October 4, 2018
If conservation science is going to save the myriad species under threat in the world today, it’s going to have to go about it more efficiently, according to a paper published this week by an Arizona State University ecology professor.
If academia remains in an ivory tower and nongovernmental organizations working to save species lurch from problem to problem, headway won’t be made fast enough to stem the tide of biodiversity loss, said Leah Gerber, a professor in the School of Life Sciences. She is also founding director of the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, where she leads a team of staff and scholars building capacity to solve the most pressing biodiversity environmental challenges.
Like many other fields, conservation science tends to rely on intuition — rather than evidence — about decision-making, resource allocation and spatial planning. Evidence would be the basis for an actionable principle, Gerber said.
What Gerber proposes is a particular kind of boundary organization in conservation science — one with interdisciplinary research capacity and “real‐world” experience.
Last year ASU powered up its conservation biology program by adding seven professors of practice to the faculty as part of a partnership between the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes and Conservation International, the biggest American conservation organization.
Cambridge, Cornell and Stanford have set up similar partnerships in recent years. Gerber hopes that model will become the wave of the future in conservation.
“Increasingly this has to be the way it goes, because it’s an efficiency issue,” she said. “Conservation International has excellent scientists, but they’re doing a lot more than science. This offers an opportunity for ASU to offer a deep research bench to achieving measurable conservation outcomes across the globe, all while training the next generation."