In the member spotlight this week is our newest SCBO board member Shannon Rivera.
SCBO: How did you first hear about the Society for Conservation Biology?
Shannon: Instead of fiction books or novels, I read scientific journals so I have been following Conservation Biology and Conservation Letters for a long time. It wasn’t until the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress where I put two and two together and discovered the Society behind the journals and all the other amazing things they do. The IUCN Congress was hosted on my home island of Oahu and brought so many people and organizations, together, including SCB, and that’s when I decided to really get involved.
What motivated you to get involved with SCBO?
Hawaii sits at a nexus of several SCB regional sections. However, I believe we fit best with the Oceania section. We are the most isolated island chain in the world and we are as Marine and you can get, much of our modern culture stems from Asia, we are technically part of North America (although many natives would argue that) and while our legislative policies come from the United States we are very much a proud Polynesian Island state. Hawaii houses unique species, ecosystems, indigenous people with unparalleled cultures that are all under threat. My primary motivation for getting involved with SCBO was the desire to represent these islands and our conservation challenges.
You have a really interesting background with your studies focusing on gender and conflict resolution, zoology, and dance! What drew you to this diversity of subjects?
My studies do seem a bit all over the map, but I strategically choose my course of study to fully encompass the intersectionality of conservation. I believe there is potential for widespread transformation by using a collaborative approach and addressing all interactions between society and ecosystems. As such, my first degree in Environmental Studies addressed both natural and social sciences. Also, I am very aware of the socio-political and human components that are tied to conservation, specifically the links between environmental challenges and gender inequalities, so I went for a second degree to address that. I choose Zoology because my passion is fully with animals and my 5-year-old-self dreamed of being a zoologist. Dance is a bit of a wild card, but creativity is essential and dance is my outlet. I used to be a professional dancer and although I am more focused on conservation in this part of my life, that passion never went away.
Tell us a bit about what you are doing now.
2017 has already been a very eventful year and I don’t expect it to slow down anytime soon. Of course, this opportunity with SCBO is a highlight and will be my first time sitting on an international board – I look forward to see everyone at ICCB2017 in Colombia at the end of the month. I am in my first year with Hawaii’s urban forestry program which has been great, I am wrapping up my research on assisted colonization and I am looking forward to my first publication. I am also developing another branch of that research with the University of Hawaii’s Hawaii Wildlife Ecology Lab and I am very excited to announce (for the first time actually) that I have been accepted into the University of Winchester’s Graduate Program and will be working towards a MSc in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law starting this September. I see a lack of incorporating animal welfare science into endangered species management approaches and I plan on addressing that in my upcoming studies. That will be another unlikely degree in my repertoire. I am so excited about the future, the deeper I fall into the rabbit hole of the conservation realm, the more I fall in love with our world and all the inspiring people working to make a difference.
Do you have any advice for students starting out on their tertiary studies?
I like to tell students to always try and step outside their departments and their major; there are so many subjects that interconnect and a broad range of understanding is so important. Take classes outside your comfort zone and don’t pass any classes that might interest even if it doesn’t fit in your major. I took a class once just because of the title, “Gandhi, King and Nonviolence”, and ended up getting a certificate in Peace Studies because of it. Also, try and link up with a professor or grad student doing things you are interested in and create a research project especially as an undergrad – that created so many opportunities for me! Lastly, remind yourself that your education should be enjoyed, it is such a privilege, so feel very lucky!