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Faculty Colloquium Series: Clare Palmer (PHIL) 04/20/2021

“Should global conservation initiatives prioritize phylogenetic diversity? ”
Meeting ID: 913 1897 4555
Password: Palmer

“Should global conservation initiatives prioritize phylogenetic diversity?”

Zoom Meeting information:
Meeting ID:913 1897 4555
Password: Palmer

Dr. Clare Palmer
Professor, Philosophy, 2020-21 Glasscock Internal Faculty Fellow


The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) proposes in its EDGE of Existence program that threatened species with high phylogenetic

Clare Palmer

diversity – that is species that are evolutionarily distinct, eg the duck-billed platypus – should be prioritized in conservation initiatives. In this paper we critically examine this claim. We first outline what we take phylogenetic diversity to mean and why, intuitively, we might value it. Then we outline five kinds of arguments that might support prioritizing species with high phylogenetic diversity, arguments about (a) biodiversity (b) option value (c) ecological resilience (d) historical value and (e) aesthetic value. We maintain that these arguments together offer only weak support for prioritizing the protection of species with high phylogenetic value, and that, at best, high phylogenetic value could serve as a positive tie-breaker when conservation choices must be made.

The Faculty Colloquium offers faculty an opportunity to discuss a work-in-progress with faculty and graduate students from different disciplines. By long-standing practice, colloquium presenters provide a draft of their current research, which is made available to members of the Glasscock Center listserv. Each colloquium begins with the presenter’s short (10-15 minute) exposition of the project, after which the floor is open for comments and queries. The format is by design informal, conversational, and interdisciplinary.

The paper is available to members of the Center’s listserv, or by contacting the Glasscock Center by phone at (979) 845-8328 or by e-mail at

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