Plenaries

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Toward Conservation Solutions: Enhancing Interdisciplinary Partnerships

By Martha Groom, Ph.D., Professor of Ecology and Environmental Studies, University of Washington Bothell and Seattle, Washington.

How do we best create solutions to our myriad conservation problems? Increasingly, interdisciplinary partnerships play a central  role in creating conservation solutions on the ground, yet the bulk of our training in conservation still focuses on biological issues alone. I feel we need to make conservation far more compelling to a far broader array of people. Our focus on biodiversity crises overwhelms, and we need to shift attention to the opportunities in solution formation. Building productive partnerships comes through exploring the connections and tensions between biodiversity conservation and human welfare, creating a culture of interdependence among approaches to solutions, and demonstrating the potential for strengthening multiple goals through such partnerships. We need to better motivate and retain individuals with a wide diversity of goals and approaches to partner in attaining conservation solutions for our future.

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Health, Environment, and Biodiversity: Conservation Implications of a Complex Relationship 

By Andrés Gómez, D.V.M., Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York. 

Although the biomedical sciences have long had a part in conservation practice (e.g. providing medical care to captive populations), for roughly a decade more integrated approaches linking health, disease, and conservation have become increasingly relevant. These approaches are helping us understand the role of wildlife species in the transmission of emerging pathogens, the effects of disease on conservation efforts, and the importance of land use change in an increasingly epidemiologically-homogenized world. But as we gain a more detailed understanding of biodiversity, other connections become apparent. For example, recent research has begun to uncover the numerical and functional importance of parasite biodiversity- which creates the need to develop innovative strategies for its conservation-, and parasite species are providing tools to acquire critical information with which to inform conservation strategies for their hosts. This kind of integrative, systemic understanding of biodiversity shows significant promise in the development of new multidisciplinary conservation strategies.

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Staying Relevant As a Conservation Biologist

By James Gibbs, Ph.D., Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, New York.

Conservation biology is the applied science of maintaining Earth’s biological diversity. Being effective as a conservation biologist thus means not just being good at the science part but also being able to apply that knowledge. It also means having an experiential familiarity with the diverse life forms that we study. The good news is that our science is stellar these days, with ever improving techniques of analysis and vast and growing data sets at our disposal. But here’s the rub: virtually no “managers” read science journals anymore and most primary literature is an impenetrable thicket of statistics and bad writing. How do we actually connect our science with that mythical “manager” that we all mention in our published articles and theses, so that we can see our hard-earned knowledge put into practice? One solution is recognizing that our highly competitive, publication-crazy and credit-craven field is a culture at odds with that in which most conservation solutions are achieved: solutions come from basic teamwork, coalitions, communication, and the generous sharing of time, resources, and innovative ideas. We also need to recognize that nature deficit disorder doesn’t only apply to children but to us as well… busy juggling electronic communications we rarely venture outdoors anymore. Most “managers” put a premium on credibility as emblemized by deep personal knowledge of and attachment to the species and ecosystems of concern yet many conservation scientists are now so beholden to abstract representations of nature that they do not know basic natural history. Biodiversity is a real phenomenon studded with both warts and gems and elaborated across space and time in complicated ways inconvenient to us. Tremendous synergies arise from working as scientist, mentor, teacher, advisor and advocate and developing the practical skills and fortitude to go out and meet biodiversity on its own terms. My presentation will focus on sharing a series of case studies from my own work as a conservation scientist struggling to remain relevant.