Tuesday, November 27, 2018

11am - 12:15pm

310 Kelly Hall – VT Campus

Dr. Alex Dehgan

CEO and Co-founder 

Conservation X Labs 


In the three decades as a scientific discipline and practice, conservation is facing its greatest crisis. Despite winning many battles, it is losing the extinction war. This talk looks to the future of conservation, and contends that conservation science and practice must shift from being a descriptive, discovery-based science describes and laments the passing of species to a field that seeks to engineer solutions, not just monitor them. This requires a shift in focus to the underlying drivers of extinction, which may be based within fields of development like food security or energy, rather than addressing its symptoms (through building national parks). It calls for replacing drivers with more sustainable ones at an efficacy and price level that match the products they replace. And it requires the use of emerging technologies, such as AI, machine vision, gene editing tools, robotics and microbiology, and bringing in new disciplines, and new fields, like entrepreneurship, behavioral economics, and anthropology. Models exist for this transition. Conservation science may follow the pathways created by global health– moving from a single disciplinary field to a multidisciplinary field that harness innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship, with a goal of scalability and economic sustainability. Powerful new emerging technologies, coupled with greater connectivity, offer hope. These solutions will require a reexamination of long-held principles like the precautionary principle in the face of future challenges where existing incremental pathways in the face of exponentially increasing threats provides the high risk. Ultimately, conservation must redefine itself for the next 30 years, or face the same fate of the species it seeks to save.


Alex Dehgan is the CEO & co-founder of Conservation X Labs (CXL), a tech startup focused on harnessing exponential technologies, open innovation, and entrepreneurship for creating a pipeline of innovations that address the underlying drivers of extinction. Alex most recently served as the Chief Scientist at the U.S. Agency for International Development, with rank of Assistant Administrator. Prior to USAID, Alex worked in multiple positions within the Office of the Secretary of State on using science as a diplomatic tool in our most challenging relationships. Alex was also the founding country director of the Wildlife Conservation Society Afghanistan Program and helped create Afghanistan’s first national park. Alex is the author of the forthcoming book in winter 2019, The Snow Leopard Project, through Public Affairs, an imprint of Perseus Books Group, which describes this effort.