19 Jun 13

Adaptation Double Header!


In honor of baseball season the Mavens are offering two questions for the price of one!

Dear Mavens,

I am a coral reef manager in South Florida. I want to integrate climate change into my work but am having some trouble finding the information I need. I realize that there are data and tools out there for me to use but none of them seem to make sense for the questions I need help with. I’ll admit I have not looked very deeply but before I spend a year going through it all I was hoping you could point me in the right direction.



Dear Mavens,

Nobody ever listens to me! I’m a climate scientist who provides lots of high quality data for the hydrologically inclined managers but none of them ever use it. I’ve got precipitation projections, flow rate data for the past 50 years and water temperature data. It’s all online but no one seems to care. Help me reach my audience.


I keep telling them!

Greetings Adrift and IKTT. Allow us to introduce you!

Together you bring up the perennial problem of getting the right information in the right form from and to the right people for a good outcome. So simple in theory, yet so hard to make happen.

First let’s start with the big picture, then we’ll get to some specifics for both of you.

Big picture: During the adaptation off-season, one of the Mavens moonlights as a little league coach. From that experience it became clear that the basics of baseball are just like the basics of information transfer. When the season starts she likes to ask the team a basic question.

            “What is the purpose of throwing the ball?”

Generally the question is met by blank stares. Occasionally a player will offer “to throw it far.” Unfortunately it seems like the providers of data often use a similar approach. They get the data and they throw it out there and hope for the best, but by putting it on the web they think they are getting it far.

However the point of throwing the ball (and hopefully of gathering and providing data or tools) is really a bit different. We throw the ball so that it can be caught by the desired recipient, say the first baseman to get the runner out. Additionally we throw the ball because it is faster than running with it to a desired location. 

Let us translate this analogy to the information transfer world. The ball is the data. We throw the ball in such a manner that it can be caught. This means that you have to know where it needs to go, who needs to catch it, and how to throw it in a manner that that person can catch. This means that the data or tools provider needs to know their desired user’s needs, know who their user is, and present information in a manner that it can be understood and applied. In little league we practice throwing and catching in pairs and as a team. We give feedback on how to improve the throw and the catch to increase the percentage of completed throws. We need to do this with data and tools as well. This can mean having conversations between providers and users, sharing ideas of desired needs, and tweaking outputs and tools to better meet needs while appreciating researcher limitations.

If you are a data provider, ask yourself what play you want to make (who you want to throw the ball to and why), and how you can best throw the ball so the data user can catch it. If you are a data user, figure out who has the ball (data), let them know where you are and that you’re ready to catch the ball (anyone else have memories of coaches shouting “talk to each other!”?), then open your glove to make a target and get ready to catch. You’ll both have to pay attention, adjust your expectations, and move around to get the desired outcome. 

Okay, now to help you both more specifically.

Adrift: We are thrilled to say that there are some great tools and data collections out there for both your geography (South Florida) and your habitat (coral reefs). Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly what you need, since you didn’t specify what the questions you need help with are. Remember—you’ve got to hold up your part of the toss if you want a successful play! That said, we are more than happy to give a shout-out to one of our favorite coral-related tools, NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch. The folks who run it are SUPER helpful and very interested in dialog with folks like you to improve the utility of their products. There are region-specific data for reefs around the world, and you don’t even have to remember to visit the site to get data: the data will come to you! Go online and sign up for water temperature condition updates. They have 16 locations monitored in Florida out of 227 around the planet! Additionally there is associated reef manager training you can find that integrates the Coral Reef Watch data tools. The Mavens are very happy to give both of these resources a quadruple thumbs up!

IKTT: A great way to get people to listen to you is to listen to them. May we suggest you find a manager who you think could be using your data and spend some time working with them to see if your data really are useful for the kinds of decisions they make? Data that are hugely relevant ecologically may or may not be as relevant to actual management decisions. Or managers may need a slightly different metric than you’re providing, for example the timing rather than the volume of peak flow, or the number of dry days in summer rather than the average summer rainfall. Together you could create an illustrative case study of how to use your data for a specific type of management decision, then share that case study on a few key websites (e.g. CAKE) with a link to your data layers on data repositories like Data Basin or your LCC’s data platform.

Everyone: Remember, if you’re going to throw the ball, make sure there is someone there to catch it. If you want to catch a ball, let folks with the ball know you’re available and get your target up so the thrower knows where they should send it. Not only does it make the baseball game more interesting, it’s a little faster. With our conservation and management challenges today, faster action is not a bad thing!

See you on the ball field!

The Mavens

Recommended Citation

Adaptation Mavens. (2013, June). Adaptation Double Header! [Web column]. Retrieved from CAKE (http://cakex.org/community/advice/adaptation-double-header).