Shifting gears from working in conservation as an undergrad and volunteer into entering graduate school and trying to make it into a career has made the difficulty of finding funding for conservation projects a prominent feature in my day to day life. I am currently in the process of trying to find a suitable lab for me to work in for my PhD. And for me, funding-wise, it’s a double wammy because I have been working on a previous project which currently doesn’t have its own funding. So, not only do I have to find a lab which is doing work I am interested in and has enough money to let me join but, because most labs don’t even have enough money to fund their own projects, let alone mine, if I want to do the CCF project while I’m here, I have to acquire my own funding for it. Now if this were the type of research the government and private organizations fund regularly, such as pharmaceuticals, cancer, etc., this wouldn’t be a huge issue. But because I am in the field of conservation, I keep hitting the “that project sounds very interesting/I would love to have you do a rotation in my lab but I don’t have any funding” roadblock. Now, here lies the real conundrum:
Whether a conservation or restoration project can be done is determined by whether or not they are able to procure funding. Whether or not money will be given to a particular project is determined by how the outcome will benefit us, human beings. The problem lies in the narrow mindset in which the decision-makers define “benefit.” They aren't thinking about humans as a species (an animal species) but rather as themselves as a human being. If there isn’t a tangible benefit right now, there is no benefit; when in reality, they may be overlooking a long term benefit which they, personally, may not benefit from but generations to come will.
If we are going to live in a world that continues to possess riches of biodiversity and if we are going to live in a world that has room for species and habitats that do not benefit us, then we must restore and preserve as much habitat as possible. (Allison 2007)
One of the reasons I have so much respect for the Cheetah Conservation Fund is that they realized this conundrum and embraced it. They have many projects (i.e. Cheetah Country Beef and Bushblok) which have a benefit for both the ecology of Namibia and the economy of its people. What we as conservationist need to do is take a realistic approach linking immediate benefit for the people with long term benefit for the environment. Once we find that niche, finding funding becomes easier and we can build on our efforts of conservation, whatever it is we are trying to conserve.
Once restorationists fully recognize their role in choosing at least the starting conditions and hoped for end point of restoration projects, it is vital for them to engage in both the environment and the human community to achieve the restoration of humans and nature. (Allison 2007)
- Quotes are from Allison, S.K. (2007) You Can't Not Choose: Embracing the Role of Choice in Ecoogical Resotration. Restoration Ecology. Vol 15, No. 4, pp. 601-605