“Universities should weigh actual conservation work more when evaluating conservation biologists.”

We’re way behind on recent posts here at Agroecology Plaza, but until we get back up to speed:

Interview w/top conservation biologist Cagan Sekercioglu:

Q:You have published high- impact papers while advancing conservation in Turkey: are conservation biologists doing enough real-world conservation?

A: Unfortunately not. Actual conservation is mostly done by working with people, and is as much politics and human relations as science. But most ecologists get little training in social sciences and academia does not value conservation success without papers in peer-reviewed journals. Your high-impact paper will get you tenure, but means nothing to an impoverished villager poaching in a national park. A million-dollar grant used to protect a biodiversity hotspot will not interest a university if it does not receive overhead funds. Therefore, non-governmental organizations do the bulk of actual conservation work, but conservation success often requires the day-to-day involvement, feedback, oversight, and credibility of top-notch scientists, who are mostly in universities. Involvement in real-world conservation is also essential for improving conservation science. I work hard to balance field research, global meta-analyses, and communitybased conservation. We need far more conservation biologists, especially high-ranking academics, on the ground, directing conservation teams, working with local people, and convincing decision makers. More papers alone detailing conservation problems will not prevent extinctions. This is the equivalent of everybody shouting “Fire!” but few people fighting it. We need conservation biologists’ long-term involvement with local communities. However, this often has a big opportunity cost. More time meeting with villagers and politicians means less time writing papers and proposals. I work around the clock and do not have a family. This is not an ideal choice for everyone. Universities should weigh actual conservation work more when evaluating conservation biologists.”

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