Friday links: tell me again what “biodiversity” is and why we want to conserve it?

From Jeremy:

I’m on vacation, so just a couple of links this week.

Here’s Vox on the history of the term “biodiversity” and the ongoing controversies surrounding it. Includes quotes from friend of the blog Mark Vellend, and links to Brian’s old post analogizing biodiversity to pizza. Related old post from me.

Nadia Eghbal on Arizona State University’s growth, and how it has zigged when many other US colleges and universities have zagged. Especially interested in comments on this from any readers based at ASU.

3 thoughts on “Friday links: tell me again what “biodiversity” is and why we want to conserve it?

  1. Interesting essay about ASU. Having never been there, I can’t comment on how it works, but I do interact with urban ecologists who are located there or were trained there and I think ASU is driving a lot of that field at the moment. It makes sense considering their approach to funding research that solves problems. In a sense it’s a land-grant approach applied to non-ag research at a non-ag university (UofA is the land-grant in Arizona).

    When I was at Ohio State, I appreciated what was at that time their approach to more open standards for admission but their willingness to let students fail out, as opposed to other places I’d been where students could barely get in, but also almost never failed out. This was nearly 30 years ago (ugh) and retention and student services were not as much of a thing then, but I liked that OSU gave more students a shot. Now, at Clemson, “it’s hard to get into” is a badge of honor, but I think the message that badge sends to many kids in South Carolina is “we don’t really want you.” It exacerbates the elitism and ivory-towerism assigned to academia. It works counter to serving a diverse population.

    I’d be very curious as to how ASU grew their faculty to maintain classes for all the new students though. And if they have protected tenure or simply taken advantage of low-paid lecturer and temporary positions. Perhaps I’m too cynical.

    • I was also wondering how they’re managing to teach so many more students, and spend so many more research dollars, without (as far as I understand) growing the tenured and tenure-track faculty proportionally. I can imagine various approaches. As you note, one is to make heavier use of low-paid temporary instructors. Another would be to change the tenure-track faculty mix–more faculty with exclusively teaching duties (and thus heavy teaching loads), with the remaining faculty having primarily research duties and reduced teaching loads. Another approach would be to increase class sizes, and perhaps also increase TA support.

      • They did mention fewer administrators, which I wholeheartedly support.

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