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CPAS Seminar Series

Presentations take place on Thursday afternoons at 12 pm in The Green Couch Room.

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2 Feb 2023 | 12 - 1pm
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Dr Josh Wodak
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Free, just bring your lunch. 

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Come join in the first of our 2023 Seminar Series with Dr Josh Wodak


About the talk -- Drawing a Line in the Sand: Bioengineering as Conservation in the face of Extinction Debt

What conservation could possibly become commensurate with the rates of human-induced biophysical change unfolding at the advent to the Sixth Extinction Event? Any such conservation would not only require time-critical interventions into both ecosystems and evolution itself, for these interventions would also require domains of risk and ethics that shatter normative understandings of conservation. And yet, normative critiques against such experimental conservation serve to retain conservation practices that are null and void against the extinction debt facing multitudes of species. 

Amidst this quagmire, this paper explores conservation ethics in the face of extinction debt, through a detailed case study of current and proposed conservation for endangered Chelonia mydas sea turtles on Raine Island, a small coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Chelonia mydas and Raine Island are presented as synecdoche for conservation across diverse species across the world, because turtles are among the most endangered of all reptiles, and Raine Island is the largest and most important rookery in the world for this species. 

This is not, however, a paper about conservation per se. Rather, the paper reframes any-and-all conservation in the context of the radical asymmetry and radical contingency of life to the vicissitudes of the cosmos. In this vein, the paper formulates a cosmology based on Raine Island’s unintentional creation via coral formation and guano from nesting sea birds, highlighting the relevance of pre-human ruptures to the one currently unfolding. This cosmology is presented as a synecdoche for how life has altered the lithosphere and atmosphere of the planet since its first appearance. Therein, in response to the question of what would a risk ethics of conservationist synthetic biology constitute if it was to become commensurate with the ecological and climate crisis, the paper contemplates the unthinkable questions that our current situation demands we ask, and perhaps even try to answer. 


About the speaker
Dr Joshua Wodak works at the intersection of the Environmental Humanities and Science & Technology Studies. His research addresses the socio-cultural dimensions of the climate crisis and the Anthropocene, with a focus on the ethics and efficacy of conservation through technoscience, including Synthetic Biology, Assisted Evolution, and Climate Engineering. 

He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, and a Chief Investigator at the ARC Centre for Excellence in Synthetic Biology. This presentation is drawn from a chapter of his recently completed book Petrified: Living During a Rupture of Life on Earth.



1.30 Green couch room, Peter Baume Building 42a, Acton ACT 2601

-35.275637687401, 149.11759302653

Upcoming events in this series

CPAS Seminar
29 Feb 2024 | 12 - 1pm

Thursday 29 February features PhD Researcher Rita Agha to present her thesis proposal.

View the event
CPAS Seminar
22 Feb 2024 | 12 - 1pm

Thursday 22 February features PhD Researcher Lucy Darragh to present her thesis proposal.

View the event