The Center for Biodiversity and Conservation and its partners invited students, postdocs, and early-career professionals to take part in the 12th annual Student Conference on Conservation Science – New York (SCCS-NY), which was an entirely virtual meeting.
As a part of the only international series of conservation conferences featuring students, SCCS-NY provides opportunities for emerging scientists to professionally network, gain experience, and present and get feedback on their work. Interactions with peers as well as leaders in science, policy, and management will encourage collaborations, inspire further research, and create lasting professional connections.
Our relationship to the environment, past and future: lessons from engaged archaeological research
Plenarist: Kristina Douglass, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and African Studies, The Pennsylvania State University
For the past 18 months, the spread of COVID-19 has dominated news cycles and is at the forefront of local, national, and international concerns. The coronavirus pandemic is one of many human-driven socio-ecological crises we face as a global community. In August of this year, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international body of researchers who evaluate and synthesize the science of climate change, released their latest report. The report documents in sobering detail the extent to which our planet’s climate is changing due to human activity. And, like the coronavirus pandemic, the climate crisis intersects with and compounds other problems, such as biodiversity loss, and food, energy, and water insecurity. The exceptional challenges of the present moment can seem insurmountable, but they present an opportunity to draw from deeper time and learn how people and ecosystems adapted to changing conditions in the past.
I became an archaeologist because I believe in the power of storytelling. Storytelling is fundamental to human evolution and is what defines humans as a species. We have all had the experience of learning from our elders, those who came before us. If we think about it, we have millions of years of cumulative human experience on the planet to learn from. Our ability to pass knowledge from one generation to the next is central to our survival. Archaeology can inform our approaches to contemporary conservation by telling the stories of how ancient peoples shaped landscapes, responded to past climate change, interacted with diverse species of plants and animals, and sustained livelihoods over centuries and millennia.
Kristina Douglass is an archaeologist who investigates how people, land- and seascapes co-evolve. She is the Joyce and Doug Sherwin Early Career Professor in the Rock Ethics Institute and Assistant Professor of Anthropology and African Studies at Penn State University. She is a Penn State Institutes for Energy and the Environment co-funded faculty member and a faculty affiliate of the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences. Douglass is also a Smithsonian Institution Research Associate. Her work is grounded in collaborations with local, Indigenous, and descendant (LID) communities as equal partners in the co-production of science, and the recording, preservation and dissemination of LID knowledge. Douglass and her collaborators aim to contribute long-term perspectives on human-environment interactions to public debates, planning and policymaking on the issues of climate change, conservation, and sustainability.
Since 2011, Douglass has directed the Morombe Archaeological Project (MAP), based in the Velondriake Marine Protected Area. This territory is home to diverse LID communities, including Vezo fishers, Mikea foragers and Masikoro herders. The MAP team is made up of Velondriake LID community members, and an international group of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. The MAP is anchored at Penn State to the Olo Be Taloha Lab (@OBTLab) for African Environmental Archaeology, which Douglass also directs. Douglass is a mother, singer, dancer, Capoeirista, SCUBA diver and avid gardener, all of which intersect in essential ways with her work as an archaeologist.
Inspiring careers in conservation: SCCS-NY alumni share their journeys in the conservation field
Panelists: Leo Douglas, Clinical Assistant Professor, New York University; Kaitlyn Parkins, Associate Director for Conservation and Science, NYC Audubon; Andrea Reid, Assistant Professor, The University of British Columbia
What's next after presenting your research at the Student Conference on Conservation Science? A panel of SCCS-NY alums will share their inspiring journeys in conservation, moderated by CBC Biodiversity Scientist and SCCS alumna Dr. Samantha Cheng.