“A useful rule is that any impacts on species and their habitats should persist for as short a time as possible ― Innes Cuthill
12 Essential Field Recommendations
To minimize our biological & ecological fieldwork impact
When guidelines and requirements do exist, they are implemented differently depending on the country and institutions. Too often, guidelines are focused on vertebrates and other popular species, and fail to address ethics regarding how to manage the investigation in-situ and the impact on other species and the hosting ecosystem. Some regulations exist about species manipulation in research labs, but the handling of the same species in fieldwork is not equally addressed.
Yes, it is understood that conservation biology and ecology fieldwork damages are minor compared to other human activities (fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, human development, etc.). However, conservation research does not always consider the best ethical course, and on occasions even operates above ethics. We should instead take a by-default stance that has ethics deliberately at its core and throughout every single step of our study process. This is what these ‘Essentials’ are about: helping our work go through a systematic ethical lens…
The EwA Conservation Fieldwork Essentials † shares ethical considerations from the Field that benefit the species, the habitats, the local communities, and the science that we do. It is designed to help us fulfill our responsibilities to the scientific community, our duties to the public and wildlife welfare, and our obligations to species and ecosystems. By bringing upfront important ethical considerations, it supports us in conducting research studies responsibly at every stage of the process rather than risk overlooking or forgetting ethics along the way. This is a good process that challenges the relevance of our research and ultimately promotes good/better science. This is a process that makes us all accountable conservation leaders.
About 83% of Earth’s ice-free land area is likely to be directly influenced by human beings [SE02]. Even if our research is for the greater good, we encourage accounting for the impact of our research explicitly. For instance, we should always favor solutions that avoid species collection, minimize our presence and collateral disturbances. Here are considerations to have in mind when developing a study and its field protocol (◊)…
1 | 💥 Responsibility / Do no harm » Justify adverse research impact ⎆
2 | 💣 Challenge the use of destructive sampling methods ⎆
3 | 📃 Respect institutional policies & national regulations ⎆
4 | 🤝 Collaborate with local scientists, hire local residents ⎆
5 | 🏋🏻♀️ Favor low-impact methods ⎆
6 | 🐾 Minimize stress for animals, and reduce disturbances for wildlife & habitats ⎆
7 | 🥀 Avoid killing animals & plants along the way ⎆
8 | ✨ Scrupulously clean the study site of equipment and materials ⎆
9 | 📊 Use open-access archives for minimizing research redundancies, and maximizing research collaboration and education ⎆
10 | 🛎 Report to authorities critical information for prompt action / protection response ⎆
11 | 👣 Out of 'site', still in mind » After-study impact monitoring ⎆
📚 Annotated References & Further Reading
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◊ At the moment, this guide is essentially built upon the checklist of ten considerations for respectful conduct during biological field sampling from the Costello & all’s paper (referenced as CM16 in this Guide). We find that it provides an excellent initial checklist that we can adjust to our EwA guides’ format and further develop. Over time we will refine this list, adding references and considerations, and follow the advances of the conservation fieldwork ethics. If there is anything else you would like to see added, please let us know and we’ll do our best to include it. Let’s be Earthwise Aware and study & protect wildlife responsibly! Thanks for your support!