Bridging the research-implementation gap in avian conservation with translational ecology

Sarah P. Saunders, Joanna X. Wu, Elizabeth A. Gow, Evan Adams, Brooke L. Bateman, Trina Bayard, Stephanie Beilke, Ashley A. Dayer, Auriel M.V. Fournier, Kara Fox, Patricia Heglund, Susannah B. Lerman, Nicole L. Michel, Eben H. Paxton, Çaǧan H. Şekercioǧlu, Melanie A. Smith, Wayne Thogmartin, Mark S. Woodrey, Charles Van Riper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The recognized gap between research and implementation in avian conservation can be overcome with translational ecology, an intentional approach in which science producers and users from multiple disciplines work collaboratively to co-develop and deliver ecological research that addresses management and conservation issues. Avian conservation naturally lends itself to translational ecology because birds are well studied, typically widespread, often exhibit migratory behaviors transcending geopolitical boundaries, and necessitate coordinated conservation efforts to accommodate resource and habitat needs across the full annual cycle. In this perspective, we highlight several case studies from bird conservation practitioners and the ornithological and conservation social sciences exemplifying the 6 core translational ecology principles introduced in previous studies: collaboration, engagement, commitment, communication, process, and decision-framing. We demonstrate that following translational approaches can lead to improved conservation decision-making and delivery of outcomes via co-development of research and products that are accessible to broader audiences and applicable to specific management decisions (e.g., policy briefs and decision-support tools). We also identify key challenges faced during scientific producer-user engagement, potential tactics for overcoming these challenges, and lessons learned for overcoming the research-implementation gap. Finally, we recommend strategies for building a stronger translational ecology culture to further improve the integration of these principles into avian conservation decisions. By embracing translational ecology, avian conservationists and ornithologists can be well positioned to ensure that future management decisions are scientifically informed and that scientific research is sufficiently relevant to managers. Ultimately, such teamwork can help close the research-implementation gap in the conservation sciences during a time when environmental issues are threatening avian communities and their habitats at exceptional rates and at broadening spatial scales worldwide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberduab018
JournalOrnithological Applications
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021


  • brecha entre conocimiento y acción
  • co-production
  • hacedor de ciencia
  • knowing-doing gap
  • ornithology
  • ornitología
  • producción conjunta
  • science producer
  • science user
  • usuario de ciencia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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