The webinar recording for the fifth in the 2021 SCBNA Student Affairs Webinar Series is now available on the SCB North America YouTube Page. Incorporating social science into practice and research is vital for improving conservation outcomes. In the fifth installment of the SCBNA 2021 Student Affairs Webinar Series, panelists discussed the intersection of conservation and social science. We are grateful to the following panelists for sharing their research and experiences with us in this webinar: Dr. Arundhati Jagadish, Social Scientist at Conservation International, and Dr. Meredith Gore, Conservation Social Scientist at the University of Maryland.

This was the final webinar before a summer break in the series. Many thanks to the Student Affairs Subcommittee for organizing this wonderful webinar series. All of the recordings in the series are up on the SCB North America YouTube page.

Planning is underway for a fall webinar on Equity and Inclusion in Conservation and Research – stay tuned for more information over the summer!

Members of the policy committee of the Hawai’i Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology (HISCB) have submitted a policy statement on behalf of HISCB and the Society for Conservation Biology Oceania section regarding the listing of at-risk Hawaiian terrestrial flora and fauna species under the State Endangered Species Statute, HRS 195D, to prevent further decline or extinction.

Despite its relatively small landmass (less than 0.2% of total US landmass), Hawai’i has been called the endangered species capital of the world; it is home to more than 500 of the 1,600 species listed as endangered or threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. However, Hawai’i receives only 8-10% of federal funding appropriated for the recovery of endangered or threatened species. Furthermore, the federal Endangered Species Act has been weakened by recent amendments and revisions made during the Trump Administration. With decreased protections for vulnerable species at the federal level, HISCB asserts that now is the time for state governments to strengthen their protections. 

Hawai’i has its own endangered species list under the State Endangered Species Statute, HRS 195D, to which any federally listed endangered or threatened species are automatically added. While many states add additional species to their own lists, Hawai’i has added only two species beyond those federally listed. According to nationally- or internationally-based conservation organizations, as of April 2020 there are over 600 additional Hawaiian species that are not listed but are considered endangered or imperiled. Listing species at highest risk under the State ESA, HRS 195D, would raise the profile of these overlooked species and promote their protection.

In its policy statement, HISCB has proposed three clear priorities that can be viewed as first steps to enhance the protection of Hawaiʻi’s unique biodiversity:

  1. Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the State agency that is charged with overseeing the State Endangered Species List, initiates the State listing process for at-risk Hawaiian flora and fauna species under the State Endangered Species Statute, HRS 195D, to prevent further decline or extinction,
  2. DLNR convenes workshops and other collaborative activities with relevant biologists to further evaluate the classifications of NatureServe and IUCN or other relevant analyses of Hawaiʻi species and consider them for state listing, and 
  3. Identify and engage interested individuals and organizations to petition the State for species’ listings in lieu of action by DLNR through the described process above.

Read the full statement here.

Scientific integrity is central to the mission and vision of SCBNA, and efforts by the Trump administration to undermine the integrity of science around the Covid 19 pandemic has prompted members of Congress and the Biden administration to take much-needed action on this issue. In March, SCB North America and fourteen other organizations signed a letter urging the House Science, Space and Technology Committee to support the Scientific Integrity Act. Reintroduced in February 2021, the Act would ensure scientists can carry out their research—and communicate it with the public—without fear of political pressure or retaliation. The Act requires that scientific conclusions are independent of political considerations or ideology. In addition, it would prohibit political appointees from manipulating scientific findings, or impeding the release and communication of those findings to the public through scientific journals or the media. Open The Government led the effort to bring the letter before the House committee, working alongside a coalition of science, conservation, research and accountability organizations.

Since taking office in January, President Biden has signaled a shift in federal government policy, creating a plan to strengthen scientific integrity and releasing an executive order to support science in policy-making (see this and other Executive Actions supported by SCB North America here). Action from Congress in passing the Scientific Integrity Act would establish a number of essential protections and policies that would stay in place through shifting presidential administrations and political appointees. SCB North America is encouraged by the re-emergence of scientific integrity as a high priority under the new administration and Congress, and looks forward to continuing to prioritize this issue through its policy program. 

Through the work of its policy committee and members, SCB North America has long supported efforts to strengthen scientific integrity to ensure that the best available science is used to inform conservation actions and policies. The SCB North America Policy program (SNAP) focuses on this work, making progress through advocacy, policy recommendations, and fostering international communication by scientists. This work promotes biodiversity by making sure that conservation laws, from environmental impact assessments to forest and marine resource management, are implemented using the best possible science. 

Download and read the full letter to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee here.