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Considering a New Paradigm for Conservation Practice and Evaluating Adaptation

Lauren E. Oakes, Conservation Scientist, Wildlife Conservation Society; Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Earth System Science, Stanford University

May 18 2020 | 11:00am to 12:00pm PST Online

Lauren Oakes stands in an archway
Lauren E. Oakes

Lauren Oakes is an inspiring scientist and author. Her innovative research provides timely insights into best practices in adaptation initiatives. This is a must-see seminar for anyone with an interest in climate-change adaptation, forests, or science communication!  
— Renee Albrecht, MESM 2020, Forest Sustainability Fellow

Forest Sustainability Fellowship Program Speaker


Scientists, foundations, communities, and governments alike recognize the need to evaluate the success of adaptation initiatives, but how best to do so remains unclear. In contrast to evaluation of climate change mitigation, which generally relies upon one indicator (i.e., the balance of greenhouse gas emissions and removals), evaluating adaptation requires considering multiple dimensions (e.g., social, ecological, and institutional) that interact across time and space. Building on insights from peer-reviewed literature and expert interviews, our research addresses this gap by first developing an evaluation framework for adaptation initiatives. We are now trialing this framework by evaluating the adaptation process and outcomes of 91 adaptation projects funded by the Climate Adaptation Fund (CAF) between 2011-2018. These projects have confronted diverse impacts from climate change, such as coastal erosion, drought, wildfire, and flooding, in a range of terrestrial, coastal, and aquatic ecosystems across 40 states and territories. I’ll discuss the first two phases of this research, focusing on: 1) assessing a paradigm shift in the field of practice—from more resistance-based strategies to transformational ones; 2) developing evaluation criteria that could be used as a tool in adaptation project design and implementation around the globe.


Lauren E. Oakes is a scientist, author, and educator. Her research focuses on the impacts of climate change to forest ecosystems, nature-based solutions, and best practices in adaptation. In addition to publishing her climate- and forest-related research in peer-reviewed journals, Lauren has contributed to media outlets such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Scientific American, CNN, and Lit Hub. She is the author of In Search of the Canary Tree, the Second-Place Winner of the 2019 Rachel Carson Environment Book Award, and a 2019 finalist for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Communication Award.