Sierra ISON, PhD Student in Marine Social Science and Conservation (Canada)

Sierra Ison holds a master's degree in International Marine Environmental Consultancy and is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Tasmania in the Centre for Marine Socioecology. Her research is examining how to identify conservation outcomes in complex stakeholder systems. She will be using the Northwest Shelf Flatback Turtle Conservation Program as a case study to test the use of Outcome Mapping to link marine science to action.


Research focus: marine social science, stakeholder engagement, participatory conservation

Biodiversity is declining globally at rates unrivalled in human history with severe impacts on people around the world. Loss of biodiversity is not only an environmental issue, but underpinned by developmental, economic resilience, social and moral issues. In recognition that conservation challenges are embedded within complex multi-stakeholder environments, the field of conservation science is quickly emerging as an action-orientated discipline through which biodiversity knowledge is converted into conservation action. As governments, non-governmental organisations and industry are under pressure to demonstrate project success via tangible and real-world impacts, it is imperative to not only demonstrate policy changes, but also how these changes are facilitated by the stakeholders involved. Thus, there is a need to improve stakeholder participation within conservation science by considering complementary frameworks that can translate scientific research into meaningful impacts and outcomes.

Sierra aims to adapt the framework of Outcome Mapping to enhance conservation action using a comprehensive case study of the Northwest Shelf Flatback Turtle Conservation Program in Western Australia. The goal of Outcome Mapping is to bring about behaviour change to support long-term outcomes by considering conflict resolution, combining divergent knowledge systems, participation and social learning within complex stakeholder systems. Sierra’s overall objective is to explore the potential utility of Outcome Mapping as a framework to complement existing participatory research approaches to create conservation outcomes. This will be achieved by understanding how power dynamics between stakeholders affect conservation change, examining institutional capacities to facilitate desired conservation outcomes and identify what communication tools can facilitate pro-environmental behaviour. This is the first step towards considering the use of Outcome Mapping in addressing global environmental challenges and conservation initiatives.

Sierra’s strong interdisciplinary interest and her comprehensive approach, which includes government, industry, and community as partners in building smart integrative solutions for environmental problems convinced the jury.