Faculty Establishes Chair in Conservation

Tara Martin

Dr Tara Martin, Professor in conservation decision sci-ence in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, is the inaugural holder of the Liber Ero UBC Chair in Conservation. This new Chair is established through gener-ous support from Val and Dick Bradshaw, with matching funds from the University of British Columbia.

Tara Martin is a pioneer in the field of conservation decision science: combining predictive ecological models with decision science to inform what actions to take, where to take them, and when, in order to achieve conservation and natural resource management goals.

“My work is about the translation of data into ecological decisions,” she says. “We study the impacts of various pressures on biodiversity, then translate the data into predictive models that can assess the effectiveness of different management interventions to recover endangered species and ecosystems, including actions to adapt to climate change.”

“Right now there are over 700 species at risk in Canada, and current approaches to conservation are failing. Decision-makers are often investing in species with the lowest likelihood of recovery at the highest cost,” she says. “If we are likely to lose a species no matter how much we spend, we need to know this so we can use our resources more effectively and invest in recovering species with a greater likelihood of success.”

The new Chair in Conservation will allow Tara and her team to have consistent funding to support the work of translating data into actionable decisions. “Val and Dick Bradshaw’s financial support helped establish my position,” Tara says. “I’m very grateful to them and to UBC for allowing me to hold this Chair, which helps ensure consistent funding for our graduate students and the pioneering work we do.”

Val and Dick Bradshaw are philanthropic leaders in conservation research. In addition to the Chair in Conservation at UBC, they have established a Chair in Conservation Biology at McGill University, a Chair in Fisheries Research at University of Victoria, and a Chair in Coastal Management at Simon Fraser University. They have also established the two-year Liber Ero Postdoctoral Fellowship program that supports four conservation biologists annually.

Tara Martin was born in Canada to a Canadian mother and an Australian father, and has moved seamlessly between the two countries. She completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Australia, and received a PhD in Ecology from the University of Queensland in 2004.

She then did two years of postdoctoral research in the UBC Faculty of Forestry, after which she established the Conservation Decision Lab at the Australian national science agency CSIRO. In 2013 Dr Martin returned to Canada, and took up her position at UBC in 2018.

In 2018 Dr Martin’s research received national attention with a front-page feature article in The Globe and Mail. “That raised my profile immediately, and opened the doors to a number of important conversations about conservation in Canada at a national scale,” she says.

Priority Threat Management (PTM) is a key tool developed by Dr Martin and her colleagues. This decision tool identifies the threat management strategies that will recover the most species for the least cost, drawing on empirical data and expert knowledge of biodiversity threats, as well as the costs; feasibility; and benefits of management to species recovery.

To date, PTM has been applied to three study areas in BC, as well as regions in southwestern Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, one third of the Australian continent including the state of New South Wales, Indonesia, and Antarctica.

Dr Martin leads a team of 12 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. “The mentoring of the next generation of conservation leaders is a huge motivation for what I do,” she says. “These brilliant minds will become leading conservation researchers and practitioners at universities, conservation NGO’s, government agencies, and industry bodies.”

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