Science for policy and policy for science at the frontier of conservation biology

Science for policy and policy for science at the frontier of conservation biology


Conservation biology is an inherently mission-driven scientific discipline, to apply ecology, biology and other disciplines to halt and reverse the decline of biodiversity. Within this, there is assumption that more and better knowledge will produce more and better policies. However, there has long been a debate about how best to produce useful scientific knowledge for conservation policy. Furthermore, important questions have been raised about ethical issues in conservation science, around equity and justice, human rights, and inclusion of different worldviews.


The question of how to produce better science for conservation is particularly acute as new technologies and techniques emerge, which allow us to measure and understand the environment in new ways. This includes new forms of modelling, developments in remote sensing, eco-acoustics, radar, eDNA and high-throughput sequencing. As with previous leaps in environmental measurements such as the development of satellite imagery and atmospheric trace chemistry in the 1960s, this promises to change the way scientists understand the environment, how scientists inform policy makers and ultimately the public about environmental issues.


This project would look at new technologies for environmental measurements in conservation, and ask how these might alter the relationship between science and policy, and how this science could be produced in the best possible way for policy. It would focus on new and emerging environmental measurements, such as radar-based entomology, or eDNA. It would ask

  • What does this new technology do, to make the environment knowable? What previously known-unknowns and unknown-unknowns does it open up?
  • What is the relationship between knowledge production and knowledge-demand, with these new technologies.
  • How might this new science be best produced, analysed and communicated for impact?
  • What are the ethical implications of this new technologies?


This project is grounded in conservation biology and environmental science, but it would engage into other disciplines as appropriate, including science and technology studies, environment history, and conservation social science.