A road map for designing and implementing a biological monitoring program

Joel Reynolds, Melinda Knutson, Ken Newman, Emily Silverman, William Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Designing and implementing natural resource monitoring is a challenging endeavor undertaken by many agencies, NGOs, and citizen groups worldwide. Yet many monitoring programs fail to deliver useful information for a variety of administrative (staffing, documentation, and funding) or technical (sampling design and data analysis) reasons. Programs risk failure if they lack a clear motivating problem or question, explicit objectives linked to this problem or question, and a comprehensive conceptual model of the system under study. Designers must consider what “success” looks like from a resource management perspective, how desired outcomes translate to appropriate attributes to monitor, and how they will be measured. All such efforts should be filtered through the question “Why is this important?” Failing to address these considerations will produce a program that fails to deliver the desired information. We addressed these issues through creation of a “road map” for designing and implementing a monitoring program, synthesizing multiple aspects of a monitoring program into a single, overarching framework. The road map emphasizes linkages among core decisions to ensure alignment of all components, from problem framing through technical details of data collection and analysis, to program administration. Following this framework will help avoid common pitfalls, keep projects on track and budgets realistic, and aid in program evaluations. The road map has proved useful for monitoring by individuals and teams, those planning new monitoring, and those reviewing existing monitoring and for staff with a wide range of technical and scientific skills.
Original languageEnglish
Article number399
Number of pages25
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Early online date8 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


  • Monitoring design Effectiveness monitoring Status and trends monitoring Adaptive management Inventory Structured decision making


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