Proceedings of the 1998 NWQMC National Monitoring Conference

Section IV

Conference Wrap-up/Summary of Open Discussion

The final portion of the conference was a general discussion by the entire attendance, where participants were encouraged to highlight issues that had not received much attention throughout the meeting. Additionally, the session was designed to encourage feedback from participants on the structure and design of the conference. A show of hands revealed that approximately 80 percent of the audience were from federal, state, and tribal agencies. The remaining 20 were an even mixture of academia, private industry, and environmental organizations.

Two areas that were brought up as having received insufficient or only minimal airtime during the conference were tribal monitoring activities and monitoring in coastal and marine systems. Valid tribal monitoring data and interpretation results need to be given attention and integrated into broader geographic assessments. There also needs to be increased awareness of and effort in using the results from coastal and marine monitoring activities. For example, there is substantial high-quality research and monitoring that is ongoing in coral reef systems throughout national and territorial waters. Attention given these areas by the Council needs to be heightened, possibly by having designated leads appointed.

Goals were suggested for the Council. Some ideas included a public outreach goal that emphasized the usefulness of monitoring. A suggestion for a technical goal was that the Council should set up a clearinghouse for data and information. Should a clearinghouse be set up, someone or some agency needs to be responsible for creating a structure for interpretation, as noted by a conference participant.

There were advocates of volunteer monitoring who reminded the group that volunteers can collect reliable data. Volunteer programs, in many cases, need agency, or technical, support and good training. One obstacle to volunteer monitoring is resistance to incorporating volunteer-collected data into data systems.

There was discussion around the issue of how Council recommendations should be framed; that is, whether to have them strictly technically oriented or Ascience-based,@ or to make efforts to have them obviously applicable to policy and socioeconomic decisions. Both opinions were voiced, but it was generally felt that policy decisions need to be made using sound science and that reliance strictly on political needs should be minimized.

Most members of the audience felt that conferences such as this need to continue and that emphasis needs to be placed on balancing the number of sessions with opportunities for interactions, thematic presentations of information, increased discussions on sharing of information, and information formats that allow monitoring and assessment results to be used for management and policy decision making.

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