Improving the probability that small-scale science will benefit conservation

A 2021 article in the journal Conservation Science and Practice analyzes the conservation benefits of small-scale, competitively funded scientific research in the Salish Sea. The findings show that collaboration, networking, and stakeholder engagement before, during and after the research are key factors.

Two people carry a creosote-treated log on beach with calm water in the background.
Crews from Washington Conservation Corps remove creosote-treated wood debris from Odlin County Park on San Juan Island, Washington. Photo: Lisa Kaufman, DNR (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


The foundational objective of conservation science is to maximize benefits to people and to biodiversity, but ensuring research translates into conservation action is not straightforward. We, retrospectively, evaluated nearly 20 years of small-scale, competitively funded research to identify parameters most closely associated with science that produced conservation benefits. All projects were funded to help improve the health of marine and coastal flora and fauna within the Salish Sea but only 40% resulted in a positive conservation outcome. Analysis showed that projects that collaborated with personnel from government agencies, and prioritized networking and stakeholder engagement before, during and after the research, were more likely to result in a conservation action. Publication of a peer-reviewed article did not increase the chance of success. Credible research that includes government collaborators and prioritizes networking and stakeholder engagement increases the probability that scientific findings will inform conservation management.


LeFlore, M., Bunn, D., Sebastian, P., & Gaydos, J. K. (2021). Improving the probability that small-scale science will benefit conservation. Conservation Science and Practice, e571.

View the full paper (open access)

About the Author: 
Monica LeFlore, David Bunn, Peter Sebastian, University of California, Davis; and Joseph K. Gaydos, SeaDoc Society, Eastsound, Washington