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First Person: Dr. Scott Harrison

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It’s a very exciting time, and there are a lot of opportunities for council and Olympic committees to show how things can be done.

Q: Speaking of the cougar talk, I understand you spent a lot of time studying cougars with UBC.

A: I was doing graduate work at UBC and studied them for four years, commuting back and forth between the field and the university. I stayed in a cabin a lot and basically got up and followed cougars around. If I found new ones I would put radio collars on them, and I would follow the ones that have been radio-collared. Really, what I was looking at was cougar ecology and predation, looking at what they were eating and how often they were eating, and what was available.

It really was a spectacular time, they’re just absolutely incredible animals as you can imagine. Everything you might have imagined about them is so true. They really are majestic and powerful and cryptic, and are just a spectacular animal and it was a real privilege to get to spend time with them.

Q: You also helped to put together a book, Conservation Biology Principles for Forested Landscapes. Was that related to your work at UBC?

A: I was a researcher with the forest service, the Ministry of Forests, at the time and also studying for my PhD at that time at UBC. That was a book we wrote, because as a scientist, I strongly believe in the collection of data. I even have a T-shirt that students made up for me that says Show Me the Data.

That’s one of my cries. It’s okay to have opinions, it’s okay to have values, which everyone does, but ultimately when you make decisions you have to base those decision on data.

Again, that’s where adaptive management comes in because you have to have data up front, you have to collect data along the way, and one needs to evaluate that data to decide if we’re all on track.

Q: Adaptive management seems like one of those things that all people can at least understand enough to apply to their own lives, and businesses. Is that part of the concept for sustainability?

A: These are complicated issues. They may have simple solutions, but at the end of the day they’re complicated – not in the sense that they’re difficult, but because they have a lot of components. In order to be sustainable we have to understand all the components, and how they all work together.

Only by understanding the system can you make the right decision in how to direct that system.