CSIRO scientist Éva Plagányi, who has worked with researchers from social and economic backgrounds to better understand human impacts on ecology (Image Credit: CSIRO, CC BY-SA 2.0)
At the end of the day, the aim of an ecologist is to generate a better understanding of the natural world around us. But that can amount to nothing if that understanding isn’t translated to the people who interact directly with the aspects of the natural world that we research. So whilst understanding an ecosystem should be our main priority, understanding the people who interact with an ecosystem is integral to making a difference.
This is where social sciences like anthropology can help. At the ASFB 2018 Conference, I spoke to plenary speaker CSIRO’s Dr. Éva Plagányi, who works on maintaining the sustainability of marine life. Éva’s work includes interaction with everyone from corporate businessmen to traditional fishers, and integrating social anthropology into her work has yielded great results. I spoke to Éva on the importance of incorporating social science into ecology.
The image of the lone polar bear has become almost ubiquitous in step with growing awareness of climate change. So why hasn’t the scientific community been able to convince the world to act accordingly? (Image Credit: Pixabay, CC0)
During the late 1970s, in the wake of intense scientific research showing that chlorofluorocarbons were leading to the depletion of the ozone layer, the world took action. By 1987, the world had seen the signing of the Montreal Treaty, which practically banned the use of CFCs, imposing significant economic costs on those who signed. Since then, the hole in the Ozone layer has retreated. It’s a powerful example of science identifying a problem, finding a solution, and then presenting both the urgency of both to the public. Scientific communication at its best, surely. So with recent steps backward in environmental conservation law worldwide, despite almost global consensus on the negative impact of well-studied worldwide environmental phenomena, is science communication no longer as effective?
Scientific methods of communication with the public have been evolving ever since the first Universities were opened in the 1200s. Recent times have seen communication evolve in step with the digital age. But given our lack of progress in key areas in which scientists have long known we face problems, such as climate change, biodiversity and ocean pollution, one wonders if we’re doing our job well enough.
Ian Winfield is a freshwater ecologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Lancaster, UK. Ian has spent years working in Northern England in an effort to conserve its populations of the Arctic charr, a common environmentally-demanding fish which has seen many of its populations in the polar regions come under increasing pressure. I took the chance to sit down with Ian at the recent International Charr Symposium in Duluth, Minnesota, and we discussed his experiences using cultural anthropology to encourage ecological action outside of the scientific community.
Lake Superior, the location of the 9th International Charr Symposium (Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons)
This week I’ve been lucky enough to represent NTNU at the 9th International Charr Symposium in Duluth, Minnesota, a conference focussing on one of my focal species in the genus Salvelinus. Conferences are like this are great for soaking in a swathe of alternative perspectives, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts from day one of the symposium, including a sign of success, one of innovation, and another of hope.