Rob McDonald

 Robert McDonald is a vanguard scientist with The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Strategies Division. Robert works to evaluate the drivers, trends and conservation implications of emerging or understudied threats to biodiversity. Prior to joining the Conservancy, he was a Smith Conservation Biology Fellow at Harvard University, studying the impact global urban growth will have on biodiversity and conservation.

Rob's Posts

The Great Urbanization and What It Means for Nature: Part 1

January 7th, 2010

More people live in cities than don't for the first time in human history -- and conservationists need to be prepared instead of complaining, says Rob McDonald. More

Domesticating Nature…and Ourselves

December 15th, 2009

I work on the ecosystem services team at The Nature Conservancy, which strives to find ways to protect and strengthen the services that nature provides that are crucial to human well-being while also protecting biodiversity. But there are at least two definitions of “ecosystem service” floating around the conservation community. And within the tension between […] More

Climate Change and Conservation’s Big Bet

November 24th, 2009

In a few weeks the world will turn its attention to Copenhagen, as diplomats gather to hash out an agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change. For many environmentalists, including some of my colleagues here at The Nature Conservancy, it’s the culmination of decades of work and preparation. And yet while there’s […] More

What’s the Role of Science for Advocacy?

November 5th, 2009

As the “energy sprawl” idea has been discussed and debated in the media, I (one of the paper’s co-authors) have  grown a thick skin against criticism. Perhaps the harshest piece of invective, however, still bothers me: the criticism by Matt Wasson in the Huffington Post. The factual criticisms Matt makes aren’t that troublesome to me, […] More

Population Growth, the Personal and the Political

October 19th, 2009

One of the difficulties writing for Cool Green Science is that our name necessarily constrains our subject matter. While we are all conservationists and hence prone to write on environmental topics most of the time, the occasional truly bizarre tangents into other issues that you’d get on a personal blog as the author meandered intellectually […] More

The Lessons I’ve Learned From ‘Energy Sprawl’

September 17th, 2009

Scientists want their research to inspire serious discussion of critical issues. So I’ve been encouraged by all the discussion in the press about the recent PLoS One paper I wrote with colleagues entitled “Energy Sprawl or Energy Efficiency: Climate Policy Impacts on Natural Habitat for the United States of America.” Still, it’s unsettling sometimes to […] More

Energy Sprawl and The Importance of Fact

August 26th, 2009

During a dinner several months ago, the former U.S. ambassador C. Boyden Gray pointed a gaunt finger at me and said: “You environmentalists dislike ethanol, therefore you must want people to die.” While rhetorically grand, the accusation made little sense in the content of our dinner discussion about the potential land-use impacts of large-scale ethanol […] More

Will We Repair Our Green Infrastructure?

July 16th, 2009

The Amtrak train sits idle in the station, as the passengers alternately make cell phone calls from the platform or drink warm beer from their seats. There’s a gas leak ahead along the tracks in Baltimore, and the whole Northeast rail corridor is shut down. Coming on the heels of the June crash in the […] More

Agnostic on Biotech: When ‘Science-Based’ Makes Nobody Happy

June 9th, 2009

I had the weird experience recently of saying something that was simultaneously frustrating to both industry and to some environmentalists. I had been invited to a large conference of biotechnology companies in Atlanta, to serve on a panel discussing the potential implications of biotech crops for sustainable development. And when I say it was a […] More

High-Speed Rail (or, Why Conservation Can’t Afford To Be Conservative)

May 20th, 2009

Ray LaHood, President Obama’s transportation secretary, recently pledged to remake the nation’s transportation system, with the key goal of making it more environmentally sustainable. As part of that, Obama has promised to put down $8 billion to start construction of a high-speed intercity rail network. This investment is something that’s long overdue, and would correct […] More

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