Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 23, Issue 14, pp 3405–3423 | Cite as

Finding your way in the interdisciplinary forest: notes on educating future conservation practitioners

  • K. Andrade
  • C. Corbin
  • S. Diver
  • M. V. Eitzel
  • J. Williamson
  • J. Brashares
  • L. Fortmann
Original Paper


We explore the challenges of educating interdisciplinary thinkers who can address the management of complex socio-ecological systems, such as forests, by sharing our experiences from several perspectives. Five contexts for interdisciplinarity are explored along with examples related to: the department, advising, integrated research collaborations, a graduate working group, an interdisciplinary class, and trans-academic research. These experiences demonstrate the importance of safe space and patience, the need for adequate time to build trust and respect, and the recognition that interdisciplinary thinking is developed and reinforced in multiple contexts. Interdisciplinarity is always a work in progress that differs in its particulars according to the research or management question at hand and the kinds of specializations involved. Thus, there are no hard and fast rules for its creation but only guiding principles that must be adapted in the course of their implementation.


Collaboration Graduate education Interdisciplinarity Mentoring 



We thank the many participants of IDTEA over the years for their insights, energy, enthusiasm and commitment to interdisciplinarity. We also acknowledge the financial support our interdisciplinary efforts have received. IDTEA and two Intercampus Workshops were funded by a Breslauer Graduate Conversation Group Award from UC Berkeley’s Institute of International Studies. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their detailed and constructive suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Andrade
    • 1
  • C. Corbin
    • 1
  • S. Diver
    • 1
  • M. V. Eitzel
    • 1
  • J. Williamson
    • 1
  • J. Brashares
    • 1
  • L. Fortmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science, Policy and ManagementUniversity of California at BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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