Mobilizing Adaptation Knowledge Among Professional Biologists in Western Canada

Professional Biologists and Biology Technologists in western Canada have a unique role in preparing for the impacts of climate change. Recognizing this important role, the College of Applied Biology (the College) and the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists (ASPB) supported deepening engagement around climate adaptation among its members through this research.

Project Details

British Columbia and Alberta, Canada (CAB Head Office in Victoria, BC; N 48° 38′ 49”, W 123° 25′ 37”)
The College of Applied Biology
2015 – 2016
Team Member(s):
Marc Nelitz, Jimena Eyzaguirre, Patricia De La Cueva Bueno and Natascia Tamburello
Practice Area(s):
Climate Change Adaptation
Services Employed:
Facilitation & Stakeholder Engagement, Decision Support & Trade-off Evaluation, Science Communication & Knowledge Synthesis

The Problem We Aimed to Solve

Professional Biologists and Biology Technologists in western Canada have a unique role in preparing for the impacts of climate change. These professionals perform several functions within which they may be able to consider the effects of a changing climate, including environmental assessment, ecosystem restoration, natural resource, wildlife and fisheries management, as well as conservation planning, among other practice areas.

How We Helped

This research was aimed at increasing the uptake of existing adaptation knowledge among professional biologists in western Canada to strengthen their roles and functions and better prepare them for the impacts of climate change in their work. To achieve this aim, the project involved three phases of work: (1) characterizing biologists’ needs, perceptions of climate impacts, and experience in adaptation through a survey of registered biologists in western Canada; (2) developing an inventory of adaptation knowledge generated by others; and (3) preparing written guidance to highlight how relevant adaptation knowledge could be accessed by biologists for varied purposes.

Our Project’s Impact

The survey was completed by 580 biologists. An analysis revealed four types of respondents, largely aligning along a spectrum of motivation and belief about the underlying cause of climate change. Biologists described 552 individual situations within which they would or could consider the impacts of climate change. An analysis of these situations revealed a narrower set of impact themes, natural resource clusters, and sector groupings. These factors were used to further simplify the full range of situations into a narrower set of eight generalized scenarios that broadly represent the diversity of situations described by respondents. The survey also explored the strength with which external, internal organizational, and personal barriers might inhibit the ability of biologists to consider the impacts of climate change in their work.

An inventory of adaptation knowledge products and resources was also developed to provide biologists with a summary of existing adaptation tools, data, and information that could be used to address adaptation needs in their day-to-day practice. The inventory includes 145 entries. Resources were categorized using the generalized scenarios developed from the survey results.

Lastly, this research revealed five key findings that have implications on the future activities of professional organizations and how biologists can be supported to improve the practice of climate adaptation in their day-to-day work.