CSU Scientist Robin Reid Awarded Ecological Society of America 2012 Sustainability Science Award

More than 4,000 scientists, researchers and students are gathering in Portland this month to present and share ideas on environmental challenges and sustainability at the Ecological Society of America’s 97th Annual Meeting.

During the meeting, Colorado State University scientist Robin Reid and her co-authors will be awarded the prestigious 2012 ESA Sustainability Science Award for their collaborative paper, “Evolution of models to support community and policy action with science: Balancing pastoral livelihoods and wildlife conservation in savannas of East Africa.”

Their paper describes the revolutionary method of collaborative research and outreach they conducted in four study areas of different pastoral ecosystems East Africa. The team developed a new community-based sustainability model that integrates local knowledge and community participation with scientific data. The model makes scientific research more useful and accessible to the communities it is designed to serve.

“By creating teams of facilitators who work together with local policy makers, community members and researchers, we were able to bridge a communications gap and identify unique issues within communities,” Reid said. “The collaborative approach opened up a two-way conversation that drove our research plan and created outcomes that communities were able to better implement and benefit from. We helped them create sustainable pastoral and wildlife policies that balance the need for poverty alleviation with wildlife conservation.”

The esteemed ESA Sustainability Science Award is given annually to authors of a peer reviewed paper published in the past five years that makes the greatest contribution to the emerging science of ecosystem and regional sustainability through the integration of ecological and social sciences. The paper was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2009, and was co-authored by a collaborative team of 17 scientists. At the meeting, Reid also will present a first look at her new book, “Savannas of Our Birth,” which will be released in October and has already been selected by the UC Press Foundation to be included in this year’s Author’s Imprint.

Reid is the director of the Center for Collaborative Conservation, an initiative of Colorado State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources, and is also a Warner College alumna, professor and senior research scientist whose research is recognized around the world and was featured on 60 Minutes. She credits her paper’s ground-breaking research to her colleagues and co-authors from CSU and Harvard, and her Maasai colleagues in Kenya – without whom, the collaborative endeavor wouldn’t have been possible.

“It was groundbreaking because of them,” Reid said.

CSU’s co-authors on the paper include Kathy Galvin, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory senior research scientist and Department of Anthropology professor; Randall Boone, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory research scientist and Department of Ecosystem, Science and Sustainability associate professor; and Shauna BurnSilver, CSU alumna and senior sustainability scientist and assistant professor at Arizona State University.

“The award subcommittee found the multi-partner, multidisciplinary approach of this paper laudable, not only because the authors illustrate how important it is to tackle sustainability problems from multiple angles, but also because they show that these collaborations are possible and serve to inspire us all,” said Eleanor Sterling, ESA Sustainability Science Awards sub-committee chair. “Dr. Reid and her co-authors’ paper focuses not just on research, but on the research process itself – providing valuable and detailed insights into how ecological research can better align itself with end-goals, including conservation and poverty alleviation.”

The paper is a labor of love for Reid and the product of a multi-phased evolution of research methodology founded by her mentor, James Ellis. Starting with an endeavor to better answer the tough questions of policy makers, Reid and her peers have pushed to not only provide solution-oriented research, but to collaborate with communities throughout the research process to ensure their work is as relevant and meaningful as possible.

“It is a lot of hard work, and it isn’t the fastest or easiest way to conduct research, but the outcomes are so rewarding,” Reid said. “This award is such an honor, and I am very excited and hopeful that this recognition will raise awareness about our research and inspire continued pursuit of meaningful, collaborative sustainability research and outreach around the world.”