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Abstract

It is time to acknowledge and overcome conservation's deep-seated systemic racism, which has historically marginalized Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) communities and continues to do so. We describe how the mutually reinforcing ‘twin spheres’ of conservation science and conservation practice perpetuate this systemic racism. We trace how institutional structures in conservation science (e.g. degree programmes, support and advancement opportunities, course syllabuses) can systematically produce conservation graduates with partial and problematic conceptions of conservation's history and contemporary purposes. Many of these graduates go on to work in conservation practice, reproducing conservation's colonial history by contributing to programmes based on outmoded conservation models that disproportionately harm rural BIPOC communities and further restrict access and inclusion for BIPOC conservationists. We provide practical, actionable proposals for breaking vicious cycles of racism in the system of conservation we have with virtuous cycles of inclusion, equality, equity and participation in the system of conservation we want.
royalsocietypublishing.org/journal/rspb
Biological science
practices
Cite this article: Rudd LF et al. 2021
Overcoming racism in the twin spheres of
conservation science and practice. Proc. R. Soc.
B288: 20211871.
https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.1871
Received: 23 August 2021
Accepted: 7 October 2021
Subject Category:
Global change and conservation
Subject Areas:
ecology, environmental science
Keywords:
anti-racism, BIPOC, colonialism, equity,
diversity, inclusion
Author for correspondence:
Lauren F. Rudd
e-mail: lauren.rudd@gtc.ox.ac.uk
Present address: Green Templeton College,
43 Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HG, UK.
Overcoming racism in the twin spheres of
conservation science and practice
Lauren F. Rudd
1,2,
, Shorna Allred
4,5
, Julius G. Bright Ross
1,2
,
Darragh Hare
1,2,4
, Merlyn Nomusa Nkomo
6
, Kartik Shanker
7,8
, Tanesha Allen
1
,
Duan Biggs
9
, Amy Dickman
1,2,10
, Michael Dunaway
11
, Ritwick Ghosh
12
,
Nicole Thompson González
13
, Thembela Kepe
14,15
, Moreangels
M. Mbizah
16,17,18
, Sara L. Middleton
1,3
, Meera Anna Oommen
8
,
Kumar Paudel
19,20
, Claudio Sillero-Zubiri
1,2,21
and Andrea Dávalos
22
1
Department of Zoology,
2
Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, and
3
Department of Plant Sciences,
Oxford University, UK
4
Center for Conservation Social Sciences, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, and
5
Department of Global Development, Cornell University, USA
6
Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa
7
Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, India
8
Dakshin Foundation, India
9
Environmental Futures Research Institute, Griffith University, Australia
10
Lion Landscapes, Tanzania
11
Department of Sociology, Syracuse University, USA
12
Global Futures Laboratory, Arizona State University, USA
13
Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, USA
14
Department of Geography, University of Toronto, Canada
15
Geography Department, Rhodes University, South Africa
16
Wildlife Conservation Action, Zimbabwe
17
Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Switzerland
18
Sustainability Research Unit, Nelson Mandela University, George, South Africa
19
Greenhood Nepal, Nepal
20
Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, UK
21
Born Free Foundation, Ethiopia and UK
22
Biological Sciences Department, SUNY Cortland, USA
LFR, 0000-0002-5925-9514; SA, 0000-0001-6237-0638; JGBR, 0000-0003-2454-1592;
DH, 0000-0003-4418-9637; MNN, 0000-0002-0609-0153; KS, 0000-0003-4856-0093;
NTG, 0000-0002-3195-1277; TK, 0000-0002-1807-0387; MMM, 0000-0002-6868-052X;
SLM, 0000-0001-5307-8029; AD, 0000-0002-3590-4152
It is time to acknowledge and overcome conservations deep-seated systemic
racism, which has historically marginalized Black, Indigenous and people of
colour (BIPOC) communities and continues to do so. We describe how the
mutually reinforcing twin spheresof conservation science and conservation
practice perpetuate this systemic racism. We trace how institutional struc-
tures in conservation science (e.g. degree programmes, support and
advancement opportunities, course syllabuses) can systematically produce
conservation graduates with partial and problematic conceptions of conser-
vations history and contemporary purposes. Many of these graduates go on
to work in conservation practice, reproducing conservations colonial history
by contributing to programmes based on outmoded conservation models
that disproportionately harm rural BIPOC communities and further restrict
access and inclusion for BIPOC conservationists. We provide practical,
actionable proposals for breaking vicious cycles of racism in the system of
conservation we have with virtuous cycles of inclusion, equality, equity
and participation in the system of conservation we want.
© 2021 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original
author and source are credited.
Downloaded from https://royalsocietypublishing.org/ on 03 November 2021
1. Introduction
It is time to acknowledge and overcome conservations deep-
seated systemic racism, which has historically marginalized
Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) communities,
and continues to do so [15]. Given conservations history of
racism, exclusion and oppression [1,6], and the fundamental
role that BIPOC communities must play in biodiversity conser-
vation, conservation researchers and practitioners must lead
the way in committing to anti-racism [7]. Failing to examine,
acknowledge and act on persistent oppression in our field pro-
vides tacit support to racism, tarnishing the conservation
successes we achieve, and causing real harm to some of the
worlds most vulnerable people [8].
In this paper, we critique contemporary mainstream
conservation: formalized, evidence-based efforts to conserve
biodiversity. Despite its relatively brief history, this form of con-
servation globally dominates indigenous knowledge systems
through which people have actively and adaptively conserved
ecosystems for millennia [9]. In many places, mainstream con-
servation has replaced indigenous knowledge systems, often
to the detriment of local people and biodiversity [10].
We draw on existing literature and our interdisciplinary,
cross-sectoral, professional experiences to identify issues of
and propose solutions to systemic racism in what we term the
twin spheresof conservation: (i) conservation science: aca-
demic teaching and research, which typically takes place on
college and university campuses and (ii) conservation prac-
tice: applied conservation policies and programmes, which
typically take place outside the campus gates. We argue that
systemic racism mars our activities in these twin spheres of con-
servation science and practice, and that what we do in each
sphere affects what happens in the other (figure 1). Conserva-
tion practices colonial origins and racist history influence
how academia conceptualizes conservation problems and sol-
utions, what is taught, and the nature of interactions between
students, colleagues and the local people on whose land
research is conducted [1]. The racism that permeates the aca-
demic sphere is reproduced in conservation activities outside
academia, in the biases and preconceptions that conservation
graduates carry with them and apply to on-the-ground
decision making in the organizations for which they work. In
turn, these on-the-ground decisions affect conservation practice
by influencing which conservation problems are addressed,
how they are addressed and how colleagues and collaborators
are treated. Conservationistsformal and informal practices
can, often implicitly or unintentionally, impart racist and neo-
colonialist undertones onto academic work (e.g. publications,
conference presentations, teaching) which underpins many of
the conservation programmes and policies that are studied
and taught to subsequent cohorts of students (figure 1).
This vicious cycle in the twin spheres of conservation
science and practice characterizes the conservation we have
created and inherited, but it does not characterize the conser-
vation we want. We urge fellow members of the conservation
communityacademics and practitionersto take stock of
the manner in which much of what we do in conservation
science and practice perpetuates, reinforces and deepens
racial divisions [1], and reflect honestly on how we can
change our behaviours and institutions for the better. We
are morally obliged to demolish racist structures, reform
our individual and collective actions, and construct a more
equal, inclusive and socially just field. We owe this to the
people whom conservation has harmed and continues to
harm, the communities on whose land we are privileged to
work, the students we mentor and the broader societies we
serve. We recognize and strongly welcome many recent
steps in the right direction, but we have a long way to go.
We, the authors, are a diverse team representing, other than
race, different ethnicities, levels in academia, years of experi-
ence in both conservation research and practice, primary
fields of study and specializations in conservation, organiz-
ational affiliations and regions of the world. While we do not
purport to speak for all conservationists in our different com-
munities, the varied perspectives we discuss here represent
our lived experiences and are not appropriated knowledge.
We acknowledge that the experiences of BIPOC individ-
uals in conservation will depend on political, social and
economic factors such as nationality, native language and
socio-economic status. While the extent of racism faced by
individuals and the obstacles they encounter may vary,
BIPOC individuals are, on the whole, a minority within the
conservation space. We also acknowledge that the state of
conservation varies around the world. In some previously
colonized countries, white western organizations, indivi-
dualism and ideals still largely dominate conservation, but
in other countries, local and regional efforts predominate.
Even where BIPOC individuals currently lead conservation
research and practice, these individuals often seem to come
from positions of relative privilege within society, regardless
of whether the society is BIPOC majority or BIPOC minority.
To truly reconcile the historic racial injustices within the
field of conservation, this type of privilege needs to be
acknowledged and addressed.
Without recognizing barriers to individuals such as
socio-economic background, language, access to training
and networking opportunities, simply increasing the rep-
resentation of BIPOC people in conservation will not solve
the problem, as being a BIPOC individual does not guarantee
either cultural literacy or an anti-racist outlook. Racist
hierarchies and processes operate within every society and
at multiple levels, not simply at the global scale of colonial
legacy. While much of this conversation is outwith the
scope of this paper, what we advocate for above all is foster-
ing greater inclusivity within conservation, which should go
some way towards addressing all the problems outlined.
2. Conservation practices deep-seated racist
history
Many dominant conservation tools, such as protected areas and
quotas for sustainable use, are rooted in colonial strategies for
optimizing resource extraction and recreational opportunities
on colonized land [11,12]. These practices came at great cost to
local people, including through forced removal, abuse, loss of
livelihoods, cultural assimilation, human rights abuses and
death [1315]. For example, Native American people were
killed or forcibly removed from their ancestral lands to create
national parks that appealed to settler colonistswilderness
ideals [13,16]. Long-standing indigenousand local cultural prac-
tices, norms and taboos were replaced by extractive or
preservationist values of European colonists [9,17,18]. Contem-
porary conservation can perpetuate these values, often in spite
of strenuous opposition from Indigenous and local people [19].
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While extractive approaches can be clearly neo-colonial
and racist, preservationism can be less obviously so. The
preservationist approach seeks to preserve Eden-like environ-
ments, often via protected areas [12,18]. Recognizing the extent
of ecological degradation across much of the Global North,
advocates of this approach appear to believe that conservation
can only happen elsewhere in pristine environments, typically
in the Global South. Preservationist efforts may be well-
intentioned (e.g. by seeking to protect critically endangered
populations or areas of high biodiversity) but are often blind
to the environmental injustices they impose on local people
through fortress conservation (conservation through formal,
exclusionary protected areas, that displace and marginalize
local people and prioritize the interests of wealthy, often dis-
tant, elites) [20]. In our experience, conservationists from the
Global North often lack local cultural literacy and come
equipped with the privileged legacy of colonial power, perpe-
tuating a white saviourmentality [21]. Related tensions are
evident in parachute science, in which external conservation-
ists suddenly arrive in a new place to conduct research, using
local scientists only as field staff or data collectors under the
pretext that local capacity or expertise is lacking [22,23].
Some of the best-known examples of conservation practice,
as well as many academic conservation scientistsfield
experiences, are enmeshed in such unjust paradigms. When
academics bring these examples and experiences uncritically
into formal and informal teaching, conservation students
may internalize them as normal or desirable.
Conservations colonial underpinnings continue to permit
practices that subjugate local people by portraying them as
responsible for conservation problems, forcibly removing
them from their land in the name of conservation and
preventing them from accessing wildlife and protected
areas [6,8,24], often by militarized means [25,26]. Some influ-
ential researchers and advocacy groups based in the Global
North advocate for extending their preferred conservation
ideologies to vastly different socioecological and cultural
contexts, with apparently little regard for traditional practices
or ethics in those locations [15]. Such prescriptions can
endorse social hierarchies (e.g. caste in India) by privileging
certain practices (e.g. vegetarianism) without understanding
the historical and social inequities associated with them
[27]. More broadly, these practices disempower people in
the Global South by demanding they change their beha-
viours, many of which they have been practising for
millennia, to suit the preferences of distant interest groups.
Such demands are particularly distasteful when couched, see-
mingly without irony, in anti-colonial and pro-equality
rhetoric [28]. High-profile proposals to increase the amount
of land and seascapes designated as exclusionary protected
areas (e.g. [29]) show little consideration for social and cul-
tural consequences [30]. Western interests claiming or
maintaining de facto control over many conservation spaces
in the Global South is straightforward neo-colonialism [31],
a contemporary form of land grabbing permitted in the
name of environmental protection [32].
3. Exclusion from engaging with nature
The high degree of exclusion of BIPOC people across levels of
conservation science and practice reproduces conservation
practices colonial history. Many BIPOC people have been
excluded from environmental policymaking. The ability for
indigenous communities to effectively participate in policies
that affect them has been removed through colonial processes
in many parts of the world. For example, the Marshall Trilogy
of Supreme Court decisions (Johnson v. MIntosh 1823, Cher-
okee Nation v. Georgia 1831, and Worcester v. Georgia 1832)
in the United States, the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) in New
Zealand, and the policy of Terra Nullius in Australia (1835),
all placed Indigenous sovereignty over land and resources
within the dominion of colonial governments.
In BIPOC minority countries, people of colour are further
excluded from conservation because they are less likely to
framing of conservation problems and
objectives based on outdated ideals
teaching of biased curricula which influences
how students perceive history, philosophy, and
objectives of conservation
prejudice in values and outlooks, particularly
regarding IPLC, which are adopted by scholars
and instilled in students
promotion and reward structures that do not
recognise or encourage EDI work
structural barriers to entry and progression,
affecting the people we attract, nurture,
retain, and promote
colonial origins of conservation influence
how problems are perceived by practitioners
local communities, knowledge and values
viewed as challenges to achieving conservation
goals rather than integral to success
definitions of conservation success which
focus solely on outcomes for nature with no
consideration for local people
policies and programmes founded in western
ideals with little consideration for local context
structural barriers prevent diverse people
from participating, perpetuating the white
western image of conservation
conservation science conservation practice
Figure 1. The mutually reinforcing twin spheres of conservation science and conservation practice. Although each sphere can operate largely independently ofthe
other, they each perpetuate neo-colonial and racist ideologies that reinforce the other in subtle but important ways. Escaping this vicious cycle will require con-
servation scientists and practitioners to change our individual and collective behaviours (boxes 13). Definitions: Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs);
equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). (Online version in colour.)
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have access to and use outdoor spaces for recreational pur-
poses than people from predominantly white communities
[33,34]. Recent high-profile cases in the United States and
United Kingdom demonstrate that people of colour, and
particularly Black people, are often unsafe and unwelcome in
outdoor spaces [35,36].
Exclusion is also evident in financial hurdles to entering
conservation, particularly for many from BIPOC communities
(a)
(b)
Figure 2. The conservation we have (a) and the conservation we want (b). Current pathways to success systematically favour some groups over others. Each step in
the academic process represents a successive impediment to aspiring BIPOC conservationists, from the resources to pursue such a career, to the attentiveness of
supervision received, to the degree of welcome that recent graduates of different skin colours receive in the industry. Consequently, conservation practice is designed
and communicated to local people by outsiders who may fail to understand local context or are beholden to predominant western approaches to conservation. We
must strive to bring about a system that is more attractive and more accessible to BIPOC aspirants. The academic system should only represent one valid entry point
to conservation. By enabling the sharing of expertise from local conservationists and increasing career mobility between field conservation, academia and the non-
profit sector, multiple stakeholder viewpoints can be prioritized in the process of moving towards more holistic, novel models of conservation. Illustration by Barkha
Lohia. (Online version in colour.)
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with a long history of economic exclusion. As examples, activi-
ties such as birding, diving and hiking to name a few require
equipment that is often costly [37]. This financial barrier can
be further amplified in some areas of the Global South if
such equipment is not locally available or affordable, making
it difficult to source. Because experience builds passion for
the outdoors, inspiring people to pursue careers in conserva-
tion, socio-economic barriers block many BIPOC peoples
routes into conservation science and practice. Exclusion can
be concentrated in certain sub-communities: individuals of
different genders, migration experience and wealth within a
recognized ethnic minority group may vary widely in their
motivations and ability to use and interact with outdoor
spaces [38]. BIPOC members of other minority communities
may face additional barriers to safely using outdoor spaces
[39,40]experiences which can be compounded by racism.
Further, colourism exacerbates the threat to dark-skinned
BIPOC individuals, and the discrimination they face [41].
These converging forms of discrimination illustrate the magni-
tude and diversity of obstacles that systematically divert
BIPOC people away from conservation (figure 2).
4. Racism in conservation science and
practice today
Power in conservation typically resides in governments,
corporations, large NGOs and universities [42]. Universities
are central because they provide the qualifications required
for a degree in conservation. However, BIPOC students are
disproportionately underrepresented in degree subjects that
lead to conservation careers [5,43,44], partly due to high
upfront degree costs and lack of scholarships, expensive
field trips, unpaid summer field experiences, low job security
and the predominance of low-paid or voluntary entry-level
positions [45]. Once enrolled, students are expected to
undertake conservation work during summers and academic
holidays to boost their credentials. However, field-based
educational experiences may not always be designed with
inclusivity in mind [46] and can perpetuate neo-colonial atti-
tudes when being run by institutions outside the host country
[47], making the experiences unsafe and uncomfortable for
BIPOC students. Internship opportunities in universities,
NGOs, governmental and intergovernmental agencies often
target students from wealthier countries and are typically
both expensive to enrol in and unpaid, thus carrying substan-
tial transaction and opportunity costs [48,49]. Many BIPOC
students cannot participate for financial or cultural reasons,
missing out on valuable work experience, networks and job
opportunities. Expectations that students hoping to work in
conservation should go above and beyond and not expect a
financial reward for their efforts, excludes many.
The predominant narrative of conservation taught in
academia uncritically emphasizes the Western paradigmof pris-
tine wilderness and fortress conservation, what Shanker &
Oomen [31] term pristianitynamed for the religious zeal in
which preservation of wild spaces is pursued. Students in con-
servation degrees typically do not learn the colonial and deeply
racist intentions and consequences of fortress conservation.
Local knowledge is often referred to in passing as indigenous
knowledge systems, relegating it to superstition and alternative
thought while western ideas are imposed as the only way of
understanding or engaging with ecosystems. Teaching this sani-
tized history of conservation perpetuates deep inequalities in
the field and can alienate BIPOC students [50].
Advanced degrees are essential for many high-level con-
servation jobs, but funding for postgraduate study is scarce
and predominantly flows to white students. For example, in
Box 1. How to recognize and address the unjust history of conservation science.
1. Educate oneself on the history of racism in conservation through reading, reflecting on ones own experiences and engaging
in dialogue with others. Recommended reading [6,1113,16,20,31].
2. Diversify and broaden the curriculum; teach a more comprehensive representation of past and present conservation
practice, including the work and perspectives of BIPOC scholars, and ultimately produce new standardtextbooks that
encompass this history. Recommended reading [2,5963].
3. Prioritize inclusive teaching practices in conservation courses by embracing the tenets of inclusive course design, active
learning modalities and service learning techniques, to encourage broader participation and interest in conservation sciences.
Recommended reading [6467].
4. Conduct outreach in predominantly BIPOC schools and areas within predominantly white countries to promote
conservation careers at an early age. Potential outreach activities could include hands-on activities, meet a conservation
scientistQ&A session, talks at school career days and hosting research events tailored for high school students.
5. Encourage professional associations to fully integrate equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) into their policies and standards,
(for example, the Society for Conservation Biology should update their guidelines for conservation literacy to include a
section on EDI).
6. Question dominant narratives about what works in conservation, including how success is measured, and track the history
of power relations shaping such narratives.
7. Recognize that injustice is not only historic or organizational, but occurs today within each of our lives. Challenging
conversations, personal reflection and honesty are required for each of us to take personal, immediate steps to ensure we are
not perpetuating unjust actions.
8. Understand that facing past wrongs is not just about rehashing the past, but to be honest about the present and to create a
solid foundation for future action.
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the 20182019 application cycle for postgraduate study fund-
ing in the UK, only 6% of Natural Environment Research
Council (NERC) studentships were awarded to ethnic
minorities [51]. In the UK, success for white principal investi-
gators applying to NERC for funding awards was 13%
higher than for individuals from ethnic minorities [51].
Senior positions in environmental organizations are typically
held by white people: as of 2014, people from minoritized
ethnic groups occupied less than 12% of these leadership pos-
itions in the US [52]. Insular hiring practices such as advertising
positions internally and developing unpaid internships into
paid positions or degree scholarships exacerbate the problem.
Postgraduate study can be daunting, particularly to first-
generation students, and BIPOC students disproportionately
fall into this category [53]. In the light of this, respectful, sup-
portive relationships between postgraduate students and
Box 2. How to construct better ways to conduct research and practice conservation.
1. Develop qualifying assessments for individuals to demonstrate cultural literacyin relation to fieldwork sites (deliverables
could be to incorporate local history, expected socio-economic impact, plans for local collaboration and plans for preventing
neo-colonial relations in project proposals).
2. Ensure fair dissemination of funds and grants to BIPOC academics, conservation practitioners and BIPOC led
organizations.
3. Develop new models to ensure that BIPOC voices are heard: e.g. balancing expensive, in-person networking events with
opportunities for online networking (while being considerate of any technological barriers), to enable more participation
from diverse conservationists.
4. Avoid parachute science; meaningfully include local partners in conservation from question formulation and applied
practice all the way through to publication and beyond (this applies to academic research and work done by NGOs and
government agencies). For example, journals and funding bodies could require inclusion of local partners as co-authors or
require a report of actions implemented to ensure inclusivity and equity when conducting research abroad [68].
5. Create opportunities for community members to have real agency in conservation projects and promote conservation
management solutions that align with the communitiesculture and values, even when those might conflict with the views of
NGOs or other external stakeholders.
6. Respect the rights of Indigenous People and local communities to manage, benefit from, and sustainably use their
resources, embracingnot suppressingdiverse conservation ethics and resource management systems.
7. Recognize that BIPOC communities are diverse and heterogeneous and have different values and cultures.
8. Promote bottom-up conservation practices that decentralize management practices and decision making. To do this,
practitioners should embrace the core concepts from participatory action research, community-based research and
indigenous methodologies, all of which focus on rebalancing power dynamics [6975].
9. Collaborate with colleagues in history, political ecology, geography and other cognate disciplines to ensure inclusion of a
broader perspective within conservation curricula, and that we consider critical perspectives throughout research design and
implementation.
Box 3. How to create an inclusive, safe conservation that welcomes BIPOC individuals and allows them to thrive in conservation science and practice.
1. Ensure that essentialwork experience is incorporated into undergraduate and graduate conservation degree programmes,
is fully funded at this stage and is not used as a metric to judge candidates during admissions processes to these
programmes, as they do not represent candidatesabilities but rather their opportunities.
2. Evaluate current harassment reporting and risk assessment procedures to ensure they protect anonymity and allow for
reporting of issues specific to BIPOC individuals.
3. Recognize and reward EDI work in the same way we would traditional academic achievements.
4. Advocate for and actively create opportunities for your BIPOC colleagues, even when this means personally stepping
aside/turning down opportunities.
5. Extend current EDI initiatives (e.g. for gender equality) to be inclusive of BIPOC individuals who also fall within the remit
[76].
6. Protect BIPOC people in your teamlearn through independent research and training programmes how, where and why
they may be vulnerable. Listen with humility and compassion to their expressed concerns. Further, prevent their possible
harm by, for example, creating a risk management plan for fieldwork, including mitigating strategies [39].
7. Learn the cultural histories, norms and values of the communities on whose land you conduct research, and incorporate
them into your conservation. Include local people as partners to help define, measure and evaluate success.
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their supervisors are pivotal to success. People generally
prefer to work with those that they can relate to and have a
common culture witha concept known as affinity bias
[54], which can be compounded by colourism [55], and
further disadvantage BIPOC students in a field dominated
by white people. Costs of attending international conferences
and publishing scientific articles, which are both crucial for
career advancement, can pose prohibitive financial barriers.
Such factors are compounded by additional barriers such
as visa processes and expenses to exclude people from
BIPOC-majority countries from studying overseas [56].
This series of obstacles (figure 2) to success means BIPOC
researchers are woefully underrepresented in conservation
science and practice, and those who remain have few opportu-
nities for advancement. Lack of high-level representation
means little consideration is given to the specific problems
that BIPOC people encounter in trying to succeed within con-
servation. We have personally witnessed or experienced many
of these problems in our own workplaces. We have observed
how the uniquewelfare and safety challenges to BIPOC conser-
vationists, both in the field and in the workplace [39], can be
invisible to senior colleagues who are unaffected by them
and cannot relate. Racial stereotypes and derogatory language
are used too often when discussing local communities and field
staff, which alongside relentless assumptions about where one
is really fromwhen referring to colleagues of colour, further
alienates BIPOC people. Further, old-boynetworks and low
turnover of individuals in senior positions mean that encoun-
tering racism and discrimination remains common [50]. The
burden of calling out and reporting such incidents often falls
on BIPOC people, which is especially daunting to those in
junior positions because harassment reporting procedures in
organizations with few possible BIPOC complainants cannot
guarantee anonymity.
Academia is not the only route into conservation, but it cur-
rently acts as the main gatekeeper. Other entry forms (such as
on-the-ground experience, often held by local conservation
workers) may actually equip people with many more useful
skills and fewer harmful biases. However, broadly speaking
from our collective experience, a lack of academic qualifications
(sometimes compounded by language barriers) prevents
people from being able to progress to higher level positions
in organizations where decision-making power resides.
Among development fields, conservation appears to have an
almost Brahminicalreverence for academic qualifications.
As such, and despite a greater emphasis on BIPOC people
and communities in the last two decades, conservation
narratives remain dominated by western and/or privileged
biologists and elite international and local NGOs [31,42].
5. Building inclusive conservation science and
practice
Diversifying conservation has both ethical and practical conse-
quences; it is socially just and can improve the success of
conservation initiatives. It is important for conservation
scientists and practitioners to acknowledge that, historically,
BIPOC communities most impacted by environmental issues
have been the least included in decision making [10]. Continu-
ing to perpetuate these unjust power dynamics will wreak
havoc on some of the worlds most vulnerable communities
[8]. Legitimate participation of local people produces better
conservation outcomes because it builds community capacity
and provides the opportunity for members to be involved in
the definition of the problem, the development of policies
and the implementation of measures and evaluation, ultimately
increasing project sustainability [57]. Diversifying conservation
teams increases the breadth of perspectives, driving innovation
[58]innovations that are sorely needed for developing ecologi-
cally and socio-culturally sustainable conservation strategies.
Most importantly, respecting the rights of Indigenous People
and local communities is required by international law, and as
such is an imperative, not an optional luxury [8].
It is incumbent on all members of the conservation com-
munity to recognize and address the unjust history of
conservation (box 1). For example, we must recognize that
some of the earliest proponents of environmental protection
in the Global North and South were also ardent proponents
of colonial expansion, eugenics and white supremacy. We
must acknowledge this context while dismantling it and seek-
ing solutions rooted in a system of inclusivity and equality. It
is essential that we reflect on the ways in which we have per-
sonally harmed or disadvantaged people from BIPOC
communities in our professional lives. Holding ourselves
accountable and taking steps to rectify these wrongs is a
vital first step towards creating a more inclusive and just con-
servation. This sense of individual responsibility should be
the basis for building future conservation solutions.
Many people from BIPOC communities are interested in
conservation but are often excluded and alienated from it
due to historic, unequal power and privilege structures.
These structures must fall. It is therefore essential that all
members of the conservation community play an active role
in replacing the conservation we have with the conservation
we want (figure 2). This means rethinking our individual
and collective behaviours to create more inclusive institutions
and organizations (box 2) and making conservation a field in
which BIPOC communities can be safe and thrive (box 3).
6. Conclusion
Achieving excellence in conservation practice and promoting
equity, diversity, inclusion and justice in conservation science
are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they are all crucial to creating
effective conservation practices that empower BIPOC commu-
nities by reforming our conservation institutions in both
spheres. Conservation scientists who are also conservation prac-
titioners are at the nexus of the twin spheres, and as such have
both the greatest potential and responsibility to create positive
change. We recognize that many individuals, organizations
and groups are taking meaningful steps towards modes of con-
servation that empower BIPOC communities [14,59,60,77,78].
Nevertheless, there is still more to be done, and we must acceler-
ate away from the exclusive and harmful institutions we have
inherited, towards more inclusive and innovative institutions
that promote conservation spaces in which people and nature
thrive (figure 2). While some individuals have more power
than others to affect change, every person can play a role in build-
ing conservation spaces that empower BIPOC communities.
We challenge all members of the conservation community,
including ourselves, to use whatever privilege we have to make
progress, however, small. We need to speak out against injus-
tices, small or large, recruit those who are less privileged,
promote them, give them a platform or step aside so they can
royalsocietypublishing.org/journal/rspb Proc. R. Soc. B 288: 20211871
7
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have ours. We need to change our syllabus and teach the diffi-
cult, shameful, aspects of conservation. We must acknowledge
that some purported conservation successes come at an enor-
mous and unconscionable cost to BIPOC communities and
help prevent conservationists from committing similar errors
in future. We need to strive to find that one inch of progress
and then leverage it for systemic change. We must work
within our spheres of influence to foster institutional change
in research, practice, curricula, community partnerships,
recruitment and retention, mentoring, and beyond.
Data accessibility. This article has no additional data.
Authorscontributions. L.F.R., T.A., J.G.B., A.Di., D.H., M.M. and M.N.N.
conceived of the idea. L.F.R., S.A., J.G.B., A.Da., M.N.N., K.S. and
D.H. drafted the manuscript. All authors revised manuscript drafts.
All authors gave final approval for publication and agreed to be
held accountable for the work performed therein.
Competing interests. We declare we have no competing interests.
Funding. This work was supported by the Natural Environmental
Research Council (grant code: NE/L002612/1).
Acknowledgements. We thank Barkha Lohia for elegantly and skillfully
transforming our words into beautiful illustrations.
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... Conservation has an enduring racism problem (Kashwan et al., 2021;Rudd et al., 2021) that dates back to its origins in colonialism (Hendlin, 2014;Murdock, 2021). While calls for conservationists and natural scientists more broadly to address this racism have existed for as long as the field itself (Godet and Devictor, 2018), these calls have remained largely siloed within the social sciences and humanities (Baker, Eichhorn and Griffiths, 2019). ...
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Thesis
Full-text available
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... progress has been slow. Calls are growing to integrate conversations about race and justice into urban conservation by moving beyond nominal equity efforts and adopting antiracist, anticolonial practices (Rudd et al., 2021;Schell et al., 2020). We define "antiracist" as efforts that eliminate the processes and institutions that perpetuate racism (Paradies, 2016). ...
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... Procedural justice means equitable access to the decision-making process, with priority participation reserved for those most vulnerable and most likely to be impacted by decisions (Bell & Carrick, 2018). Cocreation of both knowledge and urban conservation spaces with communities is an important part of both recognition and procedural justice (Ruano-Chamorro et al., 2022;Rudd et al., 2021). ...
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... This has ethical implications, can led to conflicts of interest between local and international stakeholders, and may overshadow research efforts lead by local scientists (Passos et al., 2020;Haelewaters et al., 2021). The potential for parachute science may be particularly high within the sea turtle community considering that most sea turtle habitats are found in the "global South" (Wallace et al., 2010), while sea turtle projects are primarily funded and managed via volunteer-based ecotourism efforts that traditionally cater to individuals from the "global North" (Rudd et al., 2021). ...
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Sea turtles are a circumglobal taxon that receive considerable research and conservation attention; however, there is little published information about patterns of representation for people working with these species. To assess long-term trends in gender, geographic, and institutional representation within the sea turtle community, we quantified information from 7041 abstracts presented at the International Sea Turtle Symposium (ISTS) between 1988–2018. We report several key findings. (1) The number of authors per abstract doubled over the study period, suggesting greater acknowledgment of contributing individuals. (2) The proportion of female first and last authors has increased over time and at the end of the study period female first authors were in a slight majority (53%) even though last authors remained predominantly (64%) male. (3) Most researchers were from North America (45%) but representation from other continents has increased over time. (4) It was common for authors from North America (34%) and Europe (42%) to conducted research in other continents. This was far less common (<6%) for authors in Africa, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean, and South America. (5) Most authors (48%) were affiliated with academic institutions. Overall, our results reveal a slow trend toward gender equity and globalization in the sea turtle community. Increasing opportunities for underrepresented groups should therefore remain a key priority. To facilitate this process, we suggest hosting symposiums in underrepresented regions, providing grants for underrepresented individuals, developing opportunities to present abstracts remotely via hybrid events, and promoting gender equity in senior researcher positions.
... The fact that continent of nationality was the second strongest predictor of conservationists' values adds to ongoing discussions around the need for diversity in the conservation sector, particularly in moving beyond the domination of a small and privileged subset of Western conservationists and worldviews (e.g. Adams & Mulligan, 2003;Rudd et al., 2021). Some respondents expressed this opinion in the open-text responses, including one who said simply that 'race and ethnicity' had been important in shaping their values. ...
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The knowledge, values, and practices of Indigenous peoples and local communities offer ways to understand and better address social-environmental problems. The article reviews the state of the literature on this topic by focusing on six pathways by which Indigenous peoples and local communities engage with management of and relationships to nature. These are ( a) undertaking territorial management practices and customary governance, ( b) contributing to nature conservation and restoration efforts with regional to global implications, ( c) co-constructing knowledge for assessments and monitoring, ( d) countering the drivers of unsustainable resource use and resisting environmental injustices, ( e) playing key roles in environmental governance across scales, and ( f ) offering alternative conceptualizations of the interrelations between people and nature. The review shows that through these pathways Indigenous peoples and local communities are making significant contributions to managing the health of local and regional ecosystems, to producing knowledge based in diverse values of nature, confronting societal pressures and environmental burdens, and leading and partnering in environmental governance. These contributions have local to global implications but have yet to be fully recognized in conservation and development polices, and by society at large. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Volume 46 is October 2021. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
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Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) individuals are disproportionately impacted by the negative consequences of our ongoing environmental and climate crises, yet their valuable scientific voices are shockingly underrepresented within the fields of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB). As early‐career BIPOC EEB researchers, we recognise the key role that our fields play in understanding and mitigating the effects of our ongoing global crises, and are concerned about the lack of diversity we see among our own EEB cohorts and mentors. We present this piece as a call to action for the EEB Academy, drawing on our own experiences and the literature to suggest steps the Academy must take to increase representation of and equity for BIPOC graduate scholars in EEB. We synthesise these steps into four actionable ideas: anti‐racism education and practice, increased funding opportunities, integration of diverse cultural perspectives and a community‐minded shift in PhDs. Importantly, this advice is specifically directed at those who wield power in the Academy (e.g. funding agencies, societies, institutions, departments and faculty), rather than BIPOC scholars already struggling against inequitable frameworks in EEB.
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It’s time to tackle the cumulative barriers and biases faced by scientists who aren’t from wealthy countries. It’s time to tackle the cumulative barriers and biases faced by scientists who aren’t from wealthy countries.
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Synopsis Field courses have been identified as powerful tools for student success in science, but the potential for field courses to address demographic disparities and the mechanisms behind these benefits are not well understood. To address these knowledge gaps, we studied students in a nonmajors Ecology and Evolutionary Biology course, Introduction to Field Research and Conservation, at the University of California Santa Cruz, a large Hispanic-Serving Institution. We examined (a) the effects of participation on students’ perception of their scientific competencies and (b) how the field course shaped student experiences and built their sense of community, confidence and belonging in science. Our mixed-methods approach included the Persistence in the Sciences (PITS) survey with field course students and a control group; interviews, focus groups, and prompted student journal entries with a subset of field course students; and participant-observation. We found that field course participants scored higher on all science identity items of the PITS instrument than students in the control (lecture course) group. Field course students from underrepresented minority groups also scored similarly to or higher than their well-represented peers on each of the six PITS survey components. From our qualitative data, themes of growth in peer community, relationships with mentors, confidence living and working outdoors, team-based science experiences, and a sense of contributing to knowledge and discovery interacted throughout the course—especially from the initial overnight field trip to the final one—to assist these gains and strengthen interest in science and support persistence. These findings highlight the importance of holistic support and community building as necessary driving factors in inclusive course design, especially as a way to begin to dismantle structures of exclusion in the sciences.