Richard Vogt

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Richard Vogt
University of Quebec at Montreal

I am currently pursuing a Doctorate in biology with a major focus in community ecology at the University of Quebec at Montreal. My primary focus has been on exploring issues related to the importance of biodiversity for ecosystem functioning. Previously, I earned a Bachelor’s degree in biology at McMaster University, where I worked on the relationship between biodiversity and community stability, work that resulted in two publications.

The question of how ecology is to be envisaged, and how insights from its study are to be implemented in a changing world, is no doubt related to the pervasive debate on the merits of basic vs. applied research in science. I believe that it is critical that there be a place for both in ecological research. In ecology, however, I think there is greater pressure for scientists to pursue an applied agenda because of a conflation in the popular media between ecology and environmentalism. This problem is exacerbated by the influence that media coverage can have over the creation of public policy, and in a political climate where environmental issues are being elevated to unprecedented prominence, an undue focus on environmentalism can bias funding decisions in favour of only those studies with a defined applied agenda. Such a situation could pressure some researchers into inventing applied consequences for basic research for which an immediate application is not obvious. While I believe that a sense of activism can be a virtue, I do not believe that it is one that is necessarily shared by all scientists, and I think that proponents of basic research should be given a stronger voice.

As for my contribution to improving communication in ecology, I attend international, national and local scientific meetings whenever possible. Further, I find discussion groups enormously valuable and I participate in and organize both intradepartmental and interuniversity journal groups. In addition, I plan to continue to publish my work both in refereed journals and other outlets. I recently contributed to a chapter in a book targeted to the general public, the goal of which was to describe how the science of ecology works and how basic ecological concepts can be observed in every-day urban settings. I think it is important that results from both basic and applied research are correctly relayed outside academic circles, and I hope to one day see the science of ecology elevated to the same level of popularity as environmentalism.

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