Past Event

Zoe Nyssa - What a Model Might Do: Data and Value in Environmental Governance

March 4, 2024
5:00 PM - 6:30 PM
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Fayerweather Hall (Room 513), Columbia University, 1180 Amsterdam Avenue, New York

Event Description 

Computational models underpin much environmental policy and governance, informing decisions worldwide about which species need protection from extinction. How should we understand these models, when, as one scientist described it, “everyone knows that they don’t work but they do”? Models have become increasingly important interventions politically, economically, and ecologically and yet the practices associated with these tools as well as their impacts remain poorly-understood. Based on archival and ethnographic research at conservation programs and projects in the U.S., this talk traces how scientists’ efforts to model the natural world in terms of species endangerment unleashed complex and sometimes surprising dynamics. Yet these unexpected outcomes, often reported piecemeal in the literature as unintended consequences, are not as disparate as they seem. Nor are they new: throughout the century-long history of conservation science in the U.S., researchers have worried about the unintended effects of their work. Although poor outcomes are frequently seen as resulting from faulty policy, skewed market forces, or miscellaneous “social and political factors,” the practices and methods of conservation science are central to these dynamics. Recent collaborative, interdisciplinary work with the international biodiversity science community suggests potential ways to advance more effective and just forms of environmental data governance.

Event Speaker

Zoe Nyssa, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Purdue University

Event Information

Open to Columbia University ID holders; no registration required. A Zoom option is available for Columbia University ID holders who wish to attend virtually. Please contact [email protected] with your Columbia University email to request the Zoom link. 

This event is hosted by the Center for Science and Society. 

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