This past July, the 55th annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) took place in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. The conference was attended by more than 900 delegates from 65 countries, and included 12 pre- and post-conference workshops, 2 panel discussions, 6 keynote presentations, 35 symposia, 50 general oral sessions and 2 poster sessions. The theme of the conference this year was “Linking Natural History and the Conservation of Tomorrow’s Tropical Ecosystems”. Naturally much of the content concerned conservation issues mostly relevant to the tropics, however, several symposia addressed more general subjects such as citizen science (applicable anywhere). This was the reason I traveled to the conference – to present some ideas concerning the use of social media as a platform for citizen science and conservation, based on a Facebook group called “Herpetology – Israel” that was founded in July 2017 by Assaf Uzan, Alex Slavenko and myself, and about which we wrote together with Dr Yuval Itescu.
Besides the interesting presentations and posters, it was a pleasure meeting researchers and conservationists from such varied countries and disciplines and, evidently, the ATBC community is a warm and welcoming one, open to anyone interested in conservation in the tropics. It was particularly impressive to witness the attention devoted by the ATBC community not only to research and conservation, but also to issues such as inclusion of local communities in the aforementioned; respect for different cultures and ethnic groups; gender equality etc.
Kuching is beautiful and at the end of each day I had a lot of fun exploring the city both geographically and gastronomically, together with other ATBC delegates.
I thank the Israeli Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology, as well as the National Natural History Collections of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel for generously helping to make my journey possible.
I hold a BA in Natural Sciences and Law, and an MA in Urban and Regional Planning, specializing in environmental planning. Throughout my life, I have been involved in various fields of nature preservation. I began my career with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) as a teacher-soldier, and years later, I moved into environmental planning, working as the director of the Planning Department in the Ministry of Environmental Protection. I also worked for two years in the private sector as an independent planner and lawyer.
Despite its small size, the State of Israel is characterized by exceptional biological diversity on an international scale. In addition, Israel will soon become the most densely populated country in the Western world. These two factors, coupled with constant pressure for development, presents a profound challenge in the effort to preserve Israel’s nature. The planning arena is, therefore, an important key in the effort to preserve open spaces of a size, continuity and quality that will ensure the preservation of nature in Israel. However, preserving the open spaces is not enough, and the next step is land management in a manner that will preserve biodiversity for the future as well. In recent years, we have also been working to preserve nature and biodiversity in marine habitats, which are very much threatened by various development initiatives.
SPNI is Israel’s leading, oldest and largest nature preservation organization. Since its establishment in 1953, SPNI has been active in a variety of fields for the conservation of Israel’s biodiversity: influencing decision makers in the planning committees, the Knesset, the government and the legal arena; ongoing formal and informal educational activities for all ages; and public campaign activities. The preservation of biodiversity in Israel presents a crucial challenge, in which SPNI, as a civil society organization with a wide arrange of professional capabilities, plays a significant and leading role.
Iris was named as one of the ‘100 most influential people in Israel’ by the Marker Magazine
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Fellowships and awards
Make sure to check out the the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship Program, for Post-docs at American Universities.
This past June the 5th European Congress of Conservation Biology took place in Jyväskylä, Finland. It was attended by over 800 delegates including 10 Israelis. The conference itself was excellent – many interesting lectures, discussions, workshops and events. The main theme of the meeting was planetary wellbeing and consequently the CBD, IPEBES and biodiversity offsets featured in the plenaries. Beyond that there were many other topics representing the truly interdisciplinary field of conservation. Some research presented dealt with the effectiveness of conservation actions and measuring these, perspectives on the natural environment and human wellbeing, how different stakeholders could be better involved with conservation – from global policy-makers to local communities, new tools such as genomics and culturomics were presented and much more.
One of the nice additions to this meeting was having an in-house cartoonist that followed the meeting - Seppo Leinonen. An extremely nice guy who drew elaborate cartoons following all of the plenaries (while the speakers were speaking…) and in the breaks between lectures – drew for whomever wanted a cartoon based on their conservation work / story. At times, the queue to get your cartoon drawn was even longer than that to get coffee and that is saying a lot!
We also had lots of fun in the evenings – enjoying the midnight sun in Finland, nice food and drinks, the plethora of lakes, and looking for flying squirrels in the city park. Hope you all will be able to join the SCB crowd in the upcoming ICCB 2019 in Malaysia, next summer!
My love for nature and passion for conservation has accompanied me throughout my life. Growing up at the edge of urban Jerusalem, I was exposed to the beauty of the Judean hills and wildlife watching, catching lizards and snakes, and hiking became my main interests as a kid. During childhood I spent the school-time working as an animal caretaker at the Jerusalem Zoo, while also participating and guiding tours through the SPNI. I continued on to a BSc and MSc in Ecology and Marine Biology, respectively, through Ben Gurion University and spent a couple of years working at various conservation and eco-tourism projects in Central America and South-East Asia. In the past 10 years I have worked as an environmental consultant at various agencies and organizations on a wide array of topics; restoration of damaged habitats, human-wildlife conflicts, ecological inputs in planning and environmental-educational schemes. During this time, I witnessed (what I see) as a huge gap between decision makers, organizations who deal with conservation and scientists, and the need for people who "speak all languages" to bridge between them and put conservation in the front - without neglecting human needs. Recently, I started my Ph.D. at Tel Aviv University in the Dr. Takuya Iwamura's Spatial Ecology lab, studying the dispersion patterns of rock hyraxes in Israel and its implications to the spread of Leishmaniasis, a subject that incorporates all of these gaps.
Contact Noam here
Fellowships and awards
The SCB recognizes the importance of graduate students whose research advances the science and practice of conserving Earth's biodiversity. The Society is excited to support these graduate students as we formally announce the call for applications for the SCB Graduate Student Research Fellowship Awards (GSRF). SCB will grant ten $1,000 research awards to support travel, materials or equipment for graduate student members to help conduct field research in conservation science.
The deadline for applications is Monday, 30 April 2018. Visit the SCB Student Awards page to learn more about the GSRF and to download the application form. You must be a member to be eligible to win the award.
Questions? E-mail Awards Committee Chair Carolyn Lundquist.
The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) is an international professional organization dedicated to promoting the scientific study of the phenomena that affect the maintenance, loss, and restoration of biological diversity. The Society's membership comprises a wide range of people interested in the conservation and study of biological diversity: resource managers, educators, government and private conservation workers, and students make up the more than 5,000 members world-wide. http://conbio.org/
The SCB envisions a world where people understand, value, and conserve the diversity of life on Earth. We envision SCB, a global community of conservation professionals, as a leading scientific voice for the study and conservation of Earth's biological diversity.
The SCB’s mission is to advances the science and practice of conserving Earth's biological diversity.
To serve its mission and values it focuses on these five goals: 1) To advocate support for, and facilitate the creation and dissemination of, conservation science. 2) To increase application of science to management and policy. 3) To strengthen SCB's sections. 4) To serve the interests of members. 5) To build and maintain organizational capacity.