Addressing Taxonomic Bias in Education

The Omora Conservation Program is coordinated by the University of North Texas (UNT) in the US and the University of Magallanes (UMAG) in Chile. The approach of the program combines interdisciplinary education, international cooperation, policy-making, long-term ecological research, and field philosophy in an effort to promote biocultural conservation by protecting both biological and linguistic diversity against biological and cultural homogenization in the austral summit of South America. In response to globalization and homogenization of education practices, the Omora Conservation Program has addressed the concept of taxonomic bias in education and its subsequent impacts on conservation policy and popular perception. Internationally, many science books are biased towards charismatic vascular and vertebrate species. For areas such as the sub-antarctic region of Chile, or temperate climate of Denton, Texas, endemic species are not mentioned. Instead, widely distributed textbooks cover nonnative idealized 'model' plants and animals. This mismatch creates a disconnect between the knowledge people have about habitats and their actual habitat. The students and researchers associated with the Omora Conservation Program at UNT and at UMAG have developed interdisciplinary approaches to biocultural educational practices that reconnect students and citizens with their local habitat. A comparison between Puerto Williams and Denton will be helpful in understanding the gap in education between different regions. The purpose of our roundtable discussion will be to discuss some of the steps taken towards the promotion of local knowledge through biocultural conservation in education.