Please join us at the 2020 Annual Meeting of the Western Section of The Wildlife Society in Redding, California! Being in Redding is like a home-coming for me. It was here that I attended my first Annual Meeting in 2008. And, as your President-Elect, I am excited to explore this Meeting’s theme with you: Navigating the Intersections of Science and Policy. Why?
As background, I entered into my wildlife professional career path, eager to work with species and habitats, only to discover that this career path necessitates interacting with human-dominated realms, such as politics, economics, and sociology. In my early years as a wildlife biologist, I seldom gave much attention to the broader role of influence that politics and economics had on my job or on the species that I was working with. I was comfortable letting someone else handle the messy political-economic decisions so that I could continue looking for nesting raptors or catching snakes. But along the way I realized that it was critical that my perspective, knowledge, and experience contribute to environmental policy. My voice matters…and so does yours. If our voices are not at the policy table, consider the voices that will be showing up…
While serving as the Section’s Conservation Affairs Committee Chair (since 2017), I have had a front row seat to seeing the hesitation and confusion that many wildlife professionals experience when considering how or whether to engage in policy. I know that many of us have been surprised at the turn of events in the past two years as we have seen policies that seemed unshakable – like the protection of National Monuments and the text and interpretation of the Endangered Species Act – become at risk of crumbling. Perhaps your personal life and/or your professional life was impacted by the month-long shutdown of the federal government – and you couldn’t pay your bills or get your work done. Maybe the research funding for your favorite wildlife species or the priority setting for protecting an ecosystem seems to be in a backslide. I was not alone among wildlife professionals to be both excited and alarmed that scientists of all studies and sectors came together in the March for Science – emerging out of our laboratories and field sites to speak up about the importance of science, particularly where it intersects with policies that govern funding and regulations for research, resource management, climate resiliency planning, species and habitat protection, and basic quality-of-life needs like clean water and air.
You should know that you are not alone if you ever found yourself asking, “How do I avoid conflicts of interest as a biologist who has a strong concern about some environmental policy decision that may appear contrary to your employment with a government agency or a consulting firm?” You are not alone if you ever questioned whether your comment letter that you submitted in response to a proposed policy change has even made a difference. You are not alone if you have felt nervous about calling up your elected representative or even setting up a face-to-face meeting with them – or just unsure of where to start or what to say.
At the 2020 Annual Meeting, we will explore our role, as wildlife professionals and members of TWS, within the intersection of science and policy. My goal is that each of you come away from the Annual Meeting with more confidence in navigating (and being more effective in) this intersection, with its perceived conflicts of interest or marred objectivity. It is my hope to explore the nuances of this theme throughout our Annual Meeting – from the pre-symposium workshops to the concurrent sessions, from the plenary to the field trips. I hope that each of you is, in some way, inspired to step in and participate more confidently in policy, or perhaps to step up into a leadership position – to ensure that science is represented in the class room as well as the board room, on the City Council as well as the halls of Congress.
Representation matters; diversity is the fabric of not only our earth’s ecosystems and also our scientific community. And wildlife professionals are represented when we participate, particularly when our engagement becomes more anticipatory and less reactionary. Your voice matters. So join us at the 2020 Annual Meeting, where you can present your research, learn from others, network, generate new ideas, reinvigorate your enthusiasm for wildlife conservation, and make your voice heard.
“Choose your fight and choose your tool. I can [be more effective and install more change] with a pair of binoculars than with a monkey wrench.”
– Rob Burton, February 5, 1997
2020 TWS-WS Annual Meeting Chair, TWS-WS President-Elect, Senior Wildlife Biologist & Regulatory Specialist at GEI Consultants, and Certified Wildlife Biologist