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Center for Biology and Society Conversation Series

April 4, 2019

The Center for Biology and Society kicked off the Spring 2019 edition of the Conversation Series on January 30. This semester, the Conversation Series is thematically organized around the theme “Organizing for Biodiversity Conservation in the Age of Extinction” and is co-sponsored with the SoLS Life Sciences Ethics program. The first session considered “Organizing concepts in biodiversity conservation.” The three panelists – Dr. Leah Gerber of ASU’s Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Dr. Greg Kaebnick of the Hastings Center, and PhD student Elliott Millinor of SoLS’ Center for Biology and Society and American Indian Studies – shared a variety of perspectives on organizing and assembling concepts within the field of biodiversity conservation.
        The conversation began with an introduction by Dr. Gerber, whose research and experience is in marine ecology and conservation. She outlined a set of concepts commonly used by conservation scientists. Building from, and at times contrasting with, the definitions and descriptions laid out by Dr. Gerber, Dr. Kaebnick approached the topic from a bioethics perspective. He explored the moral and ethical features of biodiversity conservation. Dr. Kaebnick agreed with Dr. Gerber that a concept of biodiversity must include more than a diversity of genomes but questioned whether higher levels of organization are more persuasive for initiating morally and ethically guided conservation outcomes. Other issues at stake included whether it is ethically responsible to center conservation efforts on charismatic species and whether diversity itself is an inherent value of conservation. Millinor’s work at the intersection of conservation biology, philosophy of science, and Indigenous epistemology situated him theoretically somewhere between the other two scholars. His role as moderator in the discussion allowed him to point out the interesting ways in which the panelists’ views converged, as well as recognizing points of divergence that led to fruitful discussions with the audience.
        One salient question for the conversation was the meaning of the phrase “organizing concepts for biodiversity conservation.” On the one hand, the session title could refer to the actual work of organizing the concepts necessary for realizing certain conservation outcomes; on the other hand, it may be that there are particular concepts within the field of conservation that function as organizing principles. Generally speaking, the panelists agreed that limiting the phrase to one or the other interpretation was too restrictive and provided examples from their own experiences to demonstrate how a pluralistic interpretation is ultimately more useful. The conversation about organizing concepts for conservation set the stage for the forthcoming conversation on stakeholders, conservation scientists, and their interactions in April. 
        Please visit our Conversation Series page for further info on upcoming events… https://cbs.asu.edu/center-biology-and-society-conversation-series

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