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Dr. Scott Nielsen is an assistant professor in Renewable Resources and has a doctorate in Environmental Biology and Ecology, specializing in Conservation Biology.
Dr. Nielsen’s areas of research have been in species distribution and habitat supply modelling; endangered species monitoring and management; conservation planning and reserve design; and landscape ecology.
Dr. Nielsen’s Applied Conservation Ecology Lab studies the conservation ecology of species to ecosystems with the goal of understanding the processes affecting their distribution, dynamics and interactions. They seek to apply their results to land use planning and stewardship problems in order to prioritize the conservation of species diversity and landscapes, the sustainable management of the natural capital, and the recovery of the endangered and threatened biological resources. The main research topics currently being addressed by the lab members include: Focal Species & Conservation Planning, Focal Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Conservation-based Agriculture.
Most often Dr. Nielsen’s research approach is to combine field-based studies with laboratory computer modeling and analysis (GIS, landscape simulations/scenarios, remote sensing, agent-based modeling, etc.).
Dr. Nielsen’s most recent article, Identification of Priority Areas for Grizzly Bear Conservation and Recovery in Alberta, Canada, published in the Journal of Conservation Planning Vol 5 (2009) 38 — 60. In Alberta, Canada, high rates of human-caused mortality threaten the long-term persistence of grizzly bears. To reduce this threat, the provincial grizzly bear recovery team suggested that core conservation areas of at least 2,400 km2 be delineated for each of seven population units where open access road density is limited to 0.6 km/km2 and buffered by secondary conservation areas where road density is limited to 1.2 km/km2. Dr. Nielsen’s research used a habitat model based on 81 radio collared grizzly bears and a road network to identify core conservation areas for six population units. Final conservation areas identified in Alberta’s Foothills included 33,364 km2 of core habitat and 23,224 km2 of secondary buffer habitat. The effectiveness of these conservation areas for providing habitat for grizzly bears was evaluated by comparing grizzly bear detections (occupancy) in these proposed conservation areas to existing protected areas at 2,295 hair-snag sites. Grizzly bear occupancy in final core areas did not differ significantly from protected areas, while occupancy was 4 to 6 times lower in secondary conservation areas. The research suggests that road densities be limited in these conservation areas and that effectiveness monitoring and adaptive management be used to adjust future management strategies and locations of core area boundaries.