Solving Problems in Fisheries Management: Proof of Concept Using Structured Decision Making at the Undergraduate Level

Fisheries management problems are generally complex because they are socio-ecological systems encumbered by issues of scale, stakeholder conflict, and structural uncertainty with respect to the influence of management on the resource. Consequently, agencies that manage fisheries actively seek employees that can demonstrate problem-solving skills and communicate to a diverse set of stakeholders. To enhance development of critical thinking skills, problem-based learning was incorporated into an undergraduate introductory fisheries class using a structured decision making (SDM) framework. Student teams identified a problem of local, regional, or national significance, then defined the problem's scope and scale and identified decision makers and stakeholders, multiple conflicting objectives, and alternative actions designed to meet objectives. Students analyzed consequences of actions on objectives using a decision analysis tool allowing for determination of preferred management actions or portfolios and associated trade- o s. Finally, the students presented their findings in an oral group presentation and in a single-authored final report. Among other things, the SDM framework allowed students to identify and acknowledge key uncertainties related to various aspects of the problem and determine the influence of lack of information on the decision. Because state and federal natural resources agencies are increasing their use of SDM and adaptive management frame- works (i.e., the iterative form of SDM) for fisheries management problems, teaching these techniques to the next generation of managers could give our students tools to help frame, decompose and solve future complex problems.

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