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  • Paul Keil

New article: Dodo dillemas!

Co-authored with the excellent Hannah Fair, Viola Schreer, Laur Kiik, and Niki Rust Open access and find it here: Dodo dilemmas: Conflicting ethical loyalties in conservation social science research (

Dodo dilemmas: Conflicting ethical loyalties in conservation social science research


In a time of deepening social and ecological crises, the question of research ethics is more pertinent than ever. Our intervention grapples with the specific personal, ethical, and methodological challenges that arise at the interface of conservation and social science. We expose these challenges through the figure of Chris, a fictional anonymised composite of our fraught diverse fieldwork experiences in Australia, Burma, Indonesian Borneo, Namibia, and Vanuatu. Fundamentally, we explore fieldwork as a series of contested loyalties: loyalties to our different human and non-human research participants, to our commit-ments to academic rigour, and to the project of wildlife conservation itself, while reckoning with conservation's spotted (neo)colonial past. Our struggles and reflections illustrate, first, that practical research ethics do not predetermine forms of reciprocity. Second, while we need to choose our concealments care-fully and follow the principle of not doing harm, we also have the responsibil-ity to reveal social and environmental injustices. Third, we must acknowledge that as researchers we are complicit in the practices of human and non-human violence and exclusion that suffuse conservation. Finally, given how these responsibilities move the researcher beyond a position of innocence or neutral-ity, academic institutions should adjust their ethics support. This intervention highlights the need for greater openness about research challenges emerging from conflicting personal, ethical, and disciplinary loyalties, in order to facilitate greater cross-disciplinary understanding. Active engagement with these ethical questions through collaborative dialogue-based fora, both before and after field-work, would enable learning and consequently transform research practices

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