Sunday, December 15, 2013

Locally adapted conservation biology textbooks can help biodiversity


Posted by Richard Primack

Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.
-Thoreau, Walden

In too many developing nations, students struggle to read English-language textbooks that typically don’t even include examples from their region.

"A Primer of Conservation Biology" Chinese edition

For 18 years, I have been inviting scientists to be co-authors of foreign-language editions of my textbooks “Essentials of Conservation Biology” and “A Primer of Conservation Biology.”   My co-authors translate the English text into their own language and insert local examples and photos to make it more relevant to their students, as described in a recent article in BioScienceFor example, the Indonesian edition features tropical deforestation and orangutan conservation. 

So far, 29  translations have appeared in 18 languages with a dozen more in production and four being planned. Some editions cover countries or regions with large populations, such as China, South Asia, the Arabic-speaking world, and Latin America, while others cover less populous countries, such as Estonia, Nepal, Greece, and Mongolia. Many of these have been widely adapted for teaching university courses.

An unexpected benefit of these translated textbooks is that I have incorporated some of the best country-specific case studies back into the English-language versions, enriching their global perspective.

"A Primer of Conservation Biology" Greek edition


This textbook approach would be worth extending to related disciplines, including ecology, environmental science, wildlife biology, forestry, and agriculture, and even perhaps geography, medicine, and economics.

16 comments:

  1. Prof. Primack's contribution to conservation has been greatly magnified by these translations. In fact, we first met nearly a decade ago thanks to his tireless efforts to provide conservation biology textbooks in different languages, Turkish in my case. One of the main reasons I became an ornithologist is that I had the fortune to attend an English language high school in Istanbul, Robert College, where I started birdwatching after I saw my first field guide to birds - in English. However, that was in 1990 and it was not until the 21st century that the first field guide in Turkish appeared. Without natural history and conservation biology books in local languages, many potential field biologists and conservationists will never have the guidance and education they need and will end up in non-conservation careers they do not want. I thank Richard Primack for tirelessly providing a great service for the world conservation community, especially in the developing world.

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  2. Cagan's comments are especially poignant as he has decide to give back to Turkey by establishing a world-reknown bird field station. This will give the next generation of young Turkish ornithologists the practical training that they need to complement their academic studies.

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  3. It has been my privilege, on behalf of Sinauer Associates -- publisher of "A Primer of Conservation Biology" and "Essentials of Conservation Biology" -- to work with Richard to bring these projects to fruition. May his work continue rippling out to further the cause of conservation biology worldwide!

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  4. This project has been successful because Marie Scavotto and the staff at Sinauer, with the encouragement of Andy Sinauer, have been willing to provide extensive support for these foreign language editions, even though most of the publishers were unable to provide any payments to Sinauer. Sinauer should be acknowledged for its public spirit and generosity.

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  5. A Primer of Conservation Biology by Prof. Primack is one of the most widely adopted textbooks in the field. The comprehensive and up-to-date coverage of the subject matter, clarity in presentation, exhaustive references, and the relevant high-quality photographs and figures make the book appealing and informative for both the layman and conservation students and scholars alike. Country specific translation provides a local context, which is the most effective strategy to reach a wider audience.

    We have recently published a Nepalese version of A Primer of Conservation Biology. I had the honor of working as a co-author of the Nepalese version, “Conservation Biology: A Primer for Nepal”. Conservation biology in Nepal has recently been integrated into the undergraduate and graduate programs of various disciplines such as zoology, botany, forestry, social science and rural development. However, conservation materials with a focus on Nepal are still scarce and therefore our aim was to fill this gap. Within two weeks of publication, I can feel a wave of positive responses, especially from the graduate students and the professionals in the field. A sparse of the new full-color illustrations, photos and artworks including case studies from Nepal provides a local context not only to understand theories of conservation biology but also to provide an insight into conservation in action at the local level. For example, the gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) is now surviving with fewer than 300 individuals of its species in the world. Nepal is implementing the Gharials Conservation Project in which gharials are reared in captivity and reintroduced back into their natural habitats. However, less than 50% of the introduced gharials survives, which requires effective in-situ conservation similar to the sea turtle program in Brazil (included in the original book). Similar to other parts of the world, Nepalese people are also very respectful of tradition and of the animals, plants, and landscape with which they share the natural resources. The Tsumba people of Nepal, for example, practice a tradition of nonviolence that has prohibited wildlife hunting for last 100 years. These are just a few of the illustrations of how local examples can help students to think locally to solve conservation problems. Many of conservation problems in Nepal are not well known due to limited scientific knowledge and research (e.g., impact of climate change on the Himalayan biodiversity), which has already caused a worrying situation. This book will certainly help to contribute to highlight the urgency of scientific information for an effective management plan.

    Writing a local adaption of an internationally-acclaimed book is a challenging task especially when one can only expect for very limited peer review information at the national level. But, I feel the translation project is a small but powerful tool to have message of conservation biology delivered effectively throughout the world. Prof. Primack deserves a special commendation for this innovative idea and initiative.

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    1. The Nepal edition is noteworthy for the speed with which Prakash took it from planning to completion and publication; the total time was under one year. It shows what a dedicated, hard-working person can accomplish when they are clear about their goals. The Nepali edition, given it is from the Himalayas, has especially beautiful photos. The cover of mountain scenery is among my favorites.

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  7. Professor Primack, along with the generous support of Sinauer publishing, not only sets the conservation biology theory in an up to date status, by his books but at the same time ecouraging local contributions and paradigms, sets in action the ecological moto Think globaly act localy.
    We are happy having made “Conservation Biology” available to the Greek audience and especially our biology students.

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    1. The Greek edition gave me special satisfaction due to the importance of Greece in world culture and to the perseverance of Ioanis in dealing with the difficult economic and political problems of Greece during recent years.

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  8. Really an innovative approach to make a huge impact on conservation by reaching thousands of students and teachers in many parts of the world that otherwise would have limited access to current literature in conservation biology.

    Kamal Bawa

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    1. Thanks to Kamal Bawa for taking the lead in the South Asian edition in English, covering India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka. I am particularly grateful for the world-class photographs from the region that he was able to include in the text.

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  9. Great that you have this new blog. I do high school bio/high school biology tutoring and I'm looking forward to checking out helpful stuffs in here. It would be great if we share our knowledge.

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    1. Anne

      We have developed this blog and our lab website so that our research is accessible to a wider audience. On our lab website are links to popular articles about our work.

      Good luck

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  10. I was involved in this translation project working on the Romanian version of the conservation biology book and in my opinion is an innovative way to develop a scientific field.
    Back in 2002, when we published a version of the 2nd edition of the primer, the conservation biology field was rather new in Romania. At that time, there were no university courses in conservation biology, and only few scientist aware of this standalone field (of course there were ecologists). It was a hard job to find Romanian translation for many academic terms, and much harder to find good examples for adapting the textbook. Fortunately, Romania is rich in biodiversity, and developing a Romanian version with European and Romanian examples became reality. I was very happy with that book!
    As the textbook was available in Romanian language, many universities started courses in Conservation biology, and then even master degrees. Now the field is reasonably well established, and I state that the translation of Conservation biology was the fuel.
    For developed countries the translation can be done by agreement with the publisher, by paying fees, royalties, etc. Is not the case of Romania, where is virtually no market for scientific textbooks, and no money for publishing. By the way for the first book, we were translators, designers, and co-authors, and we were happy to find a publisher asking for no money for printing and to have the Sinauer agreement at no cost. Professor Primack did a wonderful job in promoting the nature conservation worldwide, but is no surprise for - his much loved conservationist is Thoreau!
    Personally I was fortunate to work on this project. My career was opened by this collaboration, by learning how to apply the conservation biology to real examples, to get funds for projects, to write articles, etc. Along with Professor Maria Patroescu, my Romanian mentor (also co-author of the book), Professor Primack is one of my career milestone. Now is my turn to teach others to become conservation biologists, and I hopefully I will be a good promoter of the conservation science on Romania.

    Laurentiu Rozylowicz

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    1. I am glad to read the comments from Laurentiu. Romania was just waking up academically and scientifically a dozen years ago when Laurentiu, Maria and I started working together on the Romanian edition. Not only did Sinauer Associates give the Romanian publisher the book rights for free, but Sinauer Associates also donated a complete set of their biology books for the almost empty library of the University of Bucharest. The Romanian phase of this project certainly worked out very well, due largely to the hard work and dedication of Laurentiu and Maria.

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  11. Comment by: Zhigang Jiang and Keping Ma
    Co-authors of the Primer of Conservation Biology (in Chinese), due to be published in early 2014.

    Richard Primack‘s Essential in Conservation Biology is one of pioneers in conservation biology textbooks, the impact of the textbook is far reaching worldwide. Now more 10 versions of the textbook have been published with expanded scope and enriched information, which provided English speaking undergraduates with a popular starter for learning conservation biology.
    Conservation biology is a locally adopted science branch. Unique flora and fauna evolve in different continents in the world, different ethnic groups emerge with different cultural backgrounds, and the ecosystems in various ecoregion have been exploited to different degrees. Thus biodiversity, plus culture diversity are underpinned with the ecological environment, evolutionary history, and local social and economic development levels. Conservation biology with its mission of protecting and sustainable using of biodiversity, without doubt, should provide tailored solutions to local problems beside universal guidelines.
    Since the opening-up of China in 1980s, ideas of conservation biology was introduced to China. The first version of Essential in Conservation Biology was translated into Chinese. Later Professor Richard Primack collaborated with Prof. Weizhi Ji of the Kunmig Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and published the first Chinese version of Essential in Conservation Biology, with make the textbook appeared like native textbook with local context and photos of endemic plants and animals. As new editions of the textbook continued to come out, Prof. Primack continued his collaboration with Chinese scholars. He found a new partner, Prof. Keping Ma of Institute of Botany, CAS, to put forward another new Chinese version of Essential in Conservation Biology during the Annual Meeting of Conservation Biology in Beijing, China in 2008. This year, Prof. Ma and Prof. Zhigang Jiang of Institute of Zoology, CAS worked together with Prof. Primack to publish the third Chinese version of Essential in Conservation Biology with more Chinese case studies and photos of endemic plants and animals. All these Andover disseminate ideas, methods and practice of conservation biology in China, a country with largest population but very limited number of English speakers.
    Modern science is mediated with English. New theories, new founding and new guidelines are published in English; thus limit the accessibility of these theories, founding and methods to those living outside English speaking countries, most of them, living in the developing countries. Environmental issues such as biodiversity, global change, pollution, conservation are link with all countries on the Earth, thus, it is a pressing issue to communicate the new theories, new idea and new methods in conservation. On the other hand, conservation biology is a citizen science which needs massive participation. Therefore, it is a great idea to make wider use of masterpiece in science to local readers.
    The innovating way of making conservation textbook available to local communities by Prof. Richard Primack sets up an example for other fields in science. We expect textbooks from the fields of environmental science to be made locally available by adding local dimensions to those books. Now, publicity is a criterion to judge scientific works. Scientists in developing countries are publishing researches, ideas and comments on environmental issues in their motherlands in English journals, which also have limited readership. Those publications should be re-published in their own language, otherwise, those publications will miss their intended targets, and the publication may be drown in the sea of information without be noticed by those who may indeed need the information. We echo the Prof. Primack’s appeal that copy right barriers should be resolved for the retailored scientific publications.

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