Conservation stories from the front lines

February 5, 2018, Public Library of Science
Conservation Stories from the Front Lines. Credit: Allison Simler

The ups and downs of the research process underlie every scientific publication, yet rarely make it into the final paper. A new collection, "Conservation Stories from the Front Lines," publishing between 5-7 February in the open access journal PLOS Biology, captures the long-neglected human side of science by entering the tragedy, comedy, and (mis)adventures that shape research into the scientific record as peer-reviewed scientific stories. The stories come from scientists working to manage and preserve biodiversity, and offer a new way to engage diverse audiences in today's pressing scientific issues.

The collection was overseen by Liz Neely, executive director of Story Collider; Annaliese Hettinger, a marine ecologist and postdoctoral fellow at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory; Jonathan Moore, associate professor of aquatic ecology and and Liber Ero Chair of Coastal Science and Management at Simon Fraser University; and Liza Gross, PLOS Biology senior editor.

The collection focuses on conservation— that speaks to the management and preservation of species and ecosystems. These Conservation Stories present peer-reviewed and robust science but also include the muddy boots and bloody knees, ravaging mosquitoes, crushing disappointment, and occasional euphoria their authors experienced.

Elizabeth Hadly confesses her fear that the days when government leaders acted on evidence of human-driven planetary emergencies may be gone. Karen Lips describes the agony of watching the rainforest frogs she studied for years suddenly and mysteriously disappear. Nick Haddad shares epiphanies about the recovery of rare species gleaned from humbling struggles with his health. Emmanuel Frimpong urges us to consider how the ecological role of an overlooked fish warrants a new approach to freshwater fish conservation, and Sergio Avila-Villegas reveals how a painful encounter with a jaguar changed the trajectory of his life and his life's work.

Scientists are increasingly recognizing the need to find new ways to effectively engage with a diversity of audiences. This collection experiments with one way to communicate science by turning peer-reviewed papers into evidence-based, scientific stories. The collection editors hope these stories catalyze further experiments with peer-reviewed scientific narratives. In an editorial introducing the collection, the editors write: "As we grapple with emerging crises wrought by a changing climate and plummeting biodiversity, we'll need to explore every possible avenue for sharing the best available science with audiences far beyond the academy."

Explore further: Conservation hindered by geographical mismatches between capacity and need

More information: Gross L, Hettinger A, Moore JW, Neeley L (2018) Conservation stories from the front lines. PLoS Biol 16(2): e2005226.

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