Conservation Design for the GCPO.
The duties of a Joint Venture Science Coordinator are very similar to those of an LCC Science Coordinator. With the CHJV I was responsible for developing and improving the scientific foundation of the JV’s conservation work. I chaired the Upland and Wetland Science Teams and coordinated research projects with university cooperators. I also represented the CHJV on regional and national committees that help coordinate and advance bird conservation, including the Partners in Flight International Science Committee (PIF SCI), the North American Waterfowl Management Plan’s Science Support Team (NSST), the Tri-Initiative Science Team (TriST), the Northern Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC), and the Midwest Coordinated Bird Monitoring Partnership. During my time with the CHJV we developed habitat models and other decision support tools. Then we tied them together in a framework that allowed us to provide guidance to our partners on how much habitat we needed where, but also allowed them to assess the inherent tradeoffs among species (e.g. how might forest interior birds respond to savanna/woodland management?).
Although many of my duties as LCC Science Coordinator will be familiar, I am excited about the learning opportunities that will come with this new position. New species, habitats, and partners will add to the excitement of serving in this position. But don’t think of me as just a “bird guy”; I have a broad background of education and experience to serve as a foundation for entering these new territories. Prior to my work with the CHJV, I worked for the University of Missouri developing water quality models in agricultural systems and received my PhD from Mizzou studying wildlife (birds and small mammals) response to filter strips (Conservation Reserve Program practice CP21). I received my Master’s Degree from the Cooperative Wildlife Research Lab at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, where I worked on assessing river otter habitat quality as part of their reintroduction program. I’ve also worked as a technician on research projects studying river otters, salamanders, bats, and small mammals, as well as birds.
As your Science Coordinator, I have two primary goals. First, I want the conservation community to recognize us for providing useful products. That will entail developing science products and tools that directly inform the conservation and management decisions made by our partners. Second, I want the scientific community to recognize us for the innovation and rigor of our work.
My initial focus as Science Coordinator will be developing the Comprehensive Conservation Strategy (a.k.a. Landscape Conservation Design) for the GCPO. Although the Ozark Highlands CCS provided a good framework for approaching a comprehensive strategy, changes will need to be made to adapt it to the needs of the LCC. Part of that adaptation process will involve linking the strategy to the Integrated Science Agenda, the Ecological Assessments, and all the other great research and projects this LCC has undertaken. I look forward to working with current staff, our new editions Dennis Figg and Cynthia Edwards, and all of you to make that happen. It is going to take input from all of us to develop a useful, and ultimately successful, strategy. It will be a process of learning and discovery. I hope you will join me in making the GCPO region a place where critters thrive.
D. Todd Jones-Farrand,
573-875-5341 ext. 226