Date of this Version
Gese, E. M., H. S. Cooley, and F. F. Knowlton. 2012. Designing a monitoring plan. Pages 353-361 in Carnivore Ecology and Management: A Handbook of Techniques. Edited by L Boitani and R. Powell. Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom.
Monitoring is the collection and analysis of repeated observations or measurements ro determine whether a management action is having the desired effect of meeting management objectives and demonstrating success or failure of a management strategy (Elzinga et al 2001). Monitoring is composed of a series of surveys (sensu Chapter 2) framed in a design aimed at answering specific management questions. There are many reasons to establish monitoring plans, such as when a carnivore species is of a high social or economic value, is rare and decreasing in numbers, is in eminent danger of extinction, or is part of a legally mandated planning process. Monitoring is commonly conducted in combination with a formal research program with ecological objectives to provide managers and policy makers with information for making informed decisions and formulating conservation plans with some level of certainty or success (Nichols and Williams 2006; Sauer and Knutson 2008; McComb et al 2010). Monitoring can also be useful for adaptive management strategies by treating management as a hypothesis and incorporating learning into the process with the data collected providing feedback about the effectiveness of alternative actions (McComb et al 2010).
Designing a monitoring plan involves identifying the goals of the associated management plan, developing key questions, and designing a rigorous sampling scheme. Analyses must be pertinent to management objectives and capable of assigning probabilities to observed trends. Finalizing a monitoring design is a precursor to initiating data collection. Some monitoring programs fail to provide the information needed due to unclear or unspecific objectives, flawed or poor study design, low statistical precision or power to detect change, inconsistent commitment to implement or adjust the monitoring plan, or failing to communicate results to stakeholders (Elzinga et al. 2001).