Tips for acoustic scientists on exploiting the gold mine: integrated ecosystem assessments

Acoustic science for assessing the ecosystem and managing human pressures is the topic on the final day of the ICES symposium on “Marine Ecosystem Acoustics – observing the ocean interior in support of integrated management” (SOMEACOUSTICS).
Published: 28 May 2015

​​​​​​​​​​Mark Dickey-Collas, the ICES Ecosystem Approach Coordinator, gave the final keynote address, explaining what acoustic scientists could offer integrated ecosystem assessments (IEAs) and how they could best contribute to the process. .

In his "gold mine" themed presentation, framed around the ideas of knowledge, expertise, and process change, Dickey-Collas set the scene by discussing the principles of the ecosystem approach and how IEAs could be one way to make this approach operational. He highlighted that any IEA needs to set its bounds in terms of the scope and dimensions of the activity. This bounding of IEA objectives should enable progress. In other words, the objectives should be achievable.

Acoustic scientists produce a huge amount of information which needs to be transformed into knowledge.​ Transferring this knowledge into th​e management context can be a challenge. Fisheries scientists are accustomed to using biomass time-series  from acoustic surveys, but there are many other applications of acoustic research, such as distribution and behaviour of organisms, seabed and habitat assessments, and physical and topographical features assessments. IEAs are not about knowledge for knowledge sake, but the provision of joined-up evidence to address society's need to manage anthropogenic pressures on the marine ecosystem. Dickey-Collas provided examples of such transfer. Many of the researchers present already worked closely with fishers or mariners, so Dickey-Collas's comment that co-production of knowledge was important, was well received.

The expertise in the room  centred on acoustic science and Dickey-Collas pinpointed various skills, common at the symposium, that are needed to improve IEA approaches. These include expertise in combining data from different sources and with differing veracity, and in addressing the issues of variability in space, time, species interactions, and accounting for behaviour within an analysis. Symposium participants have proven track records of integrating new technologies into their research and looking for pragmatic solutions to monitoring.

The lecture ended on process change, with Dickey-Collas  suggesting that researchers keen to contribute to IEAs further develop methods that carry out science with stakeholders. They should build a common language which crosses research disciplines and practice turning complex ecosystem understanding into simple messages. The provision of knowledge alone does not solve the challenges that IEAs face and IEAs could be perceived as "wicked problems".

Dickey-Collas'  presentation is available to view on Slideshare.  ​

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Tips for acoustic scientists on exploiting the gold mine: integrated ecosystem assessments

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