ORBIC Named 2013's Top Collaborator

Network peers recognize achievements of Portland-based member

Because of its leadership in engaging network members in the development of innovative conservation data and information, the Oregon Biodiversity Information Center (ORBIC) was named the 2013 Network Collaboration Award.

ORBIC—a part of the Institute for Natural Resources (INR)—was one of three members of the NatureServe network whose achievements earned the annual recognition from their peers, bestowed at NatureServe’s annual conference, Biodiversity Without Boundaries.

“This award recognizes the steady stream of energy and innovation that ORBIC brings to the network,” said Mary Klein, president and CEO of NatureServe. “They consistently identify opportunities to address cross-cutting issues and develop pragmatic solutions through inventive methods and partnerships.”

The award cites four examples of diverse collaborations that ORBIC initiated or provided leadership to:

  • the U.S. Geological Survey to develop a national database of conservation lands
  • the National Academy of Sciences’s Transportation Research Board (TRB) project to link conservation planning with transportation planning
  • a NatureServe network-based consortium to create consistent methods and standards for species distribution modeling
  • a second network-based effort to manage the database information team for iMapInvasives

“Oregon always works to try to implement new ideas, and ORBIC is fortunate to have experienced and dedicated staff willing to try new things,” said Jimmy Kagan, director of ORBIC. “However, the ability to work with other programs across the country, and take advantage of their expertise and innovations with NatureServe’s support, has become a major reason for our recent successes.”

ORBIC’s persistence, cooperation, and coordination over several years enlisted more than 20 network members as state data stewards for the Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US). Network engagements on PAD-US with partners like USGS, the Conservation Biology Institute, The Nature Conservancy, and the GreenInfo Network also contributed to establishing NatureServe’s subsequent role in coordinating funding and participation for developing the National Conservation Easement Database.

ORBIC also works to enhance network contributions toward improvements in transportation decision-making. A TRB-funded research project led by Oregon State University, INR and ORBIC engaged staff from NatureServe and network members from five states. The effort produced a guide and framework that provides methods, data, tools, and case studies to support integrated conservation and transportation planning. Building on both existing conservation methodologies and the existing transportation planning process, the guide incorporates ecologically based assessments and ecosystem services considerations while addressing complex implementation-stage compliance issues. By piloting comprehensive wetland catalogues and state-level species distribution modeling, the project has generated strong federal interest in scaling the framework up to the regional and national level due to the resulting improved environmental outcomes and faster project delivery.

ORBIC also led the establishment of a consortium of biodiversity distribution modeling centers, enlisting participation from NatureServe and 13 different U.S. network members. Although other efforts are underway for particular jurisdictions, this collaboration is unique in its focus on range-wide species distribution and habitat models that span multiple jurisdictions. These range-wide maps are particularly important in assisting landowners, land managers and decision-makers.

ORBIC and INR are part of Portland State University’s new School of the Environment, in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. INR is an Oregon University System Institute with offices at PSU and headquartered at Oregon State University, with a mission of “Informing natural resource decision making through integrated knowledge and information.”