First Person: Dr. Scott Harrison 

Theories on adaptive management, sustainability and Olympic opportunities

What: Dr. Scott Harrison presents A Cougar by the Tail at the Whistler Naturalists AGM.

Where: Fairmont Chateau Whistler Frontenac Room

When: Thursday, Nov. 13. AGM starts at 6 p.m. and presentation gets underway at 7:30 p.m.

In his research on cougars, Dr. Scott Harrison discovered that when you grab a cougar by the tail, the energy it uses to take a swipe at you also pushes you out of harm’s way long enough for the tranquilizer to take effect.

A jack of all sciences, Dr. Harrison is an ecologist who studies wildlife, wilderness, sustainability and Adaptive Management.

As the keynote speaker for this year’s Whistler Naturalists Society annual general meeting, he will talk about his experiences researching cougars and the lessons in sustainability that we can learn from them.

Q: I can see by your bio that you have a background in a lot of different scientific disciplines, does that help you with your research, having a diverse background?

A: I think that reflects the ecology, and I would consider myself an ecologist. One of the things ecology is trying to understand is how things in the world relate to each other. So, in order to understand those relationships one has to understand a number of disciplines, and that’s been reflected in my training – everything from physics and biochemistry to systems ecology and how animals interact with each other.

It’s really just a quest to understand the natural world, and the world is a fairly interesting place and fairly complicated in terms of the interactions when you look into them, and that’s what I enjoy doing.

Q: You talk a little about the Olympics and how you see the developments taking a sustainable, ecological approach. Is that something you’ve given a lot of thought to?

A: Absolutely, and that’s a real focus of my work now. To understand the interactions of nature, that’s theoretical ecology, but then the applied aspect of ecology is understanding how humans relate to that world.

Of course, humans are always going to use the world, we’re going to cut down trees, we’re going to use the water and build houses, but in my view of the world, knowing the complexity of interactions, the only way we can do that justifiably is to do it sustainably.

By that I mean the ecological definition of sustainability, not an economic or political one. Ecological sustainability is about understanding the ecological processes that allow us to have clean air, water and forests, and then understanding how we can use those things sustainably. For instance, trees will grow back, but if you cut them at a faster rate than they can grow back that’s not ecologically sustainable.

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