Lab Blogs

Conservation Science Isn’t Always Fieldwork: And that’s a blessing too

Lauren Eckert thinking in the ACS Lab

PhD student, Lauren Eckert, pondering in the Raincoast ACS Lab.

A quick Google search of the term “wildlife biologist” or “conservation” reveals some pretty compelling images – sprawling forests, bears, frogs, wolves, lions, a rhinoceros ambling through a dusty savannah, and many a Scientist amidst the splendor of these wildlife and ecosystems. 

Conservation doesn’t always occur in glamorous outdoor ecosystems. It also (often) happens at our computer desks accompanied by caffeinated elixirs. 

And while we Conservation Scientists in the Raincoast ACS lab are impossibly privileged to spend much of our time in stunning and intact ecosystems of (what is modernly referred to as) coastal British Columbia, the doldrums of winter are always an important reminder that conservation science requires many skills, diverse types of service, and the ability to be grateful and content in a number of very different environments. In January, amidst short and oft-rainy days, conservation science looks like sitting at a computer desk in the basement of UVic’s David Turpin Building. Conservation science also looks like writing grant proposals, digging into the details of research design and statistical analyses over a beer with colleagues, reading a recently published thesis over (several) coffee(s), flying Northwards during dark winter months for important community meetings or to witness potlatches, engaging in outreach and science communication with grade school students, or joining a lab mate for a walk around campus to discuss theory, best practice, or ask advice.

While we are lucky to work in incredible places and witness amazing wildlife, we are also fortunate to have this desk-work season. Our research and scholarship occur in complex systems – where social, cultural, economic, political and ecological factors intersect and impact local and global conservation processes. Given these complex, interweaving elements of the systems we live in, work in, and seek to help conserve, it is immensely important that we have the time to read, think, ask questions, plan, process, critique, contribute, and time to learn from Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders in arenas of conservation science. 

As I dial in to read another peer-reviewed paper on the underpinnings of conflict surrounding conservation, sip coffee from my The-Wildlife-Society insulated mug, and listen to the rain trickle onto a nearby window, I allow myself to revel in desk-season. 

Conservation doesn’t always occur in glamorous outdoor ecosystems. It also (often) happens at our computer desks accompanied by caffeinated elixirs.  

Lauren Eckert, PhD Student