Specialty Group: Conservation Analytics


The conservation analytics group explores issues related to using biodiversity data to guide conservation planning. In many ways this research is the place in which the cumulative efforts of our other lab groups come together, synthesizing the contributions of taxon experts, modelers, data specialists and informaticians into data products that facilitate the taxonomic and geographic identification of conservation priorities.

Spatial conservation planning describes the process of converting spatial data into a mathematical problem, using an optimization algorithm to solve this problem, and then translating the solution back into a spatial conservation network. When used effectively, these networks adhere to the core principles of conservation planning: comprehensive, adequate, representative, efficient solutions.

Spatial conservation planning is a powerful tool for identifying how much protection is needed and where, but there is a monumental difference between identifying a mathematically optimal solution and turning that solution into action through real-world conservation policies and resource management. This process is slow and messy (in the best of times) due to the myriad additional considerations that may not have been accounted for in the modeling process, such as budgets, time horizons, conflicts with existing policies, and competing sociopolitical interests. Consequently, there is no guarantee that any path committed to now would accomplish the same goals a decade or two later. To complement spatial planning, we also explore the use of biodiversity indicators — measurements derived from biodiversity data that enable us to study, report, and manage biodiversity change — to track conservation progress through time and a changing landscape.

Effective global conservation strategies will necessarily comprise a multitude of approaches and strategies uniquely tailored to the needs of different people, landscapes, activities, and interests. To this end, our group also explores issues surrounding conservation justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

Core members:

Scott Rinnan, Alexander Killion, Yanina Sica, Charles Marsh

Guest members:

Kevin Winner, Emily Sandall, Aurore Maureaud, Stefan Pinkert, Jennifer McGowan


Conservation prioritization:
- global, terrestrial (Scott + Yani)
- global, marine (Scott + Jen)
- North America, terrestrial (Alex)

Biodiversity indicators:
- Species Protection Index (Scott + Jen)
- Species Habitat Index (Yani + Scott)

Half-Earth Project – Scott


Jetz W, McGowan J, Rinnan DS, Possingham, HP, Visconti P, O’Donnell B, & Londoño-Murcia MC. Measure and support area-based conservation for global biodiversity outcomes. In review.

Rinnan DS, Vega GC, Casal E, Williams C, Heltne C, & Johnson J. (2021). Mapping Half-Earth. In “GIS for
Science, Vol. 3”, Esri Press, Redlands, CA.

Jung M, …, Jetz W, Rinnan DS, McGowan J, …, & Visconti P. (2021). Areas of global importance for conserving terrestrial biodiversity, carbon and water. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 1-11.

Oliver RY, Meyer C, Ranipeta A, Winner K, & Jetz W. (2021). Global and national trends, gaps, and opportunities in documenting and monitoring species distributions. PLoS Biology, 19(8), e3001336.

Sala E, Mayorga J, Bradley D, Cabral RB, Atwood TB, Auber A, …, McGowan J, … & Lubchenco J. (2021). Protecting the global ocean for biodiversity, food and climate. Nature, 592(7854), 397-402.

Rinnan DS, Reygondeau G, McGowan J, Lam V, Sumaila R, Ranipeta A, … & Jetz W. (2021). Targeted, collaborative biodiversity conservation in the global ocean can benefit fisheries economies. bioRxiv.

Killion AK, Ramirez JM, & Carter NH. (2021). Human adaptation strategies are key to cobenefits in human–wildlife systems. Conservation Letters, 14(2), e12769.

McGowan J, Beaumont LJ, Smith RJ, Chauvenet AL, Harcourt R, Atkinson SC, … & Possingham HP. (2020). Conservation prioritization can resolve the flagship species conundrum. Nature communications, 11(1), 1-7.

Rinnan DS & Jetz W. (2020). Terrestrial conservation opportunities and inequities revealed by global multi-scale prioritization. bioRxiv.

Lawler JJ, Rinnan DS, Michalak JL, Withey JC, Randels CR, & Possingham HP. (2020). Planning for climate change through additions to a national protected area network: implications for cost and configuration. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 375(1794), 20190117.