The Center for Integrative Conservation Research (CICR) is redefining conservation to inspire innovative, integrative, and just solutions to complex environmental challenges. We practice a culture that values diverse perspectives, expands the horizon of possibilities and enables new conversations and collaborations to take root.
CICR was established in January 2007 to respond, through research and training, to one of the key challenges facing conservation today: identifying conservation practices and policies that simultaneously preserve biodiversity and serve human needs. Its mission has since expanded to the environmental arena as a whole, with graduate students and faculty affiliates working on the ecology of zoonotic disease, green infrastructure, land and water governance, resilience and environmental justice, among others. A key concern for CICR is acknowledging that conservation has, in some cases, contributed to dispossession, marginalization, and erasure of people with close ties to the land. We actively cultivate conversations both inside and outside of the Institute to examine conservation’s legacies and to reimagine more just conservation futures.
To achieve its mission, CICR plays a convening and catalytic role in fostering integrative research across the social and environmental sciences and diverse knowledge traditions – disciplines, experiential, Indigenous – in dialogue and partnership with tribal and government agencies and non-governmental organizations.
To advance new visions for conservation and environmental governance that are more just and more effective in creating the conditions in which all life can thrive, through innovations in graduate education, research and societal engagement that embrace multiple ways of knowing and relating to the world around us.
We envision a world in which environmental decision-making is just and inclusive and supports the transition to a more liveable planet.
CICR’s commitment to social justice
CICR acknowledges the complicity of conservation research and practice with Indigenous marginalization and erasure, both past and present, and the tendency for environmental governance practices to dehumanize in the process of legitimating dispossession and uneven exposure to environmental harms.
We also acknowledge the ongoing coloniality of conservation ideas and approaches – from the separation of people from place, to global hierarchies of knowledge production and systems of governance. The CICR name is also a subject of ongoing discussion, as both “conservation” and “research” carry negative connotations for many marginalized groups.
It is also clear, with the ever-deepening environmental crises of the Anthropocene, that dominant paradigms are failing to foster the conditions in which all life can thrive. We have not just a duty but an opportunity to re-think conservation and environmental governance through a deeper engagement with historically marginalized communities and renewed calls for social and environmental justice.
CICR is addressing these challenges by fostering difficult conversations internally; centering the voices of historically marginalized groups through literature reviews, invited speakers and admissions decisions; partnering with Indigenous communities and nations in ways that center their interests and aspirations; and nurturing a community of practice committed to social and environmental justice.
CICR is a committed participant in the ongoing work necessary for fully integrative and socially just approaches, and is committed to advancing collective awareness and dialogue on campus and in our scholarship and engagement practices.
Vision from the Founders
CICR’s founders sought to expand interdisciplinary understanding and global debate surrounding the growing calls for enlarging and defending protected areas in the fortress conservation model. They sought to acknowledge that while conservation had emerged as a central element in civic and political debates in the Global North and Global South, in many parts of the world, conservation was not working.
They recognized that the reasons for this failure vary, as well as the widespread disagreement over how to address it. Some conservation scientists felt that the emphasis on community participation, development and equity dilute the main goal of conservation initiatives: saving species and habitats. Many social scientists voiced that conservation strategies that ignore the human element are bound to fail. The founders explored the challenges of integrating perspectives through a project funded by the MacArthur Foundation entitled, “Advancing Conservation in a Social Context,” through which many of the founding concepts for CICR took root.
Calls to undertake interdisciplinary research are commonplace, yet the challenges of doing so are rarely addressed in the design of research programs. The Center for Integrative Conservation Research (CICR)makes an informed effort to understand and respond to the challenges of interdisciplinary research by drawing on the experience of previous interdisciplinary research initiatives and by incorporating mechanisms designed to promote collaboration.
CICR’s integrative approach recognizes the variety of perspectives that specific disciplines bring to conservation and takes seriously the promotion of engagements between the academy and the domain of conservation practice, while recognizing the complex trade-offs and incommensurabilities that each is likely to entail.
Integrative conservation research is a process, not an endpoint; it is integrative, not integrated. CICR does not seek a singular paradigm that claims to provide exclusive insights into complex conservation problems, but instead accepts and embraces the value of considering a diversity of ways of perceiving and analyzing complex conservation issues.