Saturday, January 24, 2015

Conservation Biology Hero #2 Michael Soulé

My conservation # 2 is Dr. Michael Soulé. He had a major impact on my career through his writings. In particular his 1999 Nature paper on mesopredator release and bird species richness, which showed coyotes (top predator) had a positive impact on birds by their consumption of cats (the mesoprdators), made me think of fragmentation more largely. I knew forest fragmentation had a major impact on birds but that effect could be mediated through interactions with other species. In other words, the world was just not that simple. His other major work was his book Conservation Biology: The Science of Scarcity and Diversity. This was one of the first books I picked up as a graduate student. I also happened to see his packed lecture at UNO on conservation biology. 

Dr. Soulé is now professor emeritus ("retired" but working) at UC-Santa Cruz. I am ashamed to say I haven't seen his other books, which should be required for someone that calls himself a conservation biologist - I'm more apt to read a stats book these days but balance is needed. I consider Michael Soule to be a conservation hero because he laid the foundation of evidence-based conservation biology. 

I selected Dr. Soule this morning when I came across a reference to him in the New Yorker. Dr. Soule wrote a piece in a 1985 issue of BioScience called "What is Conservation Biology" and two very influential biologist recently wrote an update to that definition that stresses human well-being. As the New Yorker points out, this new definition is at odds with Dr. Soule sentiment. I think reading both will make for an interesting exercise in the conservation biology class (I'll need to read both!). 

Go to Conservation Biology Hero #1 Aldo Leopold
Go to Conservation Biology Hero #3 Jane Lubchenco

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