Date of Award

8-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Major Professor

Paul R. Armsworth

Committee Members

Christopher Clark, Louis Gross, Nathan Sanders

Abstract

As a science and practice dedicated to preventing, stopping, and reversing negative effects on nature, conservation is constantly faced with new challenges. Combine this fact with the rise of large, freely available datasets and computational power, and the result is a need to advance the methods and conceptual approach to conservation planning. In my dissertation I present novel methods and address research questions that aim to keep conservation science and practice relevant and effective in a changing world. This picture of continual change is illustrated in Chapter 1, in which I explore how the ongoing collection of observations of rare species changes spatial conservation priorities. I find that even after a century of data collection, new records do and will continue to significantly affect spatial priorities. I then moved to consider a new threat: the environmental impacts from shale gas surface infrastructure. I focus on how those environmental impacts may be partially abated by changing the locations of infrastructure. In Chapter 2 I assess the relative performance of simple guidelines for placing well pads, access roads, and gathering pipelines for shale gas development. I find that while targeted guidelines can be effective, none are universally so. In Chapter 3, I examine the site-level tradeoffs between reducing environmental impacts and increased construction costs for shale gas surface infrastructure. I find notable heterogeneity among sites in both the degree to which impacts can be reduced and the relative cost of doing so. Finally in Chapter 4, I evaluate the cost effectiveness of different regulations for reducing aggregate impacts from surface infrastructure across sites and find large gains from trade when implementing a cap and trade system. Overall, my dissertation facilitates a transition of knowledge for conservation planning to be able to better adapt to and cope with the changing world.

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