ASU conservation partnership adds new professors to team

The joint-effort between ASU's Center for Biodiversity Outcomes and sustainability nonprofit Conservation International will add seven new professors of practice

ASU is no stranger to sustainability research and the addition of new faculty to the school's conservation research partnership with Conservation International makes that research more accessible to students. 

In September 2016, ASU's Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, CBO, and Conservation International, CI, a sustainability nonprofit, teamed up biodiversity and sustainability research is growing on campus. To further that research CBO has advanced its partnership with CI by hiring seven professors of practice. The new professors are experts in conservation fields who work with CI.

Beth Polidoro, CBO associate director of research, said the center serves as a sort of boundary organization. It functions as the link between academia and government, conservation and corporations, she said.

“CBO is an interdisciplinary brand new center, the idea is to create additional research, education and engagement activities for students and faculty in the realm of biodiversity conservation,” Polidoro said.

ASU is home to the nation’s first school of sustainability, and its students engage with faculty and research in order to pursue a wide spectrum of interests. The partnership between CBO and CI entails many things, including a wider range of opportunities for students.

“We’re trying to provide students with real applied research and learning opportunities," Polidoro said. "They can work with perhaps Conservation International staff and researchers on applied research, not just in Arizona but across the world in Conservation International sites."

The partnership, which is still in its first year at the University, is aimed at benefiting students.

“It's a tremendous opportunity for students and faculty at ASU to participate in global change and global conservation by partnering with these outside institutions,” Polidoro said.

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GIF by Rafael Varona.

Daniela Raik is the senior vice president and managing director at CI. As managing director, Raik oversees about 50 researchers.

Raik describes CI as “a global conservation organization focused on identifying, conserving and maintaining national places in the world that are most important to people.”

CI's focuses on conserving and protecting nature, Raik said. The union of CBO and CI has made a large impact, and gives students the opportunity to take part in it.

“Our goal is to bring ASU’s incredible strength, and capacity, and knowledge generation, and research together with CI’s experience and expertise in conservation and nature based solutions to really tackle biodiversity and ecosystem deprivation that we’re witnessing globally,” Raik said.

One way that ASU and CI are undertaking biodiversity deprivation, is by connecting students with researchers from CI, Raik said. In March, it was announced that seven professors of practice from CI would join the ASU faculty.

“Having CI experts on faculty will give student exposure to practitioners,” Raik said. “Students who have a passion for the environment and sustainability, and it'll give them exposure and interaction and opportunity to work with people who have made their career as practitioners.”

Amy Scoville-Weaver, the project manager for CBO, oversees every project and partnership CBO has.

“... there’s definitely a collaborative aspect of our work so part of our mission is to connect, or sort of bridge between practice and academia,” Scoville-Weaver said.

She said the focus of the partnership is to combine resources and power in order to “sustain and thrive as a global community while also protecting the essential goods and services that we get from the environment."

The professors of practice will act as a guide and support to achieve the three goals of the partnership, protecting biodiversity, sustaining food production methods and training the next generation to deal with future biodiversity topics. 

There are six professors of practice and one distinguished professor of practice, whose expertise varies from fishery sustainability to wildlife conservation.

“ASU has established itself as a leader in sustainability with the school of sustainability,” Scoville-Weaver said. “I think the aspiration of this partnership is to take that one step further and perhaps have a more global reach than we currently have, but also to really make conservation efforts an essential part of what ASU does.”

She said the union of these two organizations offers many new opportunities for ASU students to be involved in current research and, therefore, involved in the creation of possible solutions that affect the world.

“Sustainability, it's across disciplines, and I think it doesn't matter what you're doing, even if you're a literature major and are interested in biodiversity," Scoville-Weaver said. “Ultimately, everything is connected back to the foundations of life.”

Reach the reporter at and on Twitter @stefmarz.

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