Society for Conservation Biology

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SSWG Workshops

The SSWG organizes workshops to facilitate information exchange and learning in the conservation social sciences.

2009 SCB Annual Meeting - Beijing, China

  • A full description of the short courses offered in Beijing can be found here

2008 SCB Annual Meeting - Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States

  • A full description of the short courses offered in Chattanooga can be found here

2007 SCB Annual Meeting - Porth Elizabeth, South Africa

Conservation hunting and community sustainability

Organizers: Lee Foote, University of Alberta, Canada; Jon Hutton, Cambridge, England; Holly Dublin, IUCN (

Subsistence and recreational hunting have historically been an influence on many large mammal species worldwide. Properly managed and regulated, recreational hunting can promote conservation goals of community stability and ecological sustainability by replacing more deleterious activities such as cultivation, intensive livestock production, and predator removal. Recreational hunting may be applied in scientifically and culturally informed ways to enhance biodiversity, meet human needs, and to increase the public's value, appreciation and awareness of nature. We will discuss conservation hunting (CH) within the context of case studies to show successes, failures, unintended consequences, and needs for best practices. Southern Africa and the North American arctic have become CH global leaders in recent years by slowing unsustainable wildlife trade, questioning indiscriminate predator reductions, and re-connecting local communities with wildlife use. Most of CH's innovative and adaptive progress has come from skilled wildlife managers/practitioners who have considered social needs as well as ecological settings. Unfortunately, neither a theoretical basis nor sufficient critical overview of CH has yet been advanced. Opposition to CH has emerged from (a) those categorically/morally opposed to killing animals, (b) some livestock producers, and (c) inflexible governance structures. Strong support has emerged from many ENGOs, academics, and community groups. We will follow case studies with an expert panel, engaging CH practitioners, and audience participation.

Global change challenges for biodiversity conservation in Africa – practical tools for planners and managers

Organizers: Phoebe Barnard and Guy Midgley, Global Change Research. Group, Cape Town. with assistance from Dr John Donaldson (Kirstenbosch Research Centre, Cape Town); Ms Mandy Driver (Bioregional Policy and Monitoring, Pretoria); Ms Zuziwe Jonas (Conservation Planning Division, Pretoria); Mr Barney Kgope (Global Change Research Group, Cape Town); Mr Brian Mantlana (Global Change Research Group, Cape Town); Dr Mathieu Rouget (Conservation Planning Division, Pretoria); Dr Kerry Sink (Marine Programme, Bioregional Programmes & Policy, Cape Town) (

Most conservation biologists and agencies cite climate change, habitat loss and invasives as the key drivers of overwhelming biodiversity loss in the 21st century. But how will managers and planners in Africa minimize this loss? What can policymakers do to help their task? At the moment, nobody really knows. Practical advice is thin on the ground and poorly developed conceptually. Yet managers and planners are starting to feel despondent, aware that a big problem exists, but feeling powerless to stop or plan for it. This has serious implications for our attempts to conserve biodiversity, never mind to meet the 2010 target. This topic is crucial for the future of biodiversity, and indeed the field of conservation biology.

We intend to identify and prioritize advice, and where possible to identify concrete tools to help planners and managers at different scales. We will brainstorm the guts of a significant paper for a major scientific journal, but will also stimulate the development and dissemination of advice and tools in popular, user-friendly formats, including ‘toolkits' and articles in Conservation in Practice and development policy journals. We intend to build a community to take this discourse beyond SCB, and to work in an interdisciplinary way to develop such tools.

Participating in a conference: some advice for new-comers

Organizers: Malcolm Hunter, University of Maine; David Lindenmayer, Australia National University; Aram Calhoun, University of Maine (

This workshop will provide advice to participants, especially students, on the fine art of attending a conference and making effective presentations. Topics to be covered will include: posters (how to fit 5,000 words into a square meter), oral presentations (how to fit 5,000 words into 15 slides), and networking (how to fit 5,000 words into a beer). In other words, we will take a light-hearted look at some ways to make attending a conference an enjoyable and productive experience.

This session is based on the presenters' new book: “Saving the Earth as a Career: Advice on becoming a conservation professional” published by Blackwell Science.

Partnerships for innovation in land restoration

Organizers: Gleb Raygorodetsky, The Christensen Fund; Erika Zavaleta, University of California (

Ecosystems the world over have been degraded through species loss and declines, biological invasions, changes in land use, and increased disturbance. To reverse – or even keep pace with – ongoing degradation will require revising conventional restoration strategies. There are promising innovative approaches that tackle degradation at the level of large landscapes and regions, by mobilizing a range of creative tools and collaborative approaches. These efforts are deeply interdisciplinary, including inter-regional, cross-cultural and cross-jurisdictional partnerships that capitalize on w landscape-scale ecological processes, such as species interactions, fire, and mobile herbivores. The proposed workshop will explore innovative approaches that build non-conventional alliances (e.g., through community participation, incorporation of local knowledge and practices, etc.) to improve outcomes of ecosystem restoration. This workshop will highlight original restoration efforts that, while diverse in their geography, coalesce in their approach. The unifying theme of these efforts is that the incorporation of traditional knowledge, community partnerships, and local institutions strengthens conservation and restoration outcomes by increasing the resilience of social-ecological systems at large scales. To reflect these common features, the proposed workshop will include presentations and follow up discussions that address the critical role of place-specific knowledge in tailoring restoration strategies to particular ecologies.

2006 SCB Annual Meeting - San Jose, California, United States

Can Transboundary Natural Resource Management (TBNRM) contribute to enhance conservation objectives and address poverty alleviation issues in border region? A case study of the Virunga-Bwindi TBNRM

Organized by Kayitare Anecto, International Gorilla Conservation Programme, Rwanda

Biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation are important topics on the international agenda; the Convention on Biodiversity Diversity (CBD) highlights the importance of biodiversity conservation, and poverty alleviation is the first priority of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Biodiversity-rich countries in Africa are also economically poor countries and the challenge to achieve both poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation is not easy. The need to link biodiversity conservation and development has been recognized and many initiatives have been undertaken. Transboundary Natural Resources Management (TBNRM) is a recent initiative whose objectives cover conservation and socioeconomic development needs with a holistic approach in border regions.

This workshop will address the relationship between TBNRM and conservation and poverty alleviation in the Virunga-Bwindi region. The TBNRM approach offers an opportunity to deal with conservation and socioeconomic issues in the Virunga-Bwindi region. However, TBNRM has many objectives such as conservation, socioeconomic integration, and economic development. Different institutions and agencies are likely to adopt different objectives and agenda. In the Virunga-Bwindi region, we have found that the TBNRM program, which has been facilitated by conservation organisations (IGCP), focused more on conservation objectives than poverty alleviation. Partnership is very important in achieving TBNRM objectives in the Virunga-Bwindi region.

How do we know it's working? State of the art program evaluation for conservation science and policy

Organized by Subhrendu Pattanayak, RTI International and Paul Ferraro, Georgia State University (

For too long, scientists and practitioners have depended on intuition and anecdote to guide conservation investments. To maximize the conservation impact of our limited resources, the conservation field must adopt a culture of rigorous program evaluation. Without such a culture, identifying which of the competing conservation approaches will make best use of scarce conservation dollars in the 21st century conservation is impossible. We will start by showing how current "monitoring and evaluation" efforts focus on descriptive indicators (i.e., administrative metrics of change) instead of the fundamental evaluation question: what would have happened if there had been no intervention? (a counterfactual event that is not observed). Presentations will draw on ongoing program evaluations in the United States and the tropics to discuss methods—experimental and quasi-experimental—that can be applied to draw reliable inferences about causal effects. Evidence on such effects can help identify, design and justify effective interventions. We also will discuss the relative merits of alternative methods when the state-of-the-art methods cannot be applied. Each conservation project that builds in these methods will make a small but vital contribution towards filling the large gap in our knowledge about the most effective conservation investments.

Human demographic change and biodiversity conservation: impacts and opportunities for the conservation sector

Organized by Judy Oglethorpe, World Wildlife Fund (

The workshop aims to provide a state-of-the-art review of adverse impacts of migration, fertility, and HIV/AIDS on biodiversity, and to provide conservation practitioners with strategies to tackle these threats. Global human population is expected to grow from 6.5 billion in 2005 to 9.1 billion in 2050, with increased consumption of natural resources, loss of habitat, and pollution. Human migration to biodiversity-rich areas is also likely to increase, driven by population growth, environmental degradation, globalization of trade, and climate change. HIV/AIDS is reducing life expectancy and economic productivity in some regions, with serious impacts on conservation capacity, natural resources, and land use.

A number of cutting-edge responses to adverse demographic impacts have emerged at different scales, often involving conservation practitioners collaborating with other sectors. Experts will outline global trends and major negative impacts on biodiversity, and present responses for conservation programs. These include integrated family planning-health-environment projects at site and landscape level and ways to scale up and complement them. Migration interventions include prevention and mitigation of impacts in areas of destination, at field and policy levels. HIV/AIDS responses include ways to protect conservation staff and community capacity, and to reduce impacts on land and natural resource use while promoting sustainable livelihoods.

Developing a framework for building individual and institutional capacity for conservation

Organized by Marianne Carter and Robyn Dalzen, BP Conservation Programme and Will Banham, Wildlife Conservation Society (

In order to provide appropriate training and capacity building for effective individuals and institutions for conservation, it is necessary to (1) define the different types of individual conservationists and institutions, (2) for each of these, define the required competencies for effective individuals and attributes for effective institutions, and (3) identify the most appropriate ways in which those competencies and attributes can be realized. A comprehensive framework bringing together these elements will prove an important capacity building tool at an international level to identify gaps and plan interventions. By helping to equip potential conservation leaders with support, knowledge, skills, and attitudes, the BP Conservation Programme hopes to enable them to better conserve biodiversity. Such a tool will assist the program in identifying where to input resources and helping potential individual and institutional leaders in an appropriate way to obtain the optimum chance for success. This workshop aims to gather feedback on a preliminary competencies framework. Participants will explore how the framework will assist in identifying current gaps in individual leadership and institutional capacity internationally and in deciding how best to fill those gaps. Workshop outcomes will contribute to the development of a tool that will be used to identify needs for capacity building actions at a local level.

Conservation tools and tips from psychology

Organized by organized by Carol Saunders, Chicago Zoological Society, Amara Brook, Santa Clara University, and Gene Myers, Western Washington University (

Most conservation problems are caused by human behavior, and solving these problems requires understanding and changing that behavior. Although psychology is the discipline most focused on the study of human behavior, psychology's role in biodiversity conservation has been surprisingly minimal compared to the other sciences. Conservation psychology is a relatively new field that seeks to understand why people help or hurt the natural environment and how to promote conservation. The goal of this workshop is to introduce this field of research and provide examples of how it might be useful to biologists, social scientists, and conservation practitioners. We will begin with brief overview talks about some principles and methods from psychology that can be applied to biodiversity conservation. Workshop participants will then join a discussion about how the various disciplines complement each other and the potential for collaborative research. Because the history of conservation psychology mirrors that of conservation biology, we hope to provide an avenue to explore partnerships between the two fields. We also hope to attract members of the Social Science Working Group to discuss how the social sciences can best work together toward biodiversity conservation goals. This workshop should result in a greater awareness of what the field of conservation psychology offers and generate ideas for how to strengthen programmatic and research connections across disciplines.

2005 SCB Annual Meeting - Brasilia, Brasil

Social Science Tools for Conservation Practitioners: Current Opportunities and Future Directions

Organizers: Michael Mascia and Adrian Treves (

Recent evidence suggests that social factors determine the success or failure of many - if not most -conservation programs, yet conservation practitioners have few scientific tools to address these social challenges. This workshop, organized by the SCB Social Science Working Group, will provide conservation practitioners with new social science tools and identify pressing social science needs. Workshop organizers will first introduce conservation practitioners to a range of social science tools and their conservation applications. Workshop participants will then identify additional priorities for social science tool development and capacity-building. Breakout groups will brainstorm social challenges, possible tools to address these challenges, and then identify practitioner priorities. This rapid “needs assessment” will feed into the third workshop component, a basic action planning phase, where the SSWG Board will work with motivated and knowledgeable social scientists and practitioners to outline a basic work plan for addressing these conservation needs.

2004 SCB Annual Meeting - New York, New York, United States

Challenges and Opportunities for Social Science in Conservation Action

Organizers: Peter Brosius, Helen Fox, and John Parks (

The workshop will identify ways in which the social sciences, and the newly formed SCB Social Science Working Group in particular, can strengthen current and future conservation efforts. Presentations will be made on: 1) Results of a survey of social and natural scientists' perceptions of barriers to interdisciplinary collaboration on conservation research and implementation 2) A review of the 11 recommendations/action items from the 2003 SCB Workshop on Conservation Biology and the Social Sciences and 3) An update on progress made since the 2003 meeting. Workshop participants will brainstorm new, action-oriented goals, develop a set of recommendations, and agree on action items for the SSWG.

2003 SCB Annual Meeting - Duluth, Minnesota, United States

Conservation Biology and the Social Sciences: New Possibilities for Collaboration

Organizers: J. Peter Brosius and Tracy Dobson (

Presenters: J. Peter Brosius, Tracy Dobson, Joshua A. Drew, Nancy Langston, Michael B. Mascia, Carol Saunders, and Jessica Seares.

This workshop will explore the best approach for integrating knowledge generated from social science disciplines into biodiversity conservation research and action. Specifically, it will determine how to add the social sciences as a focal point in the Society for Conservation Biology and develop a set of goals and actions that will promote an interdisciplinary approach to conservation within the SCB.