Becoming a More Effective Professional: The Next Steps in Learning and Applying an Interdisciplinary Approach to the Conservation of Biological Diversity

Richard L. Wallace
Environmental Studies Program, Ursinus College, P.O. Box 1000, Collegeville, PA 19426

Tim W. Clark
Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 301 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511 and Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, Box 2705, Jackson, WY 83001

Richard P. Reading
Denver Zoological Foundation, 2900 East 23rd Avenue, Denver, CO 80205

To increase our effectiveness at recovering endangered species we must apply the lessons we learn from our
work, our colleagues, and the literature. Learning is best achieved by building on our successes, what we call a "practice-based" approach. Learning depends directly on people's willingness and ability to accept and try new approaches. This special issue of Endangered Species UPDATE provides concepts, tools, and examples of how we might learn more systematically and explicitly, thereby moving toward a new level of effectiveness.

In looking at interdisciplinary endangered species recovery in this volume, we have considered, among other things, the complexities of partnerships and teamwork, challenges of cooperatively and cogently identifying problems, the influence of peoples' values on decision making, the role of selfawareness in professional productivity, use of multiple methods, organizational improvements, prototyping, and the concept of interdisciplinary practice. We have taken these tools from the policy sciences and seen how to apply them in practice to address actual endangered species and ecosystem conservation programs and challenges on four continents.

So what should you do with the information in this special issue? We suggest using it as a launching pad for promoting interdisciplinary professionalism in your own work. You might start by asking questions of yourself and others in endangered species programs. These questions flow from this publication, and require you to place yourself in a comprehensive context by starting with the question: Where do you and your program fall with regard to the variables
discussed above? Then continue with the following:

These questions all underlie a more fundamental set of questions, in part:

The answers to these and other questions provide the stepping stones to interdisciplinary professionalism. They are the rational next step beyond reading about and (we hope) benefiting from the information in this special issue. By answering these and related questions you are taking the next steps!

Finally, we ask you to share with us your experiences in professional practice that can contribute to our collective understanding of what it means to be an interdisciplinary professional (that is, one who asks and can answer the questions given above and use this information in successful recovery programs.). If you have an experience to share, please write it down and send it (via e-mail to We will respond and, with permission, incorporate them into future papers on endangered species and ecosystem conservation. By encouraging this feedback,
we hope to improve both the quality of discussions about professional practice and the process and outcomes of the vital work we all undertake — conserving the earth's biological diversity.