Maureen McCarthy: Demonstrating a return on investment from Tahoe science

For Maureen McCarthy, her dream continues to make the wealth of information from 50 years of research in the Lake Tahoe Basin available to those facing the challenges of helping society and the environment coexist in sensitive mountain ecosystems throughout the country and the world. Her goal: create opportunities for the Tahoe Science Consortium (TSC) to make science a cornerstone of restoration and redevelopment in the Tahoe Basin and share this knowledge broadly so others can learn from what’s been accomplished there.

“We see the work at Tahoe in a broader perspective.” said McCarthy, TSC’s executive director. It’s bigger than just preserving the lake or understanding human development in a special environment. We can export our knowledge on changes we see in population, climate and economic realities. We can no longer base environmental protection on emotions. We have to present an economically-based argument as to why it’s the right thing to do for both government and private industry.”

Science-based decision-making is now becoming common practice in some agencies in the basin, according to McCarthy, but more work is needed to help organizations understand the linkages between the natural world and human society.

People from around the country attended the 2012 Tahoe Science Conference that included contributions from the social sciences and resource economics, as well as a public policy forum; all part of the TSC’s move to help science demonstrate a return on investment for protecting and restoring the environment.

Established in 2005, the TSC partners include the University of Nevada, Reno; the Desert Research Institute; the University of California, Davis; the U.S. Geological Survey; and the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. The final round of Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLA) research grants were awarded this year. Work on these projects will continue through 2015.

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