Communication, Conservation

Exploring Conservation Conflicts: New format

For our Exploring Conservation Conflicts blog, we are trying out a new format: personal contributions. We already got two wonderful personal stories tackling very different but important questions in conservation. Check them out!

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges humans have ever faced. This exploration is a personal account of the role that climate change plays in the daily life of researcher Dr Yann Gager. Yann explains to us what individual researchers can (and should?) do to help the fight against climate change. Read more

flatten the curveIn conservation, often a choice has to be made for the lesser of two evils. How can conservationists cope with such situations of seemingly inevitable loss? Here, we share a personal contribution from Dr Chelsea Batavia, in which she takes us along in the background story of her recent publication The moral residue of conservation, addressing exactly this issue. Read more

Communication, Conservation, Science

The case of cats and conservation

Tanja and I explored another conservation conflict on our Medium blog.

When a potential response to an urgent situation is either unlikely to work at all or unlikely to address the bulk of the problem, under what conditions should we try it anyway?

In this exploration, we wanted to share perspectives on the controversial case of cats in Australia, also by some called the ‘war against cats’. In 2015, the Australian Government launched the threatened species strategy to kill 2 Mio cats in Australia by 2020 with the aim to protect endemic wildlife. Four years after the strategy was launched, Australian researchers in Conservation Letters questioned the motives (conservation or politically driven) and the science behind the decision.

Just how much of a sensitive topic this particular case study is, we noticed by how difficult it was for us to find contributors. Luckily we found two experts from Moral Philosophy that shared their insight with us:

Carlos Gray Santana is an Assistant Professor in Philosophy at the University of Utah. Dr Santana’s uses ethics to shed light on complicated issues such as the environment and human cognition. William S. Lynn is a Research Scientist in the George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University. The focus of Bill’s work is the ethics and politics of animal protection and sustainability.

For optional guidance, we asked the experts the following questions:

  • Why is the matter of cats and wildlife so controversial?
  • Why do you think politicians focus on culling cats rather than on habitat loss (as suggested in Doherty et al. 2019) and could open discussions be fostered to move beyond culling?
  • How do you think the public would respond when culling of cats turns out not to be effective in halting endemic species decline?

Curious about what they had to say? Read our blog post here.
And you can also follow us on Twitter!

Photo credits: Pacto Visual on Unsplash

Communication, Conservation

The return of the ‘beast’?

We (Tanja and I) just published a new conservation conflict exploration on our Medium blog!

We asked three experts from the fields of Human Dimensions, Wildlife Research and Moral Philosophy to share their perspectives with us on a particular case study:

Germany relaxes rules on shooting wolves

“After a emotional debate pitting environmental against farming concerns, the government decided that wolves can now be shot if they cause “serious damage” to livestock farmers.

In cases of repeated attacks against sheep flocks or cattle herds, individuals can be hunted down even if it is unclear which animal in a pack was responsible.”

We asked the experts:

  1. Why do people struggle so much with the return of wolves?
  2. Should killing of wolves in Germany be allowed/legal?
  3. What would be the best first step(s) to address this conflict in Germany or other countries in similar situations?

Curious about what they had to say? Read our blog post here!
You can also follow us on Twitter.

Photo credits: Jana Malin; mythos-wolf.de

Communication, Science

A Biologist Love Story

For Valentine’s Day, two colleagues and I conducted a fun writing exercise: we made a loving tribute to our study animals. Thank you, Cecilia and Tanja for all the fun!

Here is my little poetic contribution: 

A Biologist Love Story

Who do I love the most? I cannot choose
My first love affair was with a barnacle goose
We spent a whole winter together, out in the cold
With only a blanket and each other to hold
But in the end, I still had to let you loose

Then came you, with your beautiful black tie
Oh, dazzling great tit, you certainly weren’t shy
Many days we spent, together in the wood
We had so much fun, those times were good
But in the end, we still had to say goodbye

To forget my sorrow, I travelled very far
And in the tropical waters, I found my little star
Pretty little guppy, it was love at first sight
In the dark rainforest, you are my shiny light
I can’t stop thinking of you, it is very bizarre

Even so, I feel alone with you far away
I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to say
Suddenly, a stranger appeared in the middle of the night
A bat swooped me off my feet and took me to a great height
What will happen, who should I choose at the end of the day?

I don’t know
Come what may…

Science

New publication: Supporting ape rights: a comment on the role of science

Autumn 2018, friend and colleague Edwin van Leeuwen asked me an intriguing question: if I was interested in co-authoring a comment on an essay about Nonhuman rights? This was a topic we had talked about before and I find very fascinating, timely and relevant. So of course I said yes.

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The central essay and our comment, together with other comments, are part of a special issue on the topic of Great Ape Personhood, published by the ASEBL Journal (Association for the Study of (Ethical Behavior)•(Evolutionary Biology) in Literature; St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, N.Y.).  As so nicely explained by the editors (Gregory Tague and Christine Webb) in the introduction of this special issue: with his essay, Professor Thompson tries to bridge the false divide between natural science and humanities. Working from the foundations of philosophy and legal theory [and subsequently discussing important focus points for future research], he tries to reach scientists and their thinking in the battle for great ape personhood.

“Thompson relies on Nonhuman Rights Project attorney Steven Wise, who calls on scientists to awaken the thinking of judges deciding the fate of great apes. Perhaps it’s an unfair analogy, but Thompson attempts to do with primatology what climatologists from several generations tried to do – demonstrate how science is part of and can dramatically affect public policy. Thompson shows how what is empirically rational in science is treated differently in the legal arena, and that difference poses a real problem in the question of granting personhood status and other rights to great apes.”

Several interesting comments were made on the essay, both from philosophers and scientists. Edwin and me commented i.a. by suggesting some alternative ways science could support the quest for Great Ape Rights.

This project was definitely out of my comfort zone. And I see that as a good thing. Thompson’s essay and also the philosophers’ brief, written in support by a group of  philosophers, have given me many new insights about the role of philosophy and science in society. How together, philosophy and science can have some very important things to say about the way we live in this world.

The complete issue can be found here.
And (only) the comment made by Edwin and me, here.

Reference
van Leeuwen E.J.C., Snijders L. (2019) A comment on Thompson “Supporting Ape Rights: Finding the Right Fit Between Science and the Law.” ASEBL Journal 14 (1), 46-48.