Compassionate Conservation Conference: Abstract

July 23, 2015 Sonar

On July 28, Elizabeth Oriel, Sonar’s Research Fellow and Director of The Co-Habitation Institute will be heading to Vancouver, British Columbia to present a paper at the Compassionate Conservation Conference.

The paper, written by Oriel and Dr. Toni Frohoff, Sonar’s Director of Research and Director of Protect Our Dolphins, is an holistic, forward-thinking and beautiful investigation into cohabitation between humans, other-than-humans and ecological systems that “learns from real relationships, which can guide the rich theoretical work on social & ecological systems, re-thinking the human/nature divide.” This relates to the research that Sonar does as well.

The conference will see experts from around the globe come together to explore the evolution of the conservation movement as it begins to acknowledge the importance and experience of each individual being, rather than lumping all other-than-humans into ‘populations’ and ‘stocks’ to be managed for human benefit.

Says Sonar Advisor Prof. Marc Bekoff: “Compassionate conservation is a new mindset and social movement that translates discussions and concerns about the well-being of individuals into action”.

Read the abstract below and stay tuned for the full article, to be published after the conference.


Oriel, E.1,2 and Frohoff, T. 2,3

  1. Cohabitation Institute, Santa Fe, NM 87501
  2. Sonar, London, UK.
  3. TerraMar Research & POD, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

In certain coastal areas of the world, humans and non-human coastal systems and species including marine mammals, live within a general trend of thriving and even at times, mutually collaborative cohabitation. In these areas, awareness increases among fishermen, ferry and tour boat operators, leisure boaters, farmers and other human residents as to impacts of their activities on coastal habitats, with some pro-actively taking measures to protect marine life. In some regions, orcas and bottlenose dolphins regularly approach, initiate sociable contact, and engage in complex forms of interspecies interaction. Exploring such examples reveals the roots of a continuum of positive cohabitation, ranging from neutral, passive co-existence, to active sometimes mutual collaboration. Cohabitation research combines ecological, biological, and behavioral data as evidence of coastal system thriving, and interviews with human residents to understand relevant perceptions, attitudes, influences, and experiences. In this initial phase of research, we present preliminary comparisons between a relatively thriving area in the Hebrides, Scotland with the Indian River Lagoon, Florida, an area of marine ecological collapse. Inspired by the late Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom, who developed eight design principles for common pool resources through numerous cross-comparisons, we plan to uncover practical commonalities of positive cohabitation, allowing for variability in how each area thrives. These results can be applied, taught, promoted, and reinforced, as Ostrom’s have, through education, conservation, and government efforts towards protecting coastal communities. Ostrom’s Law states that “a resource arrangement that works in practice can work in theory”; cohabitation research learns from real relationships, which can guide the rich theoretical work on social & ecological systems, re-thinking the human/nature divide. Conservation efforts, justifiably, tend to focus on negative cohabitation, and yet positive cohabitation as a model to study and replicate is a neglected research area. Models of positive cohabitation inform conservation and wellbeing studies for humans and other species, as the ties that bind involve a unique dependence on mutual thriving.

Photo credit: @Atmoji