In an ideal world there would be enough funding and time to restore all of the endangered species. But federal and state governments have never received more than a fraction of the funding that this would require. As a result, wildlife managers face difficult and complex choices about which species and actions to fund.
In a two-year project, A diverse research team work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assess how decision science and big data could help make decisions about saving endangered species more effective and transparent. One of the results, newly published in the journal Science, is a decision tool that focuses on identifying cost-effective recovery plans.
The tool provides a way to investigate alternative valuing systems, allowing users to compare the outcomes of focusing on imminent risk or long-term potential; favoring charismatic or keystone species over others; and even of seeking a balance among such objectives. Other features can be added based on deliberations by users.
Society has an important role to play in determining the relative priority of different kinds of investments. Assuming that endangered species recovery is a priority, computer-assisted decision-making tools like the Recovery Explorer have enormous potential to help us save as many of the species Americans value as possible.