Ethics and Practices of Algorithmic Conservation

Reading Group


Algorithms already permeate environmental decision-making, from processing high-dimensional data on earth systems to monitoring compliance with environmental regulations. While data science provides powerful tools for resource governance, it can also amplify existing environmental injustices and inequalities. This reading group will explore how “conservation by algorithm” (Adams, 2019) shifts the political economy of environmental policy and creates unique challenges to ensuring equitable and accountable environmental decision processes.

We will explore a range of case studies, discussing how the technology used to create or process data shifts the distribution of power, accountability, and legitimacy between resource users, governing bodies, and private industry. We intend for the readings to be primarily social science focused, but will explore the technical components of algorithmic processes that are relevant to social implications of their use.

We welcome data and social scientists to join an interdisciplinary conversation about the ethics, practices and effects of algorithmic environmental management.

Join our slack channel:

Join Our Slack Channel

Upcoming Meetings

This summer (May-August, 2022), we will meet monthly on Thursdays from 9am-10am

Organization: Each meeting will be led by 1-2 participants who will be responsible for curating 2-4 readings and getting the discussion started (note: we’re happy to alter this plan and will use our first meeting to discuss logistics and sign up for leading discussions)

Date Papers
January 20, 2022
(12-1 pm PT)
Algorithmic Conservation in a Changing Climate (paper)
February 3, 2022
(12-1 pm PT)
A political ecology of data (paper)
February 17, 2022
(12-1 pm PT)
Deep Reinforcement Learnning for Conservation Decisions (paper)
March 3, 2022
(12-1 pm PT)
Becoming Good at AI for Good (paper)
March 17, 2022
(12-1 pm PT)
How Climate Science Could Lead to Action (paper)
March 31, 2022
(12-1 pm PT)
Scope of Maching Learning: What distinctions between ML and other algorithms are or aren't important (blog ; paper)
April 14, 2022
(12-1 pm PT)
AI for poaching prediction (paper ; paper)
April 28, 2022
(12-1 pm PT)
The Society of Algorithms (paper)
May 25, 2022
(9-10 am PT)
Fish as data: Consequences of datafication in the Icelandic fishery (a discussion with Dr.Phoebe Sengers)
June 23, 2022
(9-10 am PT)
Artificial intelligence and marine protected area governance (paper)


We are working to compile a list of relevant papers and resources:

  • Google drive collection of literature on ethics and practices of algorithmic conservation.


Can I lead a discussion?
Yes! Please reach out if you are interested in leading a discussion!
Who organizes this group?
Hilary Faxon, Millie Chapman, Caleb Scoville, and Carl Boettiger.