IEEM publish report on ecological skills gap

The Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, (IEEM) has published a report entitled ‘Closing the gap: Rebuilding ecological skills in the 21st Century’. The work, which was commissioned by IEEM, was undertaken by the Management Standards Consultancy and built upon initial IEEM research.

The report collated information from literature, surveys, interviews and workshops involving practicing ecologists and environmental managers at all stages of their careers, as well as other stakeholders, employers and graduates.

Investigation found a continuing skills gap and skills shortages in:
• Species identification, especially of invertebrates, fish and lower plants.
• Ecological survey, sampling, data assessment, evaluation and monitoring skills for fish and invertebrates.
• Habitat creation, restoration and management in marine, coastal and upland environments.
• Techniques to control the spread of invasive species and wildlife diseases.

In addition:
• There are knowledge gaps amongst ecologists regarding the application of environmental economics for the valuation of ecosystem services.
• Freshwater, coastal and marine systems and processes are poorly understood in comparison to terrestrial systems.
• Understanding of the application of spatial planning, as it relates to environmental planning, is weak.
• Understanding of environmental legislation and its policy implications is weak in some sectors.

Knowledge gaps found by the report have raised concerns that a lack of capacity among ecologists and consultants could have significant implications for the implementation of environmental policies and for meeting EU biodiversity targets. This comes at a time when knowledge is needed now more than ever as the ecosystem approach reaches the forefront of government thinking.

IEEM is now calling for Government to commit to policy and funding support for a new strategy to address the issue. IEEM suggest the new strategy should be government led, and involve education institutions, skills agencies, cross-sector employers, and societies to help encourage and train people to bridge the gaps in knowledge.