Several popular, vocal conservationists have asked me, "how can you be a conservationist and take money from [x group]?" These groups include developers, predominantly white institutions, animal care facilities, meat producers, banks, the list goes on and on.
Here is my answer:
Science is the study of the world around us. It allows us to see what the situation is now, recognize patterns from the past, predict the probability of things happening in the future and make the best decisions to improve the world or sculpt it to our liking. Depending on where and when you are, that world around you will be different.
Depending on who you are, the world around you will appear differently and have a different effect on you and your life. By interacting with others, we are better able to understand their perspectives, the effect the world has on them and the ways our actions (or inaction) may affect them. It also helps us to understand the biases in our own perspective.
Everyone can use a little more science. We all need much more perspective.
My work with each of these groups have allowed me to share with them scientific expertise and my international and multidisciplinary perspectives. This has resulted in social and behavioral changes that make their environments safer for employees, customers and investors. We have created economic savings that have saved resources as well as jobs. Of course, my work in the commercial sector has also saved the lives of animals, helped to protect ecosystem services and supported a healthy environment. WIth each of these groups however, I was paid for specific tasks.
No one pays me to be a scientist. The drive I have to learn and know about the world around me comes from inside me. Those who know me, know that anywhere I go, I find science. I cannot help it. You are not paid to breathe. I am not paid to do science.
I am paid to travel to your location; spend time with you via zoom; use specific skills, methods or techniques; focus my talents within your space and most importantly report my results to you. Likewise, you cannot pay me not to be. It is who I am, not just what I do. You pay an artist for a painting, not to be artistic. You pay an accountant to do your taxes, not to be good at numbers. You do not pay me to be a scientist, a Bahamian, a human.
What I see, assess, record, report is the truth. That is it. If a conservationist paid me for a research trip or a developer paid me for the same research trip, the results and the report would be the same. The costs and logistics would be the same. I would be the same.
Don’t get it twisted. You can pay me to conduct research, but you are not paying me to be a scientist. You can purchase a report, but you cannot buy the truth or untruth from me.
Dr. Ancilleno Davis