April 3, 2012

Environmental report card workshop in Surfers Paradise, Australia

Sponsored by the Australian Water and Environmental Research Alliance (AWERA), a workshop on environmental report cards was held near Brisbane, Australia. This workshop focused on how environmental report cards have emerged as a technique to integrate data and provide feedback to a wide range of stakeholders as to the ecosystem health of a particular region. Workshop participants reviewed various different environmental report cards globally, including those developed in Southeast Queensland, Australia and Chesapeake Bay, USA.

AWERA workshop

AWERA workshop group in Surfers Paradise, QLD, Australia

The report card process engages scientists in the monitoring, analysis and evaluation of environmental data. The ability of environmental report cards to effectively capture the public’s attention has been demonstrated in several locations at different spatial scales. The steps in creating a reporting framework (a) conceptualization, b) choosing indicators, c) establishing metrics and thresholds, d) developing overarching indices and e) communicating results) are similar for all report cards, but there is considerable variability as to the shape and form of the final product. In addition, the manner in which the report card is delivered to government or stakeholders and the management response to the report card scores is highly variable. These two phases, 1) integration of environmental data into report cards and 2) application of report card results into policy and management responses require scientific credibility, strong science communication and a governance structure that embraces scientific results. Developing an understanding of the key features in the integration and application phases of environmental report cards will benefit practitioners attempting to develop their own report cards.

Bill Dennison, Health Kelsey and Jane Thomas from the Integration and Application Network facilitated the workshop which was organized by Eva Abal (University of Queensland) and Barry Ball (International WaterCentre). Workshop attendees included Stuart Bunn (Griffith University), Paul Greenfield, Hugh Possingham, and Jane Hunter, (University of Queensland) and Tim Carruthers (Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme). In addition, Mark Pascoe (International WaterCentre) and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (University of Queensland) served as sounding boards.

AWERA group

AWERA workshop participants - Back row: Barry Ball, Jane Hunter, Tim Carruthers, Paul Greenfield, Stuart Bunn, Hugh Possingham. Front row: Jane Thomas, Eva Abal, Bill Dennison, Heath Kelsey.

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About the author
Dr Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Applications at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.
Website: http://ian.umces.edu/people/Bill_Dennison/
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