Revaluing ecosystems – topics to discuss

Jenni has given me the task (as this theme’s convener) of shaping the questions, topics and case studies that we’ll tackle in our session. I’d like to get some discussion going with our group on this theme before we meet in Italy (if you have time).

I’ll go first.

I’ve been following the general blog discussion and I appreciate the focus on research and practice related to “insider” strategies for policy change. These are really important. My own passions lie more in research and practice related to “outsider” strategies – community scientific literacy to inform advocacy (see Bruce’s blog post); and constituency building through evidence-based advocacy that does not lead to further polarization on issues etc.

Those working in the environmental science area know that scientific endeavours cannot be uncoupled from political dimensions (e.g. conservation science). And while science communication is useful for addressing problems in context, we still grapple with what to do when the context is the problem.

I was pleased to see examples where the Rockefeller Foundation is working with groups like the Nature Conservancy. I was also pleased to see a bit of futuring work on challenges and opportunities that speaks to the need for science communicators at various structural and geographical levels—and moves beyond economic considerations (see

• Decreasing poverty combined with increasing urbanization
• Increasing eco-system shocks that will drive greater human awareness
• Innovations in corporate reporting that increasingly account for the value of natural resources
• Data-empowered decision making and communication that dramatically increases our ability to monitor, understand and strategize human interactions with ecosystems
• Local, decentralized innovation in the absence of global action

I’d be keen to discuss the roles for science communicators in supporting better evidence-based community advocacy. This carries with it some of the broader discussion around the normative (what it should be) and analytic/descriptive (what it is) functions of science communication that Brian and Joan have already raised in articles submitted to this blog.

In terms of topics, some of the top priorities for the Rockefeller Foundation are:
• building resiliency in communities for more effective responses to extreme weather events
• better integrating urban growth into ecosystems
• balancing food security with ecosystem services in marine environments
• supporting decentralized renewable energy development

Would you like to focus on any of these topics in particular during the session? Are there others that interest you for bringing together science communication research and practice?


2 thoughts on “Revaluing ecosystems – topics to discuss”

  1. Great start, Michelle.

    I think there are likely to be lots of examples in “citizen science,” especially environmental monitoring, where practice of science communication, practice of scientific research, research about practice of scientific research through practice of science communication, etc., all get tangled up in thinking about resiliency.

    I’ve put two well-known examples from the US below, but I’d be glad for us to identify a broader range of projects and related resiliencies.

    Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS)
    Goal is to identify IMMEDIATE, localized threats by having a wider distribution of precipitation reports than official monitoring can provide. Contributes to community resiliency.

    Seeking to support longterm conservation of marine environments, through research, education, and partnerships with scientific community

    A third area of resiliency is water quality, often the focus on citizen science groups. Those groups raise the issue, inspired by Cary Funk’s post on livelihoods, of equity — who gets to decide what counts as “resilient”? A recent paper by STS scholar Abby Kinchy looks at the ways that citizen science can either reinforce or challenge existing science/society relationships. A summary of her article is at, and the full paper is available at

    1. Thanks Bruce. These are some great examples to draw on. And I really appreciate the focus on community resiliency and citizen science. I’m seeing overlap between this theme and the discussion thread on science communication and policymaking so community resiliency gives us another lens on revaluing ecosystems. What do others think?

      When I signed up for this theme, I was thinking along the lines of revaluing ecosystems in terms of their intrinsic, social and cultural value. We know that new evidence from environmental monitoring can antagonize powerful economic interests because of possible policy implications related to how particular ecosystems are valued. And scientists who advocate for “unpopular” policy decisions can experience reduced credibility under particular circumstances (see Kotcher et al. – The rise of corporate PR also poses significant challenges for a number of communication efforts; some, like Josh Greenberg et al. ( see greater hope coming from the work of NGOs rather than scientists/science communicators/institutions. But NGOs can rely on scientific evidence and scientific interpretation, and the symbolic legitimacy that science offers their communication.

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