Herc: It’s like one of those nature shows. You mess with the environment, some species get f**ked out of their habitat.
Carver: Did you just use the word ‘habitat’ in a sentence?
Herc: I did.
[Quote from “The Wire”, one of the reasons ICCS went to Baltimore]
- advocacy: Tyrone Hayes is now becoming a regular plenary speaker at ICCBs (I’ve seen him before at ICCB 2010 in Edmonton) and there’s definitely a good reason for that. He has a great story to tell (and who doesn’t like good stories?) about the effects of atrazine on wildlife and his role advocating against its use. His question “when does science become environmental justice?” surely resonated on many of the listeners’ minds as he told us that atrazine causes sex change in wildlife and is linked to cancer among the people exposed in the USA (who were mostly workers without visas and access to medical insurance). The attempts of the chemical companies to discredit him have been many and persistent; producing scientific evidence just wasn’t enough and he needed to try a complementary approach – he became an environmental activist. Tyrone’s talk was a great reminder that good science is rarely (if ever) enough. This is particularly topical as in the same week that a paper reviewing all the scientific evidence relevant to the control of bovine tuberculosis in Great Britain was published, Cameron says that “badger cull is right thing to do”. We, as scientists, have to speak louder!
- technology and communication: if there’s something that we got from the plenary on using “the rocket model for effective communication” is that there are many ways of communicating our science and not everyone is doing it right. A way of getting our messages across is to engage with new technologies and social media to communicate with the public, policy-makers and other scientists. #ICCB2013 had plenty of action during the conference and there were a few talks on using new tools for conservation outreach. While I really believe that there’s much to be gained from all of this, I’m really keen to learn more about the links between advancements in technology and specific conservation outcomes, as well as how to make sure we speak loud enough in a world overloaded with information (here are some top Twitter tips for academics by the way). Also, we shouldn’t neglect the power of art to get the message across. I really enjoyed Jim Toomey’s talk on marine reserves. Jim is a cartoonist and his work shows that conservation needs not only science but also media, design and marketing skills. The conservationists’ toolbox grows larger and larger!
- interdisciplinary tools: personally, I’m all about interdisciplinary applications and tools. So it was great to see presentations from many different disciplines, such as conservation criminology, psychology and social marketing. Among my favourites was the symposium on analysing social networks for conservation decision-making. Social network analyses seem to be becomingtrendy in conservation and are great to describe social systems and investigate management and institutional designs. There is, however, limited understanding of how social networks evolve over time and how they are linked to specific outcomes in governance and conservation so I found especially interesting how different researchers are addressing these challenges. Another highlight of the conference was definitely the short course on “Advances in Conservation Impact Evaluation and Causal Inference” by Ferraro & Hanauer. What an astounding amount of information from economics on how to design surveys and collect data that can be used to actually measure the social and ecological effects of conservation programmes! Being aware of the issues and assumptions made when measuring conservation effectiveness ought to be a top consideration in all conservation projects (read this if you want to know more).
- conferences and coffee: finally, the coffee lover in me cannot finish without mentioning that attending a conference is useful mainly for sharing ideas and networking… and this requires coffee (or other alternative you might prefer), particularly if the sessions start at 8 a.m.! ICCB organizers: what’s wrong with making some (good!) coffee available during all the day? Make it ethical and as environmental-friendly as possible and we will be even happier!