Wild Animals

An inclusive view of nature can also foster the inclusion of diverse researchers — Wild Animal Initiative

When framed in a way that inclusively values ​​all animals, regardless of their rarity or geographic location, wildlife welfare can be a new but accessible way for people to engage with nature.

In a TED Conference 2016, Emma Marris, environmental science writer, offered a broad definition of nature that applies “wherever life develops; wherever there are several species together. This might include the wide-open savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa, a classic example of a landscape often seen as the epitome of nature, but it would also include abandoned urban land in a North American city where various plants and invertebrates have an address. . The idyllic and scenic vistas associated with national parks may be considered more beautiful, but for many people they are also much more difficult to visit and interact with. Because most people reside in cities, overgrown lands and city parks near their homes are simply more accessible and convenient places where they can interact with nature.

Marris noticed that when children, in particular, are able to connect with nature and touch it, making observations and questions about it from an early age, they can generate an interest in life that keeps them alive. eventually leads to pursuing a related career in adulthood. Our Wild Animal Initiative scientists have confirmed such a connection in their own lives, recalling childhood experiences with common animals like squirrels and foxes that later inspired them to pursue careers in support of the welfare of these people. animals.

When the Wild Animal Initiative was asked to think about diversity and inclusion among humans in a session proposal at an upcoming conference, we were inspired by Marris’ inclusive definition of nature. Here is the statement we submitted:

“Care for the welfare of wild animals is a value widely shared by people around the world. Because of its focus on individual animals, wildlife welfare research places a high value on basic observational/natural history research documenting animal lives and preferences. Support for this type of work makes wildlife welfare research accessible to a relatively diverse set of practitioners, including those with limited access to expensive instruments and computational methods, or even green spaces. At least in the West, people of color have always faced exclusion from areas of “pristine” wilderness and high biodiversity, the very areas that have been considered most important in mainstream ecological research priorities, contributing to the lack of racial diversity in the ecological research community. From a wildlife welfare perspective, knowledge of urban pigeons in a concrete jungle is at least as important as knowledge of a rare and inaccessible bird species.

When we realize that nature exists all around us, we also realize that the wild animals closest to us are just as deserving of support for their well-being as those farther away. Making the study of wild animals more accessible with this inclusive vision is not a definitive solution – we always aim to improve our field so that it no longer systematically excludes researchers of color from studying remote and pristine wilderness areas. – but it is at least one step towards equity that we are looking for.

As wildlife welfare research continues to develop, the stability and success of the research field relies on the diversity of its practitioners. A broader range of perspectives will lead us more effectively to the knowledge we need to create a more hospitable world for all who inhabit it. The field appears to be progressing towards the human inclusiveness we envision, as evidenced by the diversity of scientists who submitted applications to our recent call for proposals. Our hope is that increasingly diverse future wild animal welfare researchers are already rising, able to connect with nature where they are.

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