This past week I attended the International Conference for Conservation Biology in Baltimore, Maryland. This was not my first SCB (Society for Conservation Biology) meeting, but it was my first as a chapter member, specifically the president of the Missouri Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology. The differences between this meeting and past meetings were huge! Regardless of the position you have within a chapter, SCB was very welcoming towards chapter members, and attending the chapter workshop and the conference as a chapter participant has distinct advantages:

1.     Instant network – MOSCB allows you the opportunity to network with conservation professionals at a statewide level, most notably through attending the annual Missouri Natural Resources Conference where our annual meeting, a workshop, silent auction, and a student poster competition. However, when attending a SCB conference, networking can be done at an international scale. SCB is a society of over 5,000 members worldwide from diverse backgrounds including academia (students and educators), non-profit organizations, and federal and state government officials. Research and management takes place across taxa and ecosystems, including those of terrestrial and marine. Attending a chapter workshop and chapter social events at a SCB meeting offers you opportunities for instant connection to dozens of other chapter members as you develop and problem solve chapter issues together.

2.     Put it on your resume or CV – Being a chapter member, especially being an executive board member shows qualities of leadership, initiative, collaboration, and communication. Within MOSCB, things that you can participate in (or lead!) include creating workshops, science writing for our chapter publication The Glade, running a silent auction, and writing briefs for policy in Missouri. Our chapter is also looking to develop new events and volunteering activities throughout the year, so the possibilities are larger. Not only will these activities broaden your professional network, they are also important components to strengthen your resume/CV as they highlight to employers that you are an active member in your local and scientific community.

3.     Funding – No one in conservation is in it for the money, so any bit you can get for conferences and travel helps (especially when you are a student). Attending a SCB meeting as a chapter member allows you to qualify for chapter grants, which can greatly reduce meeting costs. MOSCB also helps fund student research through our annual student poster competition at the Missouri Natural Resources Conference. First and second place winners with clear conservation implications receive financial compensation for their scientific posters.

4.     Advantages of a large society and exposure – As mentioned before, SCB has a large membership and is an international organization. Being a local chapter carries the weight of the society with you. One of the advantages this can be applied to is through policy. MOSCB is beginning to become involved in policy issues. We have recently commented on the proposed sale of the virile crayfish, Orconectes virilis, a species with high invasion potential, in the state of Missouri. Read our letter to the Missouri Department of Conservation within the News section. We are looking to further develop policy issues at the state and regional level, with SCB on these issues. Read some of SCB’s past policy decisions.

Not only can you help us, but let us help you with your career in conservation biology. To join MOSCB, contact us at MissouriSCB@gmailcom. We are looking forward to having you as a member.   
 
 
The Society for Conservation Biology will host its 26th International Congress for Conservation Biology (http://www.conbio.org/mini-sites/iccb-2013) this July in Baltimore, Maryland. I am excited to be presenting both for our Missouri Chapter on chapter successes and activities and also on my original research on the social structure of African forest elephants. This year’s theme, Connecting Systems, Disciplines and Stakeholders, is representative of the fact that humans are an essential component in conservation. I first learned this lesson when I was a study abroad student at the School for Field Studies’ Center for Wildlife Management in Kenya. This program incorporated not only an ecology and wildlife component, but also a societal one. As large African megafauna cannot be contained in fragmented national parks, it is essential to involve, embrace, and allow benefits to the local community in conservation efforts.

            There are plenty of interesting and engaging symposia, but the one I am most looking forward to attending is “Detecting, Understanding and Deterring Conservation Crime.” This is a pressing and crucial issue given the rampant rise in poaching over the past few years. Species especially at risk include elephants and rhinos, which are still relentlessly poached for their tusks and horns. Conservation criminology is an important and emerging field as the nature of poaching events has extended beyond individuals in the local community to international, well-organized criminal organizations. For example, in the recent mass slaughter of 26 forest elephants at world heritage Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in the Central African Republic, strong evidence points to Sudan's army and Central Reserve police. This symposium will highlight recent innovations in detecting and deterring conservation crimes, and highlight future directions and guidance on collaborative approaches to deter conservation crime.

            Two plenary talks I am excited about involve the communication of science and the involvement of the public through citizen science. “The Rocket Model for Effective Communications” is a talk about preparing scientists on how to communicate their science to the public, especially with journalists. This issue is also crucial in conservation. Science literacy in the United States continues to decline and issues such as climate change become politicized while the results of studies are lost. The session ends with a demonstration of the “rocket model;” a mock TV interview on scientific integrity with former SCB Executive Director Dr. Alan Thornhill. I am looking forward to learning how to improve my communication skills and sharing them with the scientific community.

            Finally, John Fitzpatrick and Caren Cooper will lead the plenary “Humans as Biological Sensors, Democratization of Science, and Our New Relationship with the Earth.” This plenary talk focuses on the role of citizen science in conservation research. As the Internet and technology have allowed for this type of outreach to expand, more and more scientists are using citizens to contribute in the data collection process. This plenary will provide successes from eBird (http://ebird.org/content/ebird/), an online checklist for the birding community and one of the world’s largest observational database on a non-human organism. In March of 2012, more than 3.1 million bird observations were recorded in eBird across North America! The potential of citizen science is huge for research, communication, and outreach and will certainly be a tool for scientists today and in the future. I look forward to these talks, in addition to the opportunities to connect with thousands of conservation professionals across the world. 

Picture
Clawdia, the mascot for ICCB 2013, is in Cascades National Park, Washington, USA. Image taken from http://www.conbio.org/mini-sites/iccb-2013/about-the-meeting/meet-clawdia.