The Conservation Planning Group Applied conservation research

The Conservation Planning Group

Heather Welch

Research Associate
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
University of California Santa Cruz
 
MSc (Marine Biology)
School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University
B.A. (Biology-Environmental Studies), Whitman College
Email: heather.welch@my.jcu.edu.au
heather.welch@noaa.gov
Heather

 

Research Interests:

I explore methods to incorporate dynamic processes into reserve design. Many reserve systems currently in place incorporated static patterns of biodiversity during the design process. This is inherently problematic: patterns of biodiversity fluctuate across space and time, and reserves systems that do not consider these dynamics risk becoming outdated and ineffective. For example, reserves designed to incorporate species’ movements over time are more likely to offer long-term protection than reserves designed to incorporate species occurrences at one point in time.

One of the barriers to conservation planning for dynamic processes is the definition of useful surrogates that reflect processes’ spatial dimensions and requirements for management. My research focuses on the integration of GIS and remote sensing products to define surrogates that retain information on spatial and temporal variability. I use time-series of remotely sensed variables – or derived products such as species distribution models – to quantify how features move over space and time.These time-series analyses give insight into trends in the near-future, and allow for management decisions informed by the ways in which a changing climate affects resources of conservation interest.

Collaborators:

Bob Pressey (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)

Scott Heron (NOAA Coral Reef Watch; Marine Geophysical Laboratory, JCU)

Dani Ceccarelli (Marine Ecology Consultant)

Alistair Hobday (CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere)

Steve Schill (TNC, Brigham Young University)

Ben Kilham (Black Bear Ecologist)

Outputs:

Welch H, Pressey RL, Heron SF, Ceccarelli D, Hobday AJ. Regimes of chlorophyll-a in the Coral Sea: implications for evaluating adequacy of marine protected areas. Ecography. doi: 10.1111/ecog.01450

Welch H. 2016. Three ways to improve U.S. marine protected areas. PLOS Blogs.

GIS and remote sensing lab: Analyzing historical chlorophyll-a trends in the Caribbean (click here for accompanying data)

Species seasonal movements in the Mid-Atlantic, USA

 

The Northeast Atlantic Seafloor

Stylized map of the Northeast Atlantic Seafloor.

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 3.02.13 PM
Regimes of chlorophyll a in the Coral Sea. Regimes are groups of pixels with similar chlorophyll a characteristics both within- and between-years. The regimes serve as surrogates for aggregations of species of conservation interest and can aid the spatial management of pelagic waters.

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 3.06.45 PM
Quantifying patterns of chlorophyll a in the Caribbean to identify priorities for management.

 

bearHeatmap of 2012 movement density for female black bear “Pout” (Ursus americanus) in Grafton County, NH, USA

 

cube surface

Exaggerated multibeam CUBE surface showing fine-scale bathymetry near Seattle, WA, USA

Chartlet_Template_Portrait_atsea

Backscatter survey tracks measuring seafloor hardness for inclusion in benthic habitat classifications, New Jersey state waters, USA

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About Us
We are a multidisciplinary group of researchers at James Cook University, interested in all aspects of conservation planning and led by Prof. Bob Pressey. We are based at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, the College of Marine & Environmental Sciences, the College of Business, Law & Governance, and the Cairns Institute. We collaborate widely with conservation biologists and practitioners worldwide. 

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