Biodiversity or conservation planners are primarily scientists, whose main tasks are to lead the identification of biodiversity priority areas in the landscape, and the development of strategies and tools that support the conservation of such priority biodiversity areas. This latter process often involves engagement with scientists and other professionals outside of the conservation sector, e.g. policy-makers, land-use planners, environmental managers and landowners.
In order to identify biodiversity priority areas, biodiversity or conservation planners firstly need to have a well-developed sense of the landscape. For this reason, they typically come from an ecology or geography background, and have spent extensive time in the field. They need to have a good understanding of the different elements of biodiversity – species, ecosystems, ecological processes – and how these interrelate. Biodiversity planners need to understand natural systems, and also how these interact with man-made systems.
Biodiversity planning is a scientific rigorous exercise that draws very heavily on data – biodiversity planners therefore work together with biological researchers and institutions – to gather, analyse and interpret biodiversity information.
Due to the complexity of the science and amount of data that inform the process, modern biodiversity planning relies heavily on computers – to perform analyses and also to convey results. Biodiversity planners are therefore good at organising and working with large amounts of data, using database and statistical tools and software. The primary output of biodiversity planning is always spatial – meaning they are best illustrated with maps. Biodiversity planners, therefore, are skilled operators of spatial analysis software packages (e.g. to analyse satellite remote sensing images), and specifically GIS – Geographical Information Systems.
Biodiversity planners need to be able to convey this complex science, and therefore they need good report-writing skills to capture the scientific assumptions and methodology of each biodiversity planning process (i.e. in a technical report), but also for writing more accessible documents to guide the implementation of the biodiversity plan. For this reason, biodiversity planners need to work closely with the implementers of the plan, in order to understand how best to present the information.
Biodiversity plans are used by conservation agencies to inform their own conservation actions – protected area expansion; reserve management; rehabilitation or restoration, and biodiversity planning can be involved in various levels of those activities, down to developing costing models for different options, etc.
Biodiversity plans are also used to inform land-use planning and environment management. They often work with authorities such as local or provincial government, to incorporate their conservation or biodiversity plans into the broader planning of the municipality or the province, to ensure that the environment is given attention along with the development needs such as roads, housing and industry.
Biodiversity or conservation planners are likely to travel to destinations all over the country, depending on their assignment. They work in all kinds of weather conditions, depending on the location. Their work involves an interesting combination of being outside surveying the landscape and collecting or verifying data, working indoors with computers, maps and legal and policy documents, and working both on their own and in teams of other scientists, as well as with authorities.
Ardhi University, Botswana College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Chuka University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Karatina University, Kenyatta University, Kibabii University, Kitabi College of Conservation and Environmental Management, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Machakos University College, Marian University College, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Meru University of Science and Technology, Multimedia University of Kenya, National University of Lesotho, Open University of Tanzania, Pwani University College, Sokoine University of Agriculture, South Eastern Kenya University, Taita Taveta University College, Technical University of Kenya, University for Development Studies, University of Botswana, University of Cape Town, University of Eldoret, University of Johannesburg, University of Kabianga, University of Nairobi, University of Namibia, University of Pretoria, University of Stellenbosch, University of the Western Cape