Exceptional responders in conservation.

10 Jan 2018

Conservation operates within complex systems with incomplete knowledge of the system and the interventions utilized. This frequently results in the inability to find generally applicable methods to alleviate threats to Earth's vanishing wildlife. One approach used in medicine and the social sciences has been to develop a deeper understanding of positive outliers. Where such outliers share similar characteristics, they may be considered exceptional responders. We devised a 4-step framework for identifying exceptional responders in conservation: identification of the study system, identification of the response structure, identification of the threshold for exceptionalism, and identification of commonalities among outliers. Evaluation of exceptional responders provides additional information that is often ignored in randomized controlled trials and before-after control-intervention experiments. Interrogating the contextual factors that contribute to an exceptional outcome allow exceptional responders to become valuable pieces of information leading to unexpected discoveries and novel hypotheses.