Powers Fellow David Frank is finding practical implications through his research in the College of Liberal Art’s Department of Philosophy for biodiversity conservation. As a Powers Fellow, David will be able “to pursue some empirical, social scientific work on human values in conservation planning, particularly looking at how human values are incorporated into the conservation planning process.”
His dissertation research lies at a valuable intersection, covering the philosophy of social science, philosophy of biology, and environmental ethics. This field crossover researches human and social factors in biodiversity conservation and ethical dilemmas in conservation planning.
“My research uses a mixture of philosophical analysis, case studies, and modeling tools from economics, particularly game theory and decision theory, in attempting to clarify these ethical dilemmas,” said David. He has been interested in philosophy since high school, saying, “I’ve always enjoyed the openness of the debates and the desire for clarity of thought. I also grew up in Maine, where it’s easy to become an environmentalist!”
David credits his interest in biodiversity conservation to his advisor, Sahotra Sarkar, and Sarkar’s environmental ethics class, Biodiversity and Biocultural Conservation Laboratory, and work at UT that utilizes a scientific, interdisciplinary approach to philosophical problems. “I wrote my dissertation prospectus on behavioral game theory and it seemed natural to combine these interests in my dissertation research,” said David.
David loves living in Austin, as well. He credits the support of the research communities at UT for offering such a wide variety of resources for students to take advantage of, as well as the “lively intellectual and social culture” of his departmental peers.
David hopes that when he graduates that his dissertation will be read by environmental ethicists whom are interested in empirical approaches, and by conservation professionals whom are interested in philosophical and social-scientific approaches. David’s research will hopefully allow him to achieve his goal to teach at the college-level, or to work as a decision analyst for conservation organizations.
You can visit David’s professional website, which offers some of his published works as well as upcoming talks, at https://sites.google.com/site/davidmoorfieldfrank/.