Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center Engages the Bureau of Land Management on Science Co-Production

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Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center (NOROCK) scientists met with three Montana Bureau of Land Management (BLM) District offices to link BLM science needs with USGS resources. NOROCK scientists introduced their research and capabilities, BLM specialists discussed knowledge gaps and science needs, and the two groups examined ways to collaborate. The meetings were held in spring 2021.

Through three meetings held on February 26, March 3, and March 10, 2021, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center (NOROCK) scientists met with Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision makers and specialists to discuss BLM science needs and to how NOROCK could assist in addressing those needs. NOROCK scientists met with the North Central Montana, Western Montana, and Eastern Montana/Dakotas BLM Districts to learn about their management needs, the current research they were conducting, and what science support each BLM District was interested in receiving. NOROCK scientists gave presentations to inform their BLM counterparts on the research, statistical, and technological capabilities that NOROCK has to offer management agencies in addressing their science needs. Importantly, BLM resource specialists and managers discussed how they use and/or need science to make decisions, what objectives and priorities are covered in their land use plans, and where they see knowledge gaps currently and into the future.

Weather station in sagebrush steppe

A weather station located in a sagebrush ecosystem in southwest Montana—a major ecosystem type managed by the Bureau of Land Management. (Credit: David Wood, USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center. Public domain.)

Some of the research topics presented to the BLM Districts by NOROCK included: aquatic and terrestrial invasive species, native fish species and habitats, sage-grouse habitat, wildlife disease, wildlife movement,  disturbance ecology, insect pollinator research, vegetation mapping, species status assessments, species response to climate, drought, Missouri River flow reconstructions and scenarios, statistical and modeling capabilities, monitoring program design capabilities, environmental DNA (eDNA) applications, and the research applications of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, drones). There were energetic, two-way discussions between BLM and NOROCK personnel about co-production and co-application of knowledge. Co-production and co-application of knowledge refers to the coordination between scientists and practitioners, BLM land managers in this case, where the entire process recognizes knowledge gaps or issues, generates knowledge to address needs, and identifies possible solutions based on the common understanding generated by the process.

These meetings are already bearing fruit with several ideas having garnered additional conversations, new research-management groups being created, and there has already been one BLM-NOROCK co-written proposal submitted for acting on a need identified in the meeting series. Furthermore, additional NOROCK-BLM collaborations are being planned for the future stemming and building from these three meetings. Working closely together, NOROCK can, in a more precise way, provide its BLM partners with the science needed to inform land management decisions. Additionally, by building these relationships with partners and applying best practices in co-production, NOROCK can provide actionable, timely information, and be proactive in furthering the diverse missions across the Department of Interior.  

A big thank you to NOROCK Ecologist David Wood and BLM Montana/Dakotas Branch Chief of Resources and Science John Carlson for organizing these meetings! Additional thanks to Claudia Regan, NOROCK’s Center Director, and Mike Philbin, BLM’s Montana/Dakotas Deputy State Director for Resources and Planning, for their interest and support in these meetings and the great work the USGS and BLM can do together.