What We Do
The Science Applications program was established for the dual purpose of addressing complex conservation challenges using a landscape conservation approach, and to help manage the organization’s science and data management needs. A central focus in the program's work is placed on distilling climate science to help natural resource managers implement climate adaptation strategies. Today, Science Applications plays a vital national leadership and coordination role in the implementation of large-scale landscape conservation. The program works with partners to promote biodiversity, climate adaptation, climate resiliency, and habitat conservation across the country, recognizing that different geographies, conservation challenges and needs require a tailored approach. Successful outcomes of the program's work can take the form of alleviating habitat stressors, and proactive and voluntary conservation actions to conserve at-risk species, often precluding the need for regulatory interventions.
Management and Conservation
The Science Applications program is the only federally funded program established to coordinate conservation planning and implementation across jurisdictions. The program works with a myriad of conservation partners across the country to develop regional conservation goals that support local collaborations and decision making. This scaled and collaborative approach to conservation stitches local conservation and planning efforts into larger landscape-scale collaboratives. Conservation at the scale that is needed in this country to meet biodiversity goals cannot rely on isolated efforts of agencies or organization. Science Applications therefore works with national and regional entities, and with local and underserved communities, to incorporate local needs into a larger conservation framework.
Science Applications also integrates with and supports other collaborative landscape efforts, such as the Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, National Fish Habitat Partnerships, and the Network for Landscape Conservation. Science Applications continues to be a unique federal program – one that is sorely needed as we work to stem the biodiversity and climate crisis.
In a review of the former LCCs completed in 2016, the National Academy of Sciences recognized that the nation needs to adopt a landscape-level approach to conservation. An understanding of landscape-level management is critical to understanding the role of Science Applications within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The landscape-level approach, also referred to as landscape-scale approach, is defined by the Department of Interior’s manual (604 DM 1, p.2) as:
...a structured and analytical method that informs resource management decisions at multiple spatial scales, typically when diverse stakeholders seek multiple social, environmental, and economic goals. Landscape-level approaches identify landscape goals and critical attributes, assess resource availability, condition, and trend, and identify explicit resource objectives at multiple scales and often across administrative boundaries and political jurisdictions. Landscape-level approaches then identify threats and/or opportunities to achieve resource management objectives and can be used to prioritize actions to best achieve such objectives.
Science Applications mission and corresponding actions are tied to the tenets of successful landscape conservation, as defined by the Department of Interior. What makes Science Applications unique is that we can activate program staff and resources around a wide range of conservation issues in a non-regulatory context. We are nimble enough to work on-the-ground, while maintaining a bird's eye view of landscape conservation efforts across the country.
Large landscape conservation efforts are often accompanied by a wide array of science needs. Science Applications works with partners to identify gaps in knowledge around shared conservation priorities, and then works collaboratively to provide technical assistance, tools, and coordination support to inform conservation strategies and management actions. Science Applications also directly supports other Service programs by providing policy, guidance, information, and tools that inform decision-making for refuge management, at-risk and endangered species management, data and evidence management, and other conservation priorities.
Climate change is a complex conservation challenge that impacts the Service’s work to conserve the country’s native animals, plants, and the places where they live. Science Applications therefore plays a multi-faceted role when it comes to responding to. Our approach to climate change is to focus on adaptation and resilience, a strategy that focuses on reducing the impacts of climate change to plants and animals. We also work on climate mitigation which are tactics that either reduce the release of carbon dioxide or increase the capture of carbon dioxide. We use and distill the best available climate science to inform management actions and develop tools that help Service employees and partners successfully implement climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. Internally, we lead the coordination of climate change work occurring across the Service’s programs.
Strategic Habitat Conservation
Strategic Habitat Conservation is an adaptive management framework the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service adopted in 2017 for making decisions about where and how to deliver habitat conservation effectively and efficiently to achieve specific biological outcomes. It is an iterative process that requires us to set explicit objectives, make strategic decisions about our actions, document and test assumptions, monitor outcomes, and continually reassess and improve our approaches—all critical steps in dealing with a range of landscape-scale resource issues.