ECPN Reflects on a Field in Flux
By Caitlin Richeson, Jessica Betz Abel, Ashley Stanford, Héctor J. Berdecía-Hernández, and Keara Teeter for ECPN
2020 was a year like no other. Over the past year, we have experienced dramatic changes to the field of conservation, from the economic and social effects of COVID-19 to the acknowledgement that conservation is not neutral. The sweeping waves of social justice in the United States have forced us all to recognize our personal and professional privilege and biases. Throughout all of this change and uncertainty, a pervasive level of anxiety for emerging conservation professionals (ECPs) has been growing with pre-program students reconsidering the field they are joining and emerging conservators looking closely to our recent history in trying to navigate a field in flux.
The Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) last contributed to the lead article for AIC News in 2016. At that time, the authors wrote about the current trends and reflections of emerging conservation professionals (ECPs). Four years later, ECPs report similar concerns which are further exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic. When I became Vice Chair and Chair in 2019 and 2020 respectively, ECPs were still concerned about increased minimum qualifications paired with strong competition for fellowships and entry-level positions, as well as low salaries in the field. My leadership goals included creating resources to address these concerns. Instead, the pandemic has led us to discuss how the field can support ECPs and what the role of a conservator is, when defined by essential tasks and social justice. Read the lead article >>