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Are Conservation Biologists Wasting Their Time?

• November 10, 2010 • 2:02 PM

Ecologist Hugh Possingham argues that conservationists have made a fetish of monitoring ailing species, and what they should be doing isn’t counting but acting.

Conventional wisdom says saving threatened species requires closely track their numbers. As a result, conservation biologists around the world spend a lot of time and money keeping track of all sorts of species, from elephants to whales.

But is all of this species monitoring getting anywhere for real conservation?

Definitely not, says Dr. Hugh Possingham, an ecologist and professor at the University of Queensland in Australia. Not only is this monitoring mostly a waste, it is actually hurting on the ground conservation efforts by siphoning off money that could otherwise be used to save species. Instead of just squandering resources, blindly monitoring for monitoring’s sake, Possingham urges scientists to devote themselves to action plans that actually do something to save threatened species.

Music for Curiouser and Curiouser is provided by Jamie Miller and by David Matheson.

Jai Ranganathan
Dr. Jai Ranganathan is a biologist and his research focuses on questions of species conservation. He can be reached at jai.ranganathan at gmail.com.

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