The Conservation Scholars series continues now with conservation biologists that were not highlighted in our book Tropical Conservation Biology (where we produced a series of ‘Spotlights’ describing the contributions of great thinkers in conservation science). Each highlight of a Conservation Scholar includes a small biography, a list of major scientific publications and a Q & A on the person’s particular area of expertise.
I thought I’d start this new batch with one of my good friends and colleagues, Navjot Sodhi. He is our eleventh Conservation Scholar…
I am currently Professor of Conservation Ecology at the National University of Singapore. I received my PhD from the University of Saskatchewan (Canada), and I have been studying the effects of rain forest loss and degradation on Southeast Asian fauna and flora for over the last 13 years. I have published over 100 scientific papers in international and regional scientific journals such as Nature, Science, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, Auk, Current Biology, BioScience, Ecological Applications, Journal of Applied Ecology, Conservation Biology, Biological Conservation, and Biodiversity and Conservation. I have written/edited several books/monographs such as Southeast Asian Biodiversity in Crisis (2006, Cambridge University Press), Winged Invaders: ‘Pest’ birds of Asia-Pacific (2006, SNP, Singapore), Tropical Conservation Biology (2007, Blackwell) and Biodiversity and Human Livelihoods in Protected Areas: case studies from the Malay Archipelago (2008, Cambridge University Press), and I am currently co-editing a textbook called Conservation Biology for All (2009, Oxford University Press). I have also spent time at Harvard University as a Bullard Fellow (2001-02) and Hrdy Fellow (2008-09) where I now hold an adjunct associate position. I am (or have been) an Associate Editor/Editor of prestigious journals such as Conservation Biology, Biological Conservation, Animal Conservation, the Auk and Biotropica.
- Brook, BW, NS Sodhi and PKL Ng. 2003. Catastrophic extinctions follow deforestation in Singapore. Nature 424: 420-423
- Sodhi, NS, LP Koh, BW Brook & PKL Ng. 2004. Southeast Asian biodiversity: an impending disaster. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 19: 654-660
- Koh, LP, RR Dunn, NS Sodhi, RK Colwell, HC Proctor & VS Smith. 2004. Species coextinctions and the biodiversity crisis. Science 305: 1632-1634
- Sodhi, NS and BW Brook. 2006. Southeast Asian Biodiversity in Crisis. Tropical Biology Series, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK
- Sodhi, NS, BW Brook & CJA Bradshaw. 2007. Tropical Conservation Biology. Blackwell, Oxford, UK
Questions and Answers
1. You started out mainly as a bird ecologist – what made you evolve into the generalist conservation biologist that you are today?
Well, I started as an entomologist and then became an ornithologist. But I always was interested in conservation. To become a reasonable conservation biologist, I realised that I have to look beyond specific taxa, and even, biology.
2. You focus a lot on South East Asia and its conservation challenges. What are the most realistic answers to some of the region’s biggest conservation problems?
I think that we really don’t know most of the critical answers. That’s why we are in the dire straits biodiversity-wise in this region. I reckon that tangible conservation will require socio-political and economic issues sleeping with biology. Funding, conservation awareness, scientists, and uncorrupted politicians, for instance, are in short supply.
3. Is there a big difference between developing and wealthy nations in terms of their conservation challenges and solutions, or do many of the same issues apply?
Developed nations don’t have acute poverty. Because of relatively poor biotic richness, conservation problems of developed nations are trivial, really. Except when they pollute the planet, rob the poor countries of their natural capital, and talk “conservation” nonsense.
4. As an editor for the journal Biological Conservation, what are some of the hottest conservation biology topics coming across your desk these days?
As an editor, any well done and written study is exciting. Personally, my eyes get wide seeing studies showing higher-order effects of biotic attrition (for other biodiversity and humanity).
5. You are editing a new conservation biology book with Paul Ehrlich – can you give us a sneak preview of its contents?
This will be the most ambitious project of my life, I reckon. We have got world’s top conservationists to write specific chapters. There are chapters, for example, on biodiversity, ecosystem services, extinctions, invasive species, climate change, conservation planning, conservation sociology, and study design and analyses. From what I have read thus far, this book will contain some historic text.