Conservation Biology

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Species Ecology is grounded to conservation biology but what is conservation biology?

Attend a meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology and you are likely to meet economists and ecologists, geneticists and geographers, philosophers, foresters, and fisheries managers. People can wear many different hats and still say, ‘‘I am a conservation biologist.’’ Conservation biology is a remarkably diverse discipline that sits squarely at the intersection of many other fields. Of course, one cannot define a discipline solely in terms of other intersecting disciplines. Conservation biology is best defined by its overarching goal, maintaining the planet’s biological diversity. This focus creates a unique niche for conservation biologists, nestled within the larger arena of environmental management, applied ecology, and natural resources management. More and more people are finding a home in that niche as we become increasingly sensitive to the plight facing most of the earth’s species and ecosystems. But just what is Conservation Biology? Conservation biology is a crisis mission focused on saving life on earth. Despite this noble cause, the discipline still fails to ‘‘ring a bell’’ with much of the general public. One of the reasons is that conservation biology is indeed a mish-mash of many disciplines. Science in general and biology in particular play a big role in conservation biology yet the field extends into many other disciplines. These include finance, law, sociology, organization management, communications, and education; in other words, the ‘‘human dimensions’’ of conservation biology. Expertise in these latter fields is what gives conservation biologists traction in the real world. It’s been often said that conservation biology is as much about changing people’s habits as it is about saving nature. So what is the precise mix of disciplines? What do conservation biologists actually do? If you are preparing for a career in conservation biology, what skills should you develop? Students seeking a career in conservation biology need to develop an unusually broad outlook, marrying a focus on basic biological sciences and its application via the natural resources to a human-centered focus on economics, politics, law, and communication, which together represent the political arena in which all conservation efforts must operate.

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August 2020
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