Conservation physiology represents a recently emerging arm of conservation science that applies physiological tools and techniques to understand and solve conservation issues. While a multi-disciplinary toolbox can only help to address the global biodiversity crisis, any field can face challenges while becoming established, particularly highly applied disciplines that require multi-stakeholder involvement.

Gaining first-hand knowledge of the challenges that conservation physiologists are facing can help characterize the current state of the field and build a better foundation for determining how it can grow.

Through an online survey of 468 scientists working at the intersection of physiology and conservation, the authors aimed to:

  • identify characteristics of those engaging in conservation physiology research (e.g. demographics, primary taxa of study)
  • gauge conservation physiology’s role in contributing to on-the-ground conservation action, and
  • identify the perceived barriers to achieving success and determine how difficult any identified barriers are to overcome.

Despite all participants having experience combining physiology and conservation, only one-third considered themselves to be “conservation physiologists”. Moreover, there was a general perception that conservation physiology does not yet regularly lead to tangible conservation success. Respondents identified the recent conceptualization of the field and the broader issue of adequately translating science into management action as the primary reasons for these deficits. Other significant barriers that respondents have faced when integrating physiology and conservation science included a lack of funding, logistical constraints (e.g. sample sizes, obtaining permits) and a lack of physiological baseline data (i.e. reference ranges of a physiological metric’s ‘normal’ or pre-environmental change levels).

The authors identified 12 actions based on suggestions of survey participants that we anticipate will help deconstruct the barriers and continue to develop a narrative of physiology that is relevant to conservation science, policy and practice.