October 4, 2012

Conservation Mojo

What motivates you to work in nature conservation ?

I’m curious about what motivates people to work in the field of nature conservation. I’ve been stewing on this idea and exploring it with several friends and colleagues.  I’ve started to see my motivation for nature conservation as a resource that needs to be renewed over time.  As a big fan of Austin Powers, I'm amusing by thinking about it as my ‘conservation mojo.’

I find it challenging to maintain and grow one’s conservation ‘mojo’ in the face of the colossal challenges and high levels of uncertainty that we face.  While working to protect natural resources and inspire behavioral transformations, we encounter the added hurdles of growing environmental degradation and chronic underfunding of conservation research, programs, and education.

I now think of my motivation for nature conservation as a renewable resource.  It is rooted in a combination of intrinsic beliefs and external sources of inspiration.  At the core, like many of the people I know in conservation, I am driven by an emotional connection to nature. To recharge my conservation mojo, I have to honor that connection by spending time outside.  I’ve literally been buzzing for weeks since finding a Pacific giant salamander (Dicamptodon ensatus) at the nearby Wildlake Preserve with land steward extraordinaire, Mike Paladini from the Napa Valley Land Trust. When I can’t get into the wild, I find my inspiration and motivation by reflecting on my experiences exploring dozens of protected areas around the globe and spending more than 10 years doing evolutionary and ecological field research in the coastal ranges and islands of California and Mexico.  

To a large extent, my conservation mojo is bolstered on a daily basis by the connections I share with my colleagues and collaborators.  I am repeatedly inspired by their creativity, smarts, and unrelenting dedication to building scientific knowledge, finding workable solutions, and helping people understand the values of nature.  For me, this is the magic sauce.  

In my search to better understand and benefit from how others in my field cultivate their motivation and inspiration, I read a study by Cara Roberts and Gabrielle Overgaard-Horup. They evaluated the personal values of conservationists and assessed the extent to which these values are aligned with their organizations.  They conclude that “Conservationists, and the organizations they work for, have an instrumental role to play in influencing wider societies understanding of the value of nature but they have to begin by reminding themselves why it is worthwhile. It has to be about inspiring other people, sharing your thoughts, keeping the thing going. There is a lot of talk about whether it is of any benefit preaching to the converted, but I believe you have to keep preaching to the converted otherwise they trickle off, you have to tell yourself often. Yes it is important”.

I hope you will share your thoughts about what motivates you to work in nature conservation.  How do you foster your conservation mojo?

About the author:
Tosha Comendant, Ph.D.
Senior Conservation Scientist, Team Lead- Planning & Management
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