European travels

Bye bye Aussie summer ... Hello Helsinki

Bye bye Aussie summer … Hello Helsinki

I recently embarked on a four week-long tour of six European countries, full of workshops, talks and collaborations. The trip started with a Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) Committee for Scientific Standards meeting, where 25 experts on ecosystems, risk assessment and remote sensing discussed the challenges and solutions for the application of the RLE criteria. Over three days, we covered topics ranging from building a global ecosystem typology, identifying new datasets for RLE assessments, to refurbishing the IUCN Threats classification. I believe we made a lot of progress, and the RLE Guidelines are set to be published by mid-2015! During our week in Helsinki we also had a one day workshop on red listing Finnish ecosystems (we learnt a lot about mires), and a further workshop on setting up an Arctic/Boreal thematic group. Having never attended a thematic group meeting before, it was extremely interesting to witness the different steps involved in setting up working plans and large-scale assessments. The IUCN CEM members were very enthusiastic and proactive, so we will hopefully be able to add Arctic/Boreal ecosystems to our increasing list of assessments.

IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Committee for Scientific Standards - blinded by the Nordic sun

IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Committee for Scientific Standards – blinded by the Nordic sun

After a brief week end in Stockholm I visited the Max Planck Institute for Biodemography in Odense, Denmark. The group is mostly formed of human demographers, and I had the pleasure to attend the lab’s morning presentations. Knowing very little about human demography, I was surprised by the abundance of data on human mortality and causes of death (something biologists can only dream of!), and the complexity of human demography models. The graphs reminded me of paleontological reconstruction graphs, which almost require an entire degree to get to grips with. We then got to work on DISKo (Demographic Index of Species Knowledge), and index which quantifies the amount of demographic information for the world’s vertebrates.

Next stop was Switzerland, with a visit to IUCN Headquarters in Gland. I had not set foot in IUCN since 2009, when I completed a summer internship in the Species Programme. I met with a few staff members and explored the relationship between RLE and IUCN programmes, such as Conservation Economics, Global Policy and Climate Change Adaptation. Given that I haven’t focused much on the applications of RLE, it was great to learn more about the intended uses for the ecosystem assessments. I also gave a talk on the scientific foundations of RLE – focusing on how to define ecosystem collapse. During question time we discussed the relationship between RLE and the Red List of Threatened Species, and how these two products can complement each other – something we are all very excited about.


Final stop was England. I gave a talk at University College London and a talk at UNEP-WCMC in Cambridge. I received a lot of interesting feedback and spiny questions – How does the RLE treat urban and modified areas? Does the RLE reflect a perception of nature without people? How will the RLE link with ecosystem services and climate adaptation? The questions asked in the two environments differed drastically – from science to applied conservation policy – and stretched me at times. Working at the science-policy interface has its challenges, as it can be difficult to satisfy queries from both spheres simultaneously. Overall, giving these talks enabled me to consider the project from different angles, and take into account the future uses of RLE into my current work.

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Böhm, M., Williams, R., Bramhall, H., McMillan, K., Davidson, A., Garcia, A, Bland, L. M., Bielby, J., Purvis, A. and Collen. B. The correlates of extinction risk in reptiles: the relative importance of biology, geography and threat (submitted).

Bland, L. M., Collen, B., Orme, C. D. L. and Bielby, J. Known unknowns: global patterns of conservation knowledge deficiency (submitted).

Bland, L. M., Collen, B., Nicholson, E., Orme, C. D. L., Bielby, J, and Mc Carthy, M. Cost-effective assessment of extinction risk with limited information, Journal of Applied Ecology (in revision).

Rodríguez, J. P., Keith, D. A., Rodríguez-Clark, K. A., Murray, N. J., Nicholson, E., Regan, T. J., Miller, R. M., Barrow, E. G., Boe, K., Brooks, T. M., Oliveira-Miranda, M. A., Spalding, M., Bland, M., and Wit, P. A practical guide to the application of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems criteria, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Series B, 1662.

Bland, L. M., Collen, B., Orme, C. D. L. and Bielby, J. (2014) Predicting the conservation status of Data Deficient species, Conservation Biology (early view).

Bland, L. M., Collen, B., Orme, C. D. L. and Bielby, J. (2012) Data uncertainty and the selectivity of extinction risk in freshwater invertebrates, Diversity & Distributions 18(12) 1211-1220.

Bland, L. M. (2006) My donkey (Mon ane), Vigot Editions, Paris, France, 126 p.

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New issue of Phil Trans

This monday a new issue of Phil Trans was published, which might mean my favourite papers of the year by my favourite people have already been published (and it’s only the 5th of January!).

First of all, A practical guide to the application of the Red List of Ecosystems criteria is a paper from the RLE team (incl. myself) expanding on the PLoS paper describing the RLE criteria. So, what’s new? The paper reviews the intended application of the RLE assessment process, summarize ‘best-practice’ methods for ecosystem assessments and outline approaches to ensure operational rigour.

I enjoyed reading Richman et al.’s paper on the global conservation status of crayfish. They found 32% of crayfish to be at risk of extinction, with large geographical variation in threat drivers. The majority of threatened US and Mexican species face threats associated with urban development, pollution, and water management. On the other hand, the majority of Australian threatened species are affected by climate change, harvesting, agriculture and invasive species. Congratulations to Nadia for seeing this project through!!

Distribution of: (a) all crayfish species; (b) (c) threatened species; (d) (e) data-deficient species. Linked from Royal Society Publishing.

I also enjoyed Owen et al.’s paper on the global phylogeny of crayfish. They created both a synthetic tree and a maximum likelihood dated phylogeny (with fewer nodes). This enabled them to created EDGE and HEDGE scores for a number of crayfish species.

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New job and new paper

Many news this (new) side of the earth …

  • I have been awarded a PhD from Imperial College London in July 2014, after passing my viva with no corrections in May 2014. My thesis was entitled “Resolving the effects of Data Deficient species on the estimation of extinction risk” and comprised four data chapters. You can e-mail me to request a copy of the thesis (it’s a heavy file!).
  • I am now a Research Associate in ecosystem risk assessment at the University of Melbourne with the QAECO group. I will be creating process-based models of ecosystem collapse to inform the rules and criteria of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems. I am working with Emily Nicholson and Tracey Regan. The project is supported by an ARC Linkage Grant, and involves collaborators from UNSW, UniMelb, Deakin, IUCN, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and the Government of South Australia.
  • My new paper is out in Conservation Biology: Predicting the conservation status of Data Deficient species.Download Early View from this link or ask me for a reprint!

It's not all work ... before the move to Australia I also dropped by the Great Blue Hole in Belize

It’s not all work … before moving to Australia I also dropped by the Great Blue Hole in Belize



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Women in STEM

Women in Science Technology Engineering and Technology is a hot topic at the moment – even being covered in Animal Conservation and many blog posts. I just came across this graphic from explaining attrition in the sciences – why women drop out of the science ladder as they progress. It would be great to see it extended to postgraduate and research jobs, as female attrition reaches it peak post-PhD, allegedly due to conflicts between academic careers and child-raising. For example, around 46 % of those being awarded undergraduate science degrees in the USA are women, but this percentage drops to 39 % for masters degrees, 33 % for doctoral degrees and – at the end of the career spectrum – 6 % for full professorships. Clearly, today’s challenge is not only to get women into science, but to keep them.


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Science Uncovered

On Friday the 27th of September, the Natural History Museum London is holding a free evening where the public gets to mingle with scientists, and participate in debates and activities. I am running a debate on “Are all species equal?”, so feel free to pop in – the event runs from 16.00 pm to midnight.



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End of summer & The Nature Conservancy article

The summer has been extremely busy: coming back from Australia, attending the BES Macroecology Symposium, the International Congress for Conservation Biology and INTECOL, where you might have caught one of my talks.

The only thing to show for it is this blurb on the Brisbane Student Conference, published at the Nature Conservancy. Read Eddie Game’s article here.

I will soon be getting back to work, pushing ideas around so expect more blog posts from now on!

I am also very excited about leading a debate on the 27th of September at the Natural History Museum’s Science Uncovered, on “Are all species equal?”. Please share your thoughts and arguments, it should be a very interesting night!

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