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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Scientist speaks to ASU students and staff about how math can save species | The State Press

"“I have translated human’s hopes, dreams and fears into algebra,” Conservancy Scientist talks about using math to preserve more endangered species." summarizes Nathan J Fish, The State Press.
Hugh Possingham, chief scientist of The Nature Conservancy, speaks to an audience about how math can help save species in the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, Arizon. 
 Photo: Nathan J Fish | The State Press
Saving one endangered species over another may come down to math. 

Hugh Possingham, chief scientist of The Nature Conservancy, spoke to ASU students and staff on

Monday at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix about his experiences with mathematics and how efficiently allocated funds can be used to benefit nature conservancy.

“I have translated human’s hopes, dreams and fears into algebra,” said Possingham. “If you want to go do something, go save a plant … or you can make up a formula and save 250 species.”

Possingham said there is a finite amount of time, money and recourses that play a factor in choosing which endangered species receives needed funds.

“Everyone has allocation problems … you can never avoid prioritizing things,” he said.

Possingham said one of his systematic designs for conservation planning is to “build a compact and connected system of protected areas that equitably represent all habitats and species while annoying as few other people as possible.”

Possingham said prioritizing which species to focus on saving isn't necessarily a negative thing.

“When I talk about this people say, ‘oh, you’re letting species go, this is triage, you’re giving up on species.’ In a sense it’s not triage, all we can do as environmental scientists and mathematicians is give (governments) a list,” he said. “We don’t triage, we prioritize.”

Possingham said his philosophy is to use math to help conservation efforts of endangered species.

“In conservation, it’s relatively recent that we’ve started to use math. In some cases, people are still a little suspicious of math,” he said, “But let’s face it, who runs the planet? It’s mathematicians.”

“The most important aspect (of my work) is delivering better outcomes for less dollars. It’s all about efficiency and cost effectiveness,” he said.

As chief scientist of The Nature Conservancy, the world’s largest nongovernmental environmental organization, Possingham said he has worked all over the world using applied mathematics to economics to solve conservation problems.

Hugh Possingham - Decision science for marine conservation: planning and monitoring


Source: The State Press