Society for Conservation Biology
Society for Conservation Biology
News Article | May 8, 2017
It is easy to see how bleak accounts of the state of the planet can overwhelm people and make them feel hopeless. What is the point of even trying if the world is going down the drain anyway? To muster public and political support on a scale that matches our environmental challenges, research shows that negative messaging is not the most effective way forward. As a conservation scientist and social marketer, I believe that to make the environment a mainstream concern, conservation discussions should focus less on difficulties. Instead we should highlight the growing list of examples where conservation efforts have benefited species, ecosystems and people living alongside them. This question is not new. Professionals in many fields have to consider how to frame their messages to maximize their impact. For example, public health agencies can make positive recommendations that emphasize benefits of being disease-free, or use negative messages that focus on the consequences of disease. A 2008 meta-analysis of 60 health communication studies concluded that messages focused on loss were less likely to be effective than positive messages. Another study examined ads designed to persuade income support recipients to report their incomes. It concluded that messages focused on fear, shame or guilt could generate emotional backlash, in which people rationalized decisions to protect themselves from feeling ashamed of their behavior. This approach also caused emotional saturation that led people to "switch off" from the message because of its negativity. Environmental advocates also confront this challenge. Much discussion has centered on the issue of climate change, where a number of scholars and advocates assert that doom-and-gloom messaging has not been effective. Yet until recently, we have not asked the same question about how we frame nature conservation. Today a growing number of scholars and activists are working to create a positive vision for protecting wildlife and wild places. One key effort started in 2014 with the launch of a marine conservation movement called Ocean Optimism, which works to "create a new narrative of hope for our oceans," and by doing so, to help move towards "a sustainable future for our seas." In April 2017 the Earth Optimism Summit, organized by the Smithsonian Institution, brought together environmentalists, scientists, industry and the media to shift the global conservation movemement's focus away from problems and toward solutions. What started as a single event in Washington, D.C. soon turned into a truly global movement, with about 30 sister events in countries including Colombia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. This effort has kick-started a range of initiatives that are all about communicating conservation bright spots to as many people as possible. One, which I co-founded, is the Lost & Found project, sponsored by the Society for Conservation Biology and the British Ecological Society. This online storytelling initiative focuses on a particularly inspiring kind of good news: rediscovering species that once were thought to be long extinct. After all, what can be more rousing than recovering something unique that you thought was lost forever? Every year numerous species thought to have disappeared are rediscovered. Over the past century more than 300 species have been rediscovered, mostly in the tropics. On average, these species were missing for about 60 years before being rediscovered. Most rediscovered species have restricted ranges and small populations, which means they are usually highly threatened. Our goal is not only to tell good stories, but also to showcase the dedication and determination of adventurers who lead these improbable quests and rewrite the history of species they care deeply about. While not every reader may be interested in a red-crested tree rat or a golden-fronted bower bird, all humans are curious about other people. Lost & Found is making content available in various formats, including text, comics and soon, video animations. This helps make the stories more accessible to people who are not instinctively inclined to read about nature. Currently we have 13 stories freely available online that feature diverse species, from squirrels and toads to bats and birds. They cover a wide geographic range, from Latin America and Oceania to North America and Southeast Asia. The response has been tremendously positive. More than 1,000 people from over 50 countries visited the website in its first 10 days. Some of our more popular stories, such as the Bulmer's Fuit Bat and the Cave Splayfoot Salamander, are animals that would commonly not be considered particularly charismatic. Getting these inspirational rediscoveries into the hands of as many people as possible is a first step toward creating a more positive vision for Earth's future. The timeless principles of storytelling seem like the right place to start. After all, who doesn't love a happy ending? Explore further: Recovering species must be celebrated or we risk reversing progress, says leading expert
News Article | April 25, 2017
Growing up in New York, Cynthia Malone had clear goals. “I had this vision of becoming the next Jane Goodall — the black Jane Goodall,” she says. She earned a master’s degree in conservation biology from Columbia University studying oil palm expansion and conflicts between humans and wildlife. Her fieldwork took her to the Solomon Islands, Indonesia, and Cameroon. While working toward her degree, Black Lives Matter protests and viral videos of police brutality gripped the country. So she got involved. Malone began working with Columbia’s graduate students of color and Black Youth Project 100, a youth-led organization that coordinates direct action and political education. She also cofounded the Diversity Committee at the Society for Conservation Biology. Her goal there is to make human diversity in the sciences as important as biological diversity. Malone is headed into a Ph.D. at University of Toronto studying neocolonialism and who gets a seat at the table in conservation decisions. She’s also building a network of environmental scholars of color and activists to “think through what a decolonized conservation science would look like.” In other words: create a new, more equitable vision for the future of science. Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Meet the fixer: This scientist brings social justice to her field. on Apr 25, 2017.
News Article | October 28, 2015
At a karaoke party on the final night of a marine-sciences conference in 2011, graduate student David Shiffman signed up to sing a song that another attendee had also requested. The event director asked the two to do a duet, and they agreed. Shiffman has since forgotten the tune — 'Take on Me' by A-ha or 'I Will Survive' by Gloria Gaynor, perhaps. But the two had a blast, and when they chatted afterwards, Shiffman learned that his singing partner was Chris Parsons, then-president of the marine section of the Society for Conservation Biology in Washington DC. In a 20-second elevator speech that he had fortuitously practised beforehand, Shiffman — who studies shark ecology at the University of Miami in Florida — told Parsons about a presentation that he had given about social media. Parsons was intrigued, and later invited Shiffman to be the first official live-tweeter at the December 2011 International Congress for Conservation Biology in Auckland, New Zealand. That was the first of many conferences that Shiffman has since live-tweeted and at which he has given talks, all of which have been fully funded by conferences and other organizations — successes thanks in part to that serendipitous karaoke duet. Shiffman's experience is an example of how conferences can be a professional boon to early-career scientists, offering countless opportunities to meet mentors and collaborators as well as to impress potential employers. But there is also ample opportunity to trample those very chances. Bad behaviour, whether in or outside a session, can harm a junior researcher's reputation and jeopardize his or her job prospects for years to come. Although neophyte conference attendees may plan out the talks that they want to hear, rarely do they seek advice about the many unspoken rules of proper conference etiquette. Instead, learning often happens by trial and error. “You kind of muck your way through it,” says Jacquelyn Gill, a palaeoecologist at the University of Maine in Orono. “You figure out the cultural norm from watching other people.” In lectures or talks, those norms include turning off mobile-phone ringers, asking appropriate questions and leaving rooms quietly when a speaker is presenting. Outside meeting rooms, early-career researchers should make an effort to network without monopolizing conversations, tweet in accordance with conference regulations and socialize prudently. Ultimately, conference attendance is like being in an interactive stage performance, veteran conference-goers say — and every audience member is part of the act. People notice and remember what others do. “Conferences are wonderful opportunities for students and early-career researchers to learn skills, get feedback and find collaborators,” says Shiffman. But, he adds, “your behaviour at conferences affects your reputation in your field”. Concerns about disturbing others when entering and exiting conference rooms can paralyse early-career researchers. But it is commonplace to jump from room to room when desirable talks are scheduled simultaneously. Smaller meetings boost attendees' visibility and the potential for disruption, so attendees who aim to leave a session early or to arrive late should try to grab an aisle seat near the back of the room and take care not to slam doors. Minimizing disruption also means managing digital devices, including muting laptops and abstaining from online surfing. “If I'm sitting behind you and I see that you're browsing TMZ, I might get distracted, too,” says immunologist Gaia Vasiliver-Shamis, director of career development at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. Live-tweeting, on the other hand, is encouraged by many researchers, although debates swirl around proper posting protocol (see 'How not to tweet like a twit'). Digital devices do not just disrupt others: they can be physically dangerous. Once, while Shiffman was setting up to live-tweet a conference session, he strung power cords along the floor — causing a senior researcher to stumble in the middle of his own talk. “He was pacing, and he tripped over my wire,” Shiffman says. “It was a brief, heart-stopping moment. Now, I'm careful to warn people when they walk by.” It is also important to avoid rhetorical trip-ups during the question-and-answer period after a talk. This is a chance for early-career researchers to make a good impression, but they should avoid asking lengthy questions or too many, as well as seeking details that the speaker already addressed — say, while the questioner was checking Facebook. If the question is relevant only to the person asking, it is best to follow up later in a private chat. Still, junior researchers should conquer their insecurities and speak up. “There's nothing that impresses people as much as someone prepared to ask questions at a meeting,” says Georgia Chenevix-Trench, a cancer geneticist at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Herston, Australia. After years of experiencing frustration with students' behaviour at conferences and elsewhere, she helped to write a guide for PhD students and postdocs that has since been well circulated. “Even if they are not very good questions, it still has people impressed that you've got the courage,” she points out. And there is a good chance that others in the audience have the same question. Junior researchers should tread carefully when it comes to joking around. At the end of a hike during a biology meeting a few years ago, Vasiliver-Shamis walked past a professor clad in shorts who had also been on the hike and was scheduled to speak at the next session. Jokingly, she asked if he was going to wear the same clothes for his talk. That had, in fact, been his original plan. Vasiliver-Shamis thought he knew that she was not serious — but the professor went to his room and changed into trousers. At the beginning of his talk, he brought up the exchange and told the audience that he hoped they liked his outfit. Luckily, the professor had taken her ribbing well — but the outcome could have been different. “Be careful whom you joke with,” she warns now. Awkward jokes aside, junior researchers should not squander the opportunity to chat with senior scientists between sessions. Shiffman says that he has seen PhD students and postdocs eye renowned scientists at meetings and dream out loud about how great it would be to talk to them someday. “People attend conferences to meet other people, and this includes very senior researchers in your field,” he says. “You should not be afraid to go up and introduce yourself, ask for their opinions about your research or ask if they're taking on students or collaborators. The worst they can say is 'no'.” An e-mail request to an eminent researcher before the conference can smooth the way for a brief meeting, says Chenevix-Trench, who advises the use of formal business-letter style rather than the more casual approach of, “Hi, how's your day going?”. It is also important to accommodate the researcher's schedule — and to show up. Junior scientists should prepare a short elevator speech about their own research for the meet and follow up with a courteous e-mail thanking the colleague. Although many junior researchers fix their sights on celebrities in their field, they need to recognize the importance of also socializing with people who are at their own career stage. Lifelong friendships bloom frequently at happy hours and parties, and those relationships can generate research collaborations, job opportunities and more. At a biogeography meeting in Mexico a few years ago, Gill met another graduate student who became a friend, a regular roommate at subsequent conferences and later, a lab-mate. Similarly, Vasiliver-Shamis met her future postdoc supervisor at a meeting of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology when he started chatting with her at a poster presentation that she was giving. “Everyone you meet is like an interview,” she says. “Just be aware. You don't know when you're going to meet this person next.” For Jonathan Tennant, a palaeontologist at Imperial College London, conferences have even provided a personal-life boost. He met his girlfriend at a social gathering at the 2014 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Berlin. And he has stayed or toured with friends in foreign cities after getting to know them at conferences or befriending them first on Twitter and then connecting in person at a meeting. “I've got so many great friends all over the world now,” he says. “It's useful to have seeds like that everywhere.” Although conference parties are natural places to make friends, there are social pitfalls to watch out for. Alcohol often flows freely at these events, Gill says, and she has seen students get too drunk to attend presentations and posters — including their own — the next day. It doesn't help career prospects to be the person who is known for indiscriminate behaviour of any sort, she points out. “You're around all the people who are going to make decisions about your future — the people who are going to review your papers, who are going to decide if they want to give you a scholarship or a research grant or a postdoc,” she says. Despite all the 'dos' and 'don'ts' involved in conference etiquette, veterans say that major gaffes are actually quite rare. Most often, attendees who use good judgement go home with new knowledge, contacts and friends. That is true even for first-timers. “I was surprised how unbelievably warm and welcoming everyone was to me and other new people,” Shiffman recalls of his first conference. Now in the fifth year of his PhD programme, he has been to 29 conferences with many more to come. “They have,” he says, “made a big impact on my life.”
News Article | November 1, 2016
London, November 1, 2016 -- The ZSL (Zoological Society of London) Awards Committee has presented the ZSL Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. John Robinson, Executive Vice President of Conservation and Science at the Wildlife Conservation Society. The ZSL Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to an individual who has made exceptional, long-term contributions to the conservation of wildlife and habitats. Dr. Robinson, a primatologist, received the award today at the ZSL London Zoo. "You, above all, have demonstrated excellence and achievement in implementing significant conservation action for the benefit of the international conservation community over many years, " said Jonathan Baillie, ZSL Conservation Programmes Director, about Dr. Robinson. "Your input into initial discussions with Georgina Mace and Glyn Davies to draw up a memorandum of understanding between our two organisations provided the framework for the establishment of a permanent WCS presence in Europe and a close, on-going relationship between WCS and ZSL. Over the years since scientific symposia on several issues of critical conservation importance have been held, both our organisations have worked with The Royal Foundation on the ground-breaking United for Wildlife Initiative, and coordinated on issues of common interest including the World Heritage Convention." While accepting the award, Dr. Robinson said: "Like ZSL's programs, at WCS, we emphasize the importance of scientific knowledge to define conservation action, we rely on field-based conservation implementation, and we work closely in partnership with national governments and local institutions. Our two organizations have a very distinct niche within the conservation world. There is an emphasis on the conservation of species." Dr. Robinson, also WCS Chief Conservation Officer, oversees the WCS Global Conservation Program in the Americas, Africa and Asia and in all the world's oceans. Under his leadership, the WCS field program has developed into one of the most effective science-based conservation efforts around the globe. Throughout his career, Dr. Robinson has been influential in all aspects of wildlife conservation, including in the field, in scientific research, in academia, and at the top levels of policy and global strategy. He has been a pivotal figure in forming WCS's great history of wildlife conservation. Said Cristian Samper, WCS President and CEO: "John has been one of the founders and leaders of conservation biology, using science to inform conservation practice. He has built the WCS conservation program from a collection of field research projects to a portfolio of long-term conservation programs spanning 60 countries. We extend our congratulations to John and thank our ZSL colleagues for recognizing his great impact on helping to save wildlife and wild places." Dr. Robinson received his doctorate in zoology from the University of North Carolina in 1977, focusing on primate behavior and ecology. His postdoctoral studies were with the Smithsonian Institution. In 1980, Dr. Robinson established the University of Florida Program for Studies in Tropical Conservation, a graduate program providing training to students from tropical countries. He joined WCS in 1990 as Director of Wildlife Conservation International. He is Past President of the Society for Conservation Biology, and is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. Dr. Robinson has served on boards of the Christensen Fund, the Tropical Rainforest Foundation, TRAFFIC, and Foundations of Success. Since 2012, he has served as Councilor for North America with the World Conservation Union (IUCN). He serves as a Council member for United for Wildlife, and a Board member of Science for Nature and People, two multi-organizational partnerships. In 2003, Dr. Robinson was inducted into the Royal Order of the Golden Ark by King Bernhard of the Netherlands, in recognition of lifetime achievement and service to conservation. Through the years, Dr. Robinson has written extensively on the impact of subsistence and commercial hunting in tropical forests and has a long interest in the sustainable use of natural resources. He is often turned to as a leader in the areas of the relationship between conservation research and practice, and the application of conservation theory to conservation policy and implementation. He has over 180 publications, including "Neotropical Wildlife Use and Conservation" (1991), co-edited with Kent Redford, "Hunting for sustainability in tropical forests" (2000), co-edited by Elizabeth Bennett, "The Cutting Edge. Conserving wildlife in tropical forests" (2001), co-edited with Robert Fimbel and Alejandro Grajal, and "Conservation of exploited species" (2001), co-edited with John Reynolds, Georgina Mace and Kent Redford, and "Protected Areas. Are they safeguarding biodiversity?"(2016), co-edited by Lucas Joppa and Jonathan Baillie. MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world's oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.
Souther S.,University of Wisconsin - Madison |
Tingley M.W.,Princeton University |
Popescu V.D.,Simon Fraser University |
Popescu V.D.,University of Bucharest |
And 8 more authors.
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment | Year: 2014
Although shale drilling operations for oil and natural gas have increased greatly in the past decade, few studies directly quantify the impacts of shale development on plants and wildlife. We evaluate knowledge gaps related to shale development and prioritize research needs using a quantitative framework that includes spatial and temporal extent, mitigation difficulty, and current level of understanding. Identified threats to biota from shale development include: surface and groundwater contamination; diminished stream flow; stream siltation; habitat loss and fragmentation; localized air, noise, and light pollution; climate change; and cumulative impacts. We find the highest research priorities to be probabilistic threats (underground chemical migration; contaminant release during storage, during disposal, or from accidents; and cumulative impacts), the study of which will require major scientific coordination among researchers, industry, and government decision makers. Taken together, our research prioritization outlines a way forward to better understand how energy development affects the natural world. © The Ecological Society of America.
Weeks E.S.,Society for Conservation Biology |
Death R.G.,Massey University |
Foote K.,Massey University |
Anderson-Lederer R.,Society for Conservation Biology |
And 2 more authors.
Pacific Conservation Biology | Year: 2016
New Zealand's freshwater ecosystems support a diverse and unique array of endemic flora and fauna. However, the conservation of its freshwater biodiversity is often overlooked in comparison to terrestrial and marine environments, and is under increasing threat from agricultural intensification, urbanisation, climate change, invasive species, and water abstraction. New Zealand has some of the highest levels of threatened freshwater species in the world with, for example, up to 74% of native freshwater fish listed as endangered or at risk. Threatened species are often discounted in water policy and management that is predominantly focussed on balancing water quality and economic development rather than biodiversity. We identify six clear actions to redress the balance of protecting New Zealand's freshwater biodiversity: 1. change legislation to adequately protect native and endemic fish species and invertebrates, including those harvested commercially and recreationally; 2. protect habitat critical to the survival of New Zealand's rare and range-restricted fish, invertebrate and plant freshwater species; 3. include river habitat to protect ecosystem health in the National Objectives Framework for the National Policy Statement for freshwater; 4. establish monitoring and recovery plans for New Zealand's threatened freshwater invertebrate fauna; 5. develop policy and best management practices for freshwater catchments in addition to lakes and rivers to also include wetlands, estuaries, and groundwater ecosystems; and 6. establish, improve, and maintain appropriately wide riparian zones that connect across entire water catchments. We have published these recommendations as a scientific statement prepared for the Oceania Section of the Society for Conservation Biology to facilitate communication of our thoughts to as wide an audience as possible (https://conbio.org/images/content-groups/Oceania/Scientific-Statement-1-.pdf, accessed 8 February 2016). © CSIRO 2016.