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Finding a PATH toward Scientific Collaboration: Insights from the Columbia River Basin

David Marmorek, ESSA Technologies Ltd.
Calvin Peters, ESSA Technologies Ltd.

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Abstract

Observed declines in the Snake River basin salmon stocks, listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), have been attributed to multiple causes: the hydrosystem, hatcheries, habitat, harvest, and ocean climate. Conflicting and competing analyses by different agencies led the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in 1995 to create the Plan for Analyzing and Testing Hypotheses (PATH), a collaborative interagency analytical process. PATH included about 30 fisheries scientists from a dozen agencies, as well as independent participating scientists and a technical facilitation team. PATH had some successes and some failures in meeting its objectives. Some key lessons learned from these successes and failures were to: (1) build trust through independent technical facilitation and multiple levels of peer review (agency scientists, independent participating scientists and an external Scientific Review Panel); (2) clarify critical uncertainties by developing common data sets, detailed sensitivity analyses, and thorough retrospective analyses of the weight of evidence for key alternative hypotheses; (3) clarify advice to decision makers by using an integrated life cycle model and decision analysis framework to evaluate the robustness of potential recovery actions under alternative states of nature; (4) involve key senior scientists with access to decision makers; (5) work closely with policy makers to clearly communicate analyses in nontechnical terms and provide input into the creation of management alternatives; and (6) recognize the trade-off between collaboration and timely completion of assignments.

Key words

adaptive management, analytical framework, collaborative process, Columbia River, decision analysis, endangered species, hydrosystem, multi-agency research, salmon management, Snake River
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087