Lauren Zielinski

Lauren Zielinski

Lauren Zielinski, United States

Lauren Zielinski specializes in the monitoring and evaluation of river systems, focusing on river restoration and environmental flow projects. She holds a BSc in Earth and Environmental Engineering, Water Resources and Climate Risk from Columbia University in the United States and is also a recent graduate of IHE Delft in the Netherlands with an MSc in Ecohydrology. She currently owns her company specializing in river monitoring and evaluation, and works for IHE Delft as a project coordinator for environmental flow projects. She has experience creating monitoring and adaptive management plans in the United States, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Presentation Title: Creating an integrated monitoring and evaluation system which informs adaptive management of environmental flows

While environmental flow assessments have been conducted for decades on rivers around the world, few have been fully implemented and even fewer have incorporated monitoring to evaluate whether the desired flows were being met and how the river ecosystem changed over time in response to those flows. There are many reasons for this, however it often stems from the lack of a formalized monitoring plan and/or a scarcity of institutional resources. When monitoring does occur, there is often a misalignment of monitoring activities to management decisions, leading to resources being spent on collecting data that cannot be easily applied to decision making. With a well-designed monitoring and evaluation (M&E) plan in place, managers are able to assess whether the environmental flow values are being met and if those values are meeting the desired objectives of environmental flows, all while working within the institutional framework and resource capacity of the managing agency. Effectively integrating an M&E plan into adaptive management can further allow monitoring activities to be tailored to inform future management decisions. Associated adaptive management cycles also allow for a data-driven, decision-making framework to be utilized if environmental flow values need to be adjusted in the future. This type of integrated M&E and adaptive management plan can be created using existing management concepts, including an objectives hierarchy, trigger values, and adaptive management cycles. Using this approach, an M&E plan can be customized to adhere to national legal requirements, be integrated into current institutional structures, and adapt existing monitoring activities to meet the objectives of environmental flow projects. With the introduction of a 3-level system, M&E plans can also allow for pertinent data to be collected at different institutional spending levels, helping to ensure that informative data continue to be collected even in times of limited resources.

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