It is now roughly 30 years since I started a project in the forests of the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Reserve (TNC) as a PhD student at Florida State University. I still haven’t published a paper on this particular portion of my dissertation. The irony is that remains my intention to write such a paper. Bottom line: I wrote a crappy dissertation. I appreciate all the help I got in graduate school. I worked with some truly great people who helped me enormously. Nevertheless, I look back and think that rather than being fueled by my graduate education, I survived my youthful naivete. Now that I have been a professor for more than a quarter century, I feel I have a perspective on what is a good approach to graduate studies and what is not. I also know that, like myself, most students do not indulge in enough critical thinking about their own graduate studies. Hence, below is some unsolicted advice.
Approaching 8 billion people, it has never been more apparent that environmental management requires difficult discussions about this tension between individual freedom (e.g., to exploit) and societal interests (e.g., to protect). Population growth has meant that nearly all decisions in the environment are contested in this crowded world where people are everywhere, exploiting everything. I suppose that it is inevitable that conservation groups look around and see population growth as the root of the problem, and the key to long-term solutions.
There are a bunch of books on science and the ivory tower and how scientists need to actively paticipate in reversing the pattern of scientists isolating themselves from public discourse. There are also a bunch of books on scientific illiteracy that speak to the need to increase the generaly understanding of science among people. Conservation Science (CS) and Natural Resource Manaement (NRM) are ideal participants in this important venture to build a populace that acknowledges science as an important way of knowing; that there are rules to to good science; that we individually can and should look to science and judge whether what we read meets the criteria of good science and not let some website dictate to us whether some scientific finding is valid, important, trivial or malicously false. I believe that CS and NRM are ideally situated to foster healing the divide between science and society through deliberate integration of science and society in understanding and managing natural resources.
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