I’m an environmental ethicist and conservation scholar at Arizona State University in Tempe.
My work grapples with two big questions: What obligations do we have toward species and wildlands in a rapidly changing and increasingly human-shaped environment? And how can a better understanding of the American conservation tradition enhance our efforts to secure a biologically and culturally rich environmental future? My writing is grounded in the tradition of American Pragmatism, especially its moral, scientific, and civic traditions.
I hold the Arizona Zoological Society Endowed Chair at ASU, a position originally established by the Maytag family at the time it made possible the founding of the Phoenix Zoo. I’m also a Professor in the Human Dimensions Faculty in the School of Life Sciences, a core faculty member in the Center for Biology and Society, and a Fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature (Chicago). I teach a set of undergraduate and graduate courses in environmental ethics and the history and philosophy of conservation.
Scores of wild species and ecosystems around the world face a variety of human-caused threats, from habitat destruction and fragmentation to rapid climate change. But there is hope, and it, too, comes in a most human form: zoos and aquariums. Gathering a diverse, multi-institutional collection of leading zoo and aquarium scientists as well as historians, philosophers, biologists, and social scientists, The Ark and Beyond traces the history and underscores the present role of these organizations as essential conservation actors. It also offers a framework for their future course, reaffirming that if zoos and aquariums make biodiversity conservation a top priority, these institutions can play a vital role in tackling conservation challenges of global magnitude.
While early menageries were anything but the centers of conservation that many zoos are today, a concern with wildlife preservation has been an integral component of the modern, professionally run zoo since the nineteenth century. From captive breeding initiatives to rewilding programs, zoos and aquariums have long been at the cutting edge of research and conservation science, sites of impressive new genetic and reproductive techniques. Today, their efforts reach even further beyond recreation, with educational programs, community-based conservation initiatives, and international, collaborative programs designed to combat species’ extinction and protect habitats at a range of scales. Addressing related topics as diverse as zoo animal welfare, species reintroductions, amphibian extinctions, and whether zoos can truly be “wild,” this book explores the whole range of research and conservation practices that spring from zoos and aquariums while emphasizing the historical, scientific, and ethical traditions that shape these efforts. Also featuring an inspiring foreword by the late George Rabb, president emeritus of the Chicago Zoological Society / Brookfield Zoo, The Ark and Beyond illuminates these institutions’ growing significance to the preservation of global biodiversity in this century.
The book will be published by the University of Chicago Press in early 2018.
Op-ed on collecting for Birdwatch magazine (UK). Click on image to read
Public lecture on ethics and extinction at the Chicago Botanic Garden (Center for Humans and Nature 2014 Ethics Forum). Click image to view
Header Photo: Witness to Sunrise, © Mark Klett