Conservation ethics in the time of the pandemic: Does increasing remote access advance social justice?

Abraham J. Miller-Rushing, Elizabeth R. Ellwood, Theresa M. Crimmins, Amanda S. Gallinat, Molly Phillips, Ronald L. Sandler, Richard B. Primack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 pandemic is stimulating improvements in remote access and use of technology in conservation-related programs and research. In many cases, organizations have intended for remote engagement to benefit groups that have been marginalized in the sciences. But are they? It is important to consider how remote access affects social justice in conservation biology—i.e., the principle that all people should be equally respected and valued in conservation organizations, programs, projects, and practices. To support such consideration, we describe a typology of justice-oriented principles that can be used to examine social justice in a range of conservation activities. We apply this typology to three conservation areas: (1) remote access to US national park educational programs and data; (2) digitization of natural history specimens and their use in conservation research; and (3) remote engagement in conservation-oriented citizen science. We then address the questions: Which justice-oriented principles are salient in which conservation contexts or activities? How can those principles be best realized in those contexts or activities? In each of the three areas we examined, remote access increased participation, but access and benefits were not equally distributed and unanticipated consequences have not been adequately addressed. We identify steps that can and are being taken to advance social justice in conservation, such as assessing programs to determine if they are achieving their stated social justice-oriented aims and revising initiatives as needed. The framework that we present could be used to assess the social justice dimensions of many conservation programs, institutions, practices, and policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109788
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Citizen science
  • Digitization
  • Museum specimens
  • National parks
  • Remote access
  • Social justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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