The goal of our Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) Europe Section Blog is to share stories and relevant information about activities going on within our section and more broadly in the conservation community. Stories and articles shared on our blog should not be taken as an official position or statement of SCB or SCB Europe Section. Thank you for reading!

Friday, 10 November 2017

A place to find hope: Student Conference for Conservation Science

Guest post by Snežana Popov
August 29, 2017

"So, what's your topic about?" he asked me looking at a detailed conference program.
 I responded enthusiastically: "Hoverflies".
"Flies." I added. "They are so nice and they're really important pollinators. You know, pollinators are disappearing".
"Ahem. Interesting." he said, not so convinced.

I could hear the disappointment in his voice. Insects and nice in the same sentence? Who am I kidding? 

Why do people not care about the loss of pollinators?! I looked nervously at my watch. Budapest is an hour away. I have enough time to explain to him the importance of the insects... pollination and biological control...biodiversity loss... I could show him some pictures of really beautiful specimens. Ok, they are not fluffy pandas, but maybe I can provoke some sympathy.

"Sir, you know..." I spoke up decisively and looked at him.
The man has fallen asleep. Well done, Snežana, well done!

August 30, 2017

"Hi, what's your talk about?" she asked me while pouring coffee.
"Wow, that's great! I have an urban garden at home so I often enjoy looking some specimens around the flowers. They are so beautiful." she said all in one breath, and making me smile.

Two similar situations but with different audiences - a random person on a train and a young scientist at a scientific conference. Of course, hanging out with people that are enthusiastic about the same thing as you is a godsend! As conservationists we understand each other (at least try to do so). But, what to do when you have a person in front of you who is not that interested in conservation science (yes, somehow these people exist)?

For me, the answer emerged from a plenary talk by Andrew Balmford, and that answer is simple, we must give people hope by presenting successful conservation stories. The definition of hope is "a feeling of optimism or a desire that something will happen". If conservationists don't offer hope to others about conservation issues we study, who will?

Science is structured in a way that forces us to first reveal a problem, and then to offer a solution. However, when it comes to raising our voices about conservation issues, besides being proactive, we need to be enthusiastic too, and we need to talk about solutions and successes, not only challenges. In my case, the next time I encounter a random person on the train who wants to know more about my work, I can discuss how each one of us can help pollinators by establishing a simple urban terrace garden at home.

After spending several days with conservation scientists, young and old, at the SCCS conference, I definitely found hope, and improved my understanding about how I can better communicate hope in when it comes to environmental conservation, particularly in relation to pollination and pollinators. Ultimately, as scientists, we need to pay attention to threats and alarming signs, but we should drive the public to make sustainable choices in their daily lives by communicating positive experiences. 

Snežana Popov is a Research Assistant in the Department of Biology and Ecology, University of Novi Sad. She recently received her PhD in Ecology. She investigates how human disturbance and landscape patterns affect biodiversity. A huge nature lover, yoga teacher, and a small craft brewery owner. You can contact her via Research Gate or by email: ekosneza (at) gmail (dot) com. 

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