News Roundup

  • An enormous timber deal has been signed in Canada, protecting or conserving about 72 million hectares of land.
  • You can’t say it enough: communicating conservation research and management is critical to successful projects.
  • Some cool new iPhone apps, one for bird watchers and one for gorillas. The BirdsEye app is especially cool, with up-to-date information on other sightings in your area. I believe the goal is to update sightings from the app, providing an enormous amount of data for ecologists. This article says that in the past 8 years, eBird has gone from a few thousand sightings reported every month to more than 1.5 million.
  • Invasive species news: some invasives, not always bad; although when they look like “sea snot,” that’s probably a bad thing. Oh and “don’t sleep with the windows open” kudzu increases air pollution.
Posted by Tim on May 19th, 2010 • • Comments Off
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Real Talk

Wow, some fantastic, earnest conversation about the current state of conservation going on at the GECP (live here), it will also be archived for later viewing if you missed it. Paraphrase: we need to stop worrying about individual species going extinct; nature is more resilient than we are; etc. Lively debate. “The intrinsic argument for conservation doesn’t work.” Biodiversity is a subdiscipline in the long history of conservation.

Edit: the video is, indeed, now archived for viewing here. Definitely worth watching!

Posted by Tim on May 17th, 2010 • • Comments Off

Educating Conservation Professionals

Just returned home from UC Davis, where the John Muir Institute of the Environment was hosting a day-long forum, “Exploring New Opportunities for Educating Conservation Professionals” (here’s the blog). Two fora in the morning, both hosted by Andrew Revkin, focused on how to prepare graduate students for jobs in conservation. The first panel were a group of federal agency folks, and the second were an impressive collection of representatives from WCS, TNC, CI, WWF, and the American Museum of Natural History. Here’s the short version of their message: to be a good candidate for a position in conservation, and to be an effective conservation biologist, you must be an economist; a linguist; a sociologist; a political scientist; a manager of people and programs; a great communicator; an organizer of meetings; a do-er, and more importantly, a finisher. Oh and it helps if you have some scientific background, but not so much that you are fanatically attached to having enough data. You are the decider.

There was a lot of encouraging information, but perhaps too many expectations. The major road blocks to graduate students gaining that experience are obvious: first, it’s hard to put participatory and applied conservation into a dissertation chapter; and second, the people training you are academics. They know, quite well, how to prepare yourself for an academic job. But for me, and I suspect most graduate students in ecology, the idea of shooting specifically for a job in academia without making room for other options is unrealistic, and there wasn’t much discussion of the best ways to hedge your bets. Few of the graduate students I know are strongly set on one career over another, but it makes for a lot of indirect academic paths. The real message from the meeting, I suppose, was keep your options open, spread yourself wide, but keep strong to your core discipline. It was a real pleasure to see so many dedicate conservation professionals in one place, especially ones who all seemed satisfied with their varied careers.

Posted by Tim on May 17th, 2010 • • Comments Off