10 August 2012

Conservation success and the paths we're taking. (at SCB Asia 2012)

Over the course of yesterday and today various scientists and students provided the same window into conservation in Asia:

Small interventions are sorely required but the way we view professional success is not really compatible with small 'drop in the pond results' as scientists.

Should roles be clearly defined? Scientist, managers and implementers for wildlife. Also the term "implementer" - who is this person? a forest patrol beat guard? a policy worker? a manager could be one?

Should scientists have to extend themselves to be all? "Is today's conservation solution tomorrow's conservation mistake?" - maybe in some instances, but we don't have a choice and hopefully we will make different mistakes each time and be wiser for it.

Many times people-wildlife friction was also in the forefront. A show of hands we realized only maybe 10% of the audience fell in the following rough criteria - policy workers, government representatives and social scientists. But I would like to point out that with the number of times human-wildlife strife was highlighted at a conservation biology conference would signify that the gaps between these groups is smaller than we imagine. A larger problem - not highlighted is the lack of / mis - governance.

While the scientific community disseminates conclusive results for the conservation of nature it cannot extend itself to form societal decisions of prioritizing wins and losses. Here public and government buy-in come in to play. We know this. Should we be convincing? YES. Should we ally with similar value based people in other fields? YES.

And so - is conservation science objective? ... ? Most people felt they could not longer say 'yes' to this question. But I disagree. Scientific research by definition is objective, how the outcome is used is much less so. (Usually at this juncture someone points out the hole in the argument that should leading scientists be held responsible for the destruction caused by atomic bombs... I think that is an entirely different question of what science interests you and personal ethical codes.)

Large gnarly issues were voiced - where is conservation attention and resources spent? should we be picky about funding bodies or who works with us on research depending on their value and ethical code?

Another point to note here would be - conservationists must be afforded credit in ways that other applied science workers are apart from peer review publications. I think peer reviewed articles are still a standard, but should not be held up as the only critical measure of success as a conservationist. This becomes especially true in places where large gaps exist and little support can be found for education and journal access alongside eking out a living.

This morning, a suggestion for a regional / country specific conservation think tank to be formed what floated by Kashmira (plenary speaker) - to make sure reports reach policy workers and decision makers. To hold and make public this information in a collated but transparent manner. So that a community of "conservationists" {including scientists, policy workers, decision makers, government office holders and public patrons/volunteers/interest groups...} may have a stronger voice influencing policy.

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