The ECOS website has been live for a few weeks now – time to provide some additional insights into what ECOS is and aims to do.

Dr. Rob Ogden, Head of Conservation Genetics at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh has kindly answered some questions I had about ECOS. His answers made it clear that ECOS is an opportunity for all conservation stakeholders to gain from scientific research and for researchers to increase the impact their research is having. Interested in the detailed questions and answers? Please read the full interview:

Rob, why is there a need for centre of excellence for applied conservation science in Edinburgh?

There are two main reasons: helping conservation scientists to apply their research and making scientific research easily accessible to all conservationists.

Much conservation research is publicly funded and its outcomes are supposed to be used for the benefit of society. To be able to do that, conservation scientists need to be able to apply their research, but that is often easier said than done. ECOS can provide the necessary network and contacts to get research out into the world.

On the other hand, many conservation practitioners still find it difficult to make best use of the scientific data available to inform management policies and practice. By providing conservation science as a service, not an academic exercise, ECOS aims to improve the accessibility of scientific information.

Why is it necessary to bring different conservation organisations together under an umbrella such as ECOS?

The founding members of ECOS represent a diverse array of science led organisations. Bringing this range of expertise together allows ECOS to provide conservation science services across a very wide spectrum of scientific disciplines.

Has ECOS started out of the blue or have the partners worked together before?

The partner organisations forming ECOS have worked together before on many projects. Two examples are the Scottish Wildcat conservation project and a think tank on Scottish biodiversity that considers how genetic diversity within species should be included in conservation policy.

Collaboration is clearly already happening. When did the idea to create ECOS as a constant platform start and who had the idea?

Several people came up with parallel ideas in early 2016. I was coming from a background of applied conservation genetics. I found a very like-minded partner in Anna Meredith at the University of Edinburgh who was looking for ways to expand the application of her conservation medicine work. We plotted our ideas in a diagram – as scientists do – which was taken up enthusiastically by the other partners and developed further with their input.

And so ECOS came to be. What are the main aims for the next few years?

Ultimately, we want to create a Centre of Excellence for Applied Conservation Science, providing leadership in the application of science to global challenges in conservation and ecosystem health.

To get there, we will be establishing an active forum for communicating ideas and projects about conservation science in Edinburgh and wider Scotland; we will work to ensure that ECOS develops as a centre for delivering applied conservation science nationally and internationally, we will build on the region’s existing international reputation for higher education and promote  training in conservation science and we will seek to provide a respected and coordinated body scientific opinion to inform conservation policy.

That sounds great. The idea behind ECOS is so far reaching, who is ECOS really for? Who can approach ECOS?

Conservation project leaders in need of scientific input can approach ECOS to find scientists able to provide the information and evidence they need. At the other end of the spectrum scientists who think their work could be used in applied conservation but do not have the necessary links to get it “out there” can approach us to find conservation practitioners that need exactly the expertise and information they can provide.

It sounds like many conservation researchers and practitioners could benefit by contacting and working with ECOS. Let this be my last question then for today: How would you summarise the benefits working with ECOS will have for conservation stakeholders?

ECOS will help to open your mind to new possibilities: It will provide the network necessary to fully understand conservation challenges, and it will provide the evidence to support management decisions. ECOS will provide access to good quality science and training in an approachable and inclusive manner.

Thank you, Rob!

All contact information for ECOS can be found here.

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