In 2018, we organised the Conservation Science course for the third time. Over the last three years, we’ve written many blog posts about conservation hot topics (the decline of the Greater-Sage Grouse, rewilding in North America and the problems with palm oil), we’ve told you about some of the activities we do, from using cereal to test island biogeography theory to introducing the students to peer review with our fictional journal AQMCS (Advanced Quantitative Methods in Conservation Science). You know we like discussing conservation evidence, putting it to a quantitative test with code, and that we really enjoy seeing conservation in action during our fieldtrip to the Cairngorms.
But do you really know what kind of conservationists we are?
Thanks to The Future of Conservation survey, you can not only find out what kind of conservationists we are, but also how our views change with time. The survey is a collaborative project between Chris Sandbrook (UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and University of Cambridge), George Holmes (University of Leeds), Janet Fisher (University of Edinburgh) and Rogelio Luque-Lora (University of Cambridge).
The purpose of this project is to explore the views of conservationists on a range of issues, as a way of informing debates on the future of conservation. Recent debates about the future of conservation have been dominated by a few high-profile individuals, whose views seem to fit fairly neatly into polarised positions. In this survey, we are exploring the range of views that exist within the conservation movement globally, and how this varies by key demographic characteristics such as age, gender, geography and educational background. (The Future of Conservation website, 2017)
In the Conservation Science course, we introduce the Conservation Debate in our very first session, where we discuss Kareiva’s and Soulé’s papers about what conservation science is or isn’t. This year, we all completed the survey prior to the first session. Most of us fell within the Critical Social Science and New Conservation categories. Three months went by. After many thought-provoking discussions and activities, we took the survey again. So how did our results change?
Going through 11 weeks of lectures and activities has not markedly shifted the kinds of conservationists we are, but we have perhaps moved a bit more towards the center, the middle ground between People and Nature. Our infographic below shows exactly how people’s views changed.
One person went from Traditional Conservation to Critical Social Science and the rest of the movement was between our most popular categories, Critical Social Science and New Conservation. Perhaps reading and critically discussing lots of papers shifted us more towards the Critical Social Scientist category?
We found taking the survey, and especially taking it twice, quite interesting. In conservation, we often here that if only people had more information about a conservation issue, their views would change. People do what they do, or think what they think, because sometimes they don’t know differently. But is that really the case?
Our 2017 Conservation Science cohort is far from representative, and presumably people enrolled in the course already cared a lot about conservation to begin with. But overall, for us, knowing more and thinking more about Conservation Science, didn’t make a huge difference to who we are as conservationists – or at least in this survey.
Perhaps we can revisit the Future of Conservation again with the 2018 course next autumn and see if these results are repeated!
By Gergana and Isla