University adds 7 professors of practice from largest American conservation group with goal of building the next generation
Environmental news can be all too depressing, with headlines punctuated by the drumbeat of extinction and destruction.
There are occasional bright spots. One of them occurred this month when Arizona State University announced it is powering up its conservation biology program by adding seven professors of practice to the faculty as part of a partnership between the university’s Center for Biodiversity Outcomes and Conservation International, the biggest American conservation organization.
The ASU center takes a multidisciplinary approach to find solutions for the long term — not just the science of saving species that one might think of with the field, but also engaging with business and reaching out to groups underrepresented in conservation biology.
It’s a practical approach that fits well with that of Conservation International. The nonprofit has helped establish 1,200 protected areas across 78 countries and protected more than 730 million hectares of land, marine and coastal areas.
The partnership’s goals are threefold:
- protect biodiversity
- promote sustainable development, particularly in food production and fisheries
- train the next generation of conservation biologists
Biodiversity is “the natural capital that we need for human well-being,” said Leah Gerber, director of the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, itself a partnership between ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and the School of Life Sciences.
“Our partnership with Conservation International is a mechanism to integrate scholarship across campus in interdisciplinary teams to tackle (those) three general goals,” Gerber said.
ASU President Michael Crow addressed the seven new professors of practice who will be teaching, lecturing, mentoring and leading fieldwork in Arizona; Washington, D.C.; and around the world.
This will not be a sequestration of academia away from the front lines, Crow told them. They will rush towards the battle, not away from it.
“Right now we’re in a race, a race that will not be easily won,” Crow said. “The forces of nature and the negative force of our impact on nature are accelerating. The acceleration of those forces are such that they will contribute to our need to have something we don’t have, which are better theories, better ideas, better tools, better solutions, better implementation, better translation — none of which comes naturally. ...
“We don’t have preconceived notions of what it all means or how it all works out — we just hope we can work it out. It’s meant to be catalytically disruptive to how we think and how we work and what we’re doing.”