Standard Research Grant: Past Present and Future of Conservation in Zoological Institutions

Project: Research project

Project Details


Standard Research Grant: Past Present and Future of Conservation in Zoological Institutions Standard Research Grant: Enclosing Nature: The Historical, Ethical, and Scientific Evolution of Zoo and Aquarium Conservation PROJECT SUMMARY Overview: Page A The conservation mission of zoos and aquariums is a significant part of their institutional heritage. Furthermore, as ex situ conservation centers and as partners in field-based conservation efforts, zoos and aquariums are expected to play an even more important role in conserving biodiversity in this century. This mission, however, raises a number of critical historical, ethical, and scientific questions about the evolution of zoological institutions and their shifting responsibilities to animals and to conservation. For example, how and why did the conservation mission emerge and evolve in modern zoos and aquariums and how does its development situate these institutions in the history, ethics, policy, and practice of conservation? How can historical and ethical analyses of the roots and development of zoo and aquarium conservation help chart a more informed and ethically responsible course? What contributions can this multidisciplinary study of zoo and aquarium conservation make to discussions in history and philosophy of science (HPS), conservation history, environmental ethics, and conservation biology? We hypothesize that understanding and prioritizing the values, duties, goals, and practices of zoo and aquariums in an era of increased conservation concern is a challenge that can be significantly informed by a multi-pronged STS study of the conservation mission of these institutions. We will organize a community of thinkers, including scholars in HPS, environmental ethics, environmental history, and conservation science -- as well as zoo- and aquarium-based leaders -- to explore the past, present, and future of conservation in and by zoological institutions. Project participants will offer cutting-edge perspectives and reflections on the ethical character and evolution of zoo and aquarium conservation, examining the intersection of history, ethics, policy, science, and practice. Both critical and supportive views of zoo conservation will be featured throughout the project. The research program is structured around three events: 1) a zoo and aquarium ethics and science symposium for academic and zoo-based researchers to be held at Arizona State University in the fall of 2015, and 2) two synthesis panels and public lectures at the Phoenix Zoo and Bronx Zoo the spring and fall of 2016 (respectively). Each of these builds on the previous event(s), marking a progression within the larger project. Scholarly and educational outcomes of the research will include: 1) an authoritative multidisciplinary volume on the history, ethics, and science of zoo and aquarium conservation, 2) synthesis articles on the legacy and future of zoo and aquarium conservation, 3) curricular materials on the historical, ethical, and scientific dimensions of zoo and aquarium conservation, 4) a public exhibit on the evolution of zoo and aquarium conservation to be displayed at the two zoo events, and 5) a digital repository on the history, ethics, and science of zoo and aquarium conservation for educators, students, and professionals. Intellectual Merit : Our project will integrate the perspectives of HPS, conservation history, environmental ethics, and conservation science in a novel analysis of the evolution and ethics of zoo and aquarium conservation. It will produce defining edge literature on this topic and will fill important gaps in the historical, philosophical, and ethical scholarship on zoos and aquariums. Our study will be a model for multi- and interdisciplinary approaches to a complex STS conservation challenge, a design that will be transferrable to other research and societal contexts. Broader Impacts : Research outcomes will reach a wide and diverse audience, including educators, researchers, zoo and aquarium professionals, and the public. Products include major publications, online educational and research resources made available on a digital repository and as physical and virtual exhibits, and organized public events. The project will achieve a broader institutional and societal impact by helping zoos and aquariums inform, improve, and advance their conservation agenda, a goal supported by the participation of zoo and aquarium leaders in the project and by the application of research results to the zoological community. Our focus on the ethical and policy implications of the growing conservation mission of zoological institutions will also help to shape a responsible and effective zoo and aquarium conservation agenda in the coming decades. APG: Science Outside the Lab
Effective start/end date7/15/146/30/18


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $241,306.00


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