CCF 16th Annual Symposium - 8 January 2015

Symposium Proceedings

Thank you to all those who made CCF’s 16th Annual Symposium such a success. We heard from eight different speakers on eight different projects, serving us a delicious mix of places, conservation challenges and approaches. Annette Lanjouw of the ARCUS Foundation began the morning session speaking of the work of her organisation in assessing the risks to great apes from the extractives industry, work recently published by Cambridge University Press. Tony Whitten of FFI juxtaposed this with consideration of less charismatic creatures, blind springtails, facing threats and in some cases ultimate extinction from this same industry – how can one justify conservation action for this and other such groups that don’t provide any ecosystem service or appeal? We were brought much nearer to home by Mark Nokkert of Cambridgeshire ACRE with an inspiring example of community conservation on our doorstep – the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership Scheme – before hearing of another innovative community-based initiative for the endangered African blackwood (mpingo) tree in Tanzania, described by Mike Chandler of the Environment Africa Trust.

The afternoon session was kicked off by Mark Spalding of The Nature Conservancy, who described work to understand the global status of mangroves and coral reefs, and how to build ecosystem services into planning for their conservation, by generating ‘targets with traction’ for policy-makers. Silviu Petrovan of new CCF member Froglife, and Rebecca Willers of the Shepreth Wildlife Park, followed with projects tackling the threats of Britain’s road network on some of our beloved fauna – toads and hedgehogs respectively. Finally, another of UK’s most familiar animals, the red deer, was the subject of studies described by Andrew Tanentzap of the Department of Plant Sciences. This time it was the threat posed by, and not to, the deer which was under consideration, in relation to the future of upland woodlands in the Scottish Highlands.

All these talks provided food for thought in the breakout group discussions, in which we considered how the different ways in which conservation is framed or motivated affects our work and how we communicate it or measure its success. We used the categorisation of these framings set out by Professor Georgina Mace in her recent perspective article in Science. All four framings were recognised from within the Cambridge conservation community, but we found ourselves needing to make the distinction between our own individual and personal motivations, those of the organisations we work for, and what is communicated to the outside world.

Each of the breakout groups came up with at least one idea for how to make this diversity of framings a strength for our work, and one question about how to reconcile some of the difficulties posed by them (see a list of these attached). These ideas and questions were then put to a panel chaired by Tony Whitten and consisting of Jeremy Lindsell of A Rocha International, Sophie Higman of West Street Communications, Cordula Epple of UNEP-WCMC  and Bhaskar Vira of the Geography Department. Bhaskar and Chris Sandbrook have invited all delegates of the symposium to participate in an online survey of values in conservation, feeding into their ongoing research into this important area that underpins our work. If anyone wants to stay in touch with this discussion, and has ideas on how to develop it further, please do get in touch.

We thank all involved in enabling this stimulating day to take place, including speakers, facilitators and session chairs, the Cambridge Judge Business School for the use of their excellent facilities, and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative for hosting us there.

Here are some photos of the day.