Knowledge to Action: ASU partnerships strengthen global biodiversity conservation efforts

ASU furthers commitment to translate knowledge into action on challenges in sustainability through three groundbreaking international partnerships announced at IUCN World Conservation Congress:

Published: 6 Sep 2016
Type: News

• Knowledge Partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development: promoting sustainable development through the global business community

• IUCN Red List Partnership: devising strategies for species conservation and biodiversity decision-making

• Partnership with Conservation International: expanding conservation science and training to the next generation of conservation leaders

Early next month, ASU's Center for Biodiversity Outcomes (CBO), a partnership between the Julie Ann Wrigley Institute of Sustainability and the School of Life Sciences, will officiate three important partnerships that strengthen the university's research capacity in conservation science and biodiversity. These events will take place in Hawai'i during the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress.

"The time has arrived. The world needs interventions, globally and at scale," explained Gary Dirks, Ph.D., Director of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. "To have any kind of an impact at all, you've got to be able to reach tens if not hundreds of millions of people when you're talking about doing something for sustainability. There's no organization on the planet that can do that on their own."

Meeting today's biodiversity challenges requires innovative research, education, communication and policy strategies capable of responding to a rapidly changing biophysical, institutional and cultural landscape.

"In establishing CBO, we have an opportunity to 'experiment' with institutional architecture that supports outcomes by drawing on a huge depth and breadth of scholarship in sustainability," said Leah Gerber, Ph.D., CBO Founding Director and Professor.

WBCSD Knowledge Partnership

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a global, CEO-led organization of over 200 leading businesses and partners working together to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world.

Their member companies come from all business sectors and all major economies, representing a combined revenue of more than $8.5 trillion and 19 million employees. WBCSD is uniquely positioned to work with member companies along and across value chains to deliver impactful business solutions to the most challenging sustainability issues.

They are the leading voice of business for sustainability: united by a vision of a world where more than 9 billion people are all living well and within the boundaries of planet Earth, by 2050. As WBCSD's second global "Knowledge Partner", ASU has the opportunity to bring our scholarship, analytics and decision-making tools to the world’s largest companies.

"In an increasingly global environment, where sustainable management of biological resources is fundamental to long-term survival, we must seek creative solutions for the conservation of biodiversity. The Knowledge Partnership represents a new model to cultivate practical outcomes in sustainability," said Gerber.

ASU will benefit from this partnership by having access to the largest network of world-class companies engaged in social and environmental sustainability, while having exposure to real world problem-solving opportunities, events, internships and job opportunities. ASU scholars will be able to vet and test ideas and solutions in practice, apply knowledge to business sustainability, co-author and develop research papers, studies and projects, as well as review and critique sustainability reports. Having a seat at the table on substantive discussions with global companies will allow ASU to shape the way in which businesses approach their sustainability practices.

WBCSD benefits from the partnership through access to the university's academic and technical expertise across a range of sustainability and business issues, markets, capacity-building, as well as event organization and hosting support. ASU provides WBCSD with access to business sustainability education programs, online courses, conference and events that support their strategic planning in water, ecosystems and biodiversity, energy and climate, cities, food systems, and circular economies. Likewise, WBCSD will be able to connect to existing ASU institutional and corporate networks.

"We're excited about this new partnership with ASU because of our common goal to move the dial on sustainability," said Peter Bakker, WBCSD's President and CEO. "ASU's broad range of interdisciplinary knowledge is a good match for forward-thinking companies who understand that the world is changing. Together, we can continue to encourage the global community to deliver sustainable science-backed solutions that enhance and strengthen development."

IUCN Red List Partnership

The IUCN List of Threatened SpeciesTM (or the IUCN Red List) is the world's standard for quantifying species extinction risk and is used around the world to inform policy, planning and conservation action. The Red List Partnership serves as an important means to coordinate activities related to biodiversity assessment and analysis and to share information, expertise and insights in ways that enable parties to achieve their own strategic goals for science-based biodiversity conservation.

"All of the eight Red List Partners continuing in the next term have said they are very happy with ASU joining" said Mike Hoffmann, Chair of the IUCN Red List Committee, "we are thrilled with this outcome."

In joining the Red List Partnership, ASU joins a small group of global leaders charged with devising strategies for species conservation and biodiversity decision-making—being one of only three universities in the world to join forces with IUCN Red List to help guide the scope and application of scientific data.

Beth Polidoro, Ph.D., CBO Associate Director of Research and Assistant Professor, lead the IUCN Red List Partnership. "We are honored to be invited to join the Red List Partnership, which will provide both regional and global opportunities for ASU students and faculty to participate in applied biodiversity research and interdisciplinary educational opportunities" says Polidoro, "while highlighting our role as a global leader in species conservation and biodiversity decision-making."

From 2014-2016, CBO faculty affiliates completed Red List assessments for more than 1,800 species, in addition to re-assessments for more than 200 mammals. They also completed the first ever comprehensive list of Sonoran Desert plants (>4,500 species). The scope of work already completed during this time period is valued at more than US$560,000. These accomplishments were possible thanks to the support of other partner organizations, such as the Desert Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo, amongst others.

In addition, more than 20 undergraduate and graduate students have already been trained in IUCN Red List assessment methodology and Species Information Service (SIS) data entry protocols-a software that underpins the IUCN Red List and the biodiversity assessments. SIS facilitates communication of key findings amongst Red List Partners. This information is reviewed by an independent scientific review team and then made available to the public.

As a Red List Partner, ASU will take a leadership role in the global assessment and management of threatened and endangered species. This work is crucial in ensuring effective conservation of the extant biodiversity. ASU-CBO's efforts will continue to focus on marine species and Sonoran Desert plants and will establish a satellite Red List Training Center.

CI Knowledge Partnership

Conservation International (CI) works in more than 30 countries across six continents to create solutions that protect the nature people rely on for food, fresh water and livelihoods through an innovative blend of science, policy and partnerships. A new ASU-CI Knowledge Partnership is the first of its kind between a large public American university and a US-based international conservation nonprofit.

"To ensure a sustainable future, we need to maintain biodiversity and natural capital, which requires transforming the way we do conservation. The novel ASU and CI knowledge partnership does just that by expanding scientific knowledge about complex social-ecological systems, applying this knowledge on-the-ground, and training our next generation of conservation leaders," said Daniela Raik, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Managing Director, The Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science at CI.

As part of the partnership, six scientists from CI's Moore Center for Science will become Professors of Practice at ASU, conducting research and teaching. ASU scholars will co-develop research with CI and applied in the field through conservation projects. Abigail York, Ph.D., CBO Associate Director of Education and Diversity and Associate Professor, has brought the PoP concept to fruition, offering ASU students an opportunity to engage with CI scientists in the classroom and at CI field sites.

The knowledge partnership focuses sustainable production methods, more specifically transitioning agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture producers, through science, engagement and technology. The partnership also focuses on training the next generation of conservation leaders, as well as bringing aboard two postdoctoral fellows.

"We understand our sustainability problems and our challenges," said Rob Melnick, Ph.D., Executive Director and CEO, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. "We have an enormous challenge ahead in globalizing what we do. On the other hand, if we don't globalize what we do, we will have failed."

By building networks of partnerships, we create opportunities for ASU to contribute the scholarship and innovation needed to achieve a future that is sustainable for humans and nature.

CBO participating events during the IUCN World Conservation Congress Follow @BiodiversityASU for live tweets from #IUCNcongress (September 1-10, 2016).

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