What a Group of 2,000 Biologists Talks About May Surprise You

(Photo by Clare Fieseler)
A conservation biologist looks out on the streets of Montpellier, viewing domesticated humans below. (Photo by Clare Fieseler)

Last night, amidst the many musicians filling the streets of France with song, one group stood out. The musicians were biologists, and they played a strange assortment of exotic instruments sourced from the remote corners of the world where they do their research and conservation work. It was a jam session for an audience of their own global tribe of scientists.

The 2015 International Congress of Conservation Biology (ICCB) is happening this week in Montpellier, France. Researchers and practitioners traveled from over 90 countries in the largest numbers of the conference’s history.

What emerges when 2,000 members of this tribe converge may surprise you.

“We’re not [just] talking about ‘how to save a rhino,’” says Dr. James Watson, President of the Society of Conservation Biology, the professional society organizing the conference. “We’ve got sessions on conservation-marketing, religion, and drones.”

The interdisciplinary and outside-the-box nature of the conference this year wasn’t always the hallmark of the gathering. “Fifteen years ago, the membership of SCB was 80 percent Americans. Now it’s 50 percent. Also, during that same time period, we’ve had incredible economic, cultural, and biological change,” says Watson. That diversity and urgency has pushed the boundaries of new partnerships, solutions, and research.

Old Meets New

For example, the role of religion in conservation outcomes has taken a prominent role in this year’s conference. Dr. Tebaldo Vinciguerra, an official of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican, is in attendance at the conference and participated in well-attended roundtable, “Synergies of faith and conservation: Exploring pathways of measureable action.” But the new, green papal encyclical shared the spotlight. Buddhism, Islam, and Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity were all represented in projects presented at the conference; the project leaders all sleuthing —> Read More