Francisco J. Santiago-Ávila, PhD, MPP/MEM
Big River Connectivity Science And Conservation Manager
Fran is an interdisciplinary researcher and nature advocate with over a decade’s experience in conservation and animal science, ethics and policy issues. He is the BIG RIVER CONNECTIVITY Science and Conservation Manager for Project Coyote and The Rewilding Institute, where he helps promote compassion and respect for wild carnivores and nature, their protection, and the rewilding of the Mississippi River Watershed. His work explores the application of nature ethics to our mixed-community of humans, animals and nature, with a focus on the promotion of worldviews rooted in an ethic of care and justice towards nonhumans, and a reverence for life. He is a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico – Río Piedras (BA, Political Science and Economics), Duke University (Masters in Public Policy and Environmental Management), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (PhD, Environment & Resources). He has worked on a variety of environmental and conservation issues, from state wildlife management to national and international impact assessments.
As part of the Carnivore Coexistence Lab led by Project Coyote Science Advisor Adrian Treves, Fran’s quantitative research focused on the evaluation of the impact of policies and interventions to both conserve and prevent conflicts with large carnivores, specifically with endangered wolves in the US (gray wolves in Wisconsin, Mexican gray wolves, red wolves). Such studies consistently support an association between reduced federal protections for wolves with increased risk of wolves being poached, contradicting the suggestion that reducing protections for wolves will lead to tolerance and coexistence. His most recent work evaluating the use of lethal methods for wolf control in Michigan suggests that killing wolves is not effective at reducing the risk of attacks on domestic ungulates (cows, sheep) and increases the risk of conflicts in adjacent properties.
Fran’s qualitative research interests and advocacy work focus on the promotion of ethical deliberation to equitably consider animals in policy, and the exploration of conservation ethics that promote the flourishing of our entire community of life. He recently published an ethical examination of the laws and regulations governing gray wolf management in the state of Wisconsin, concluding that current management is blatantly dismissive of the interest of wolves and thus provides inadequate oversight for ethical interspecies coexistence, and this dismissal is pervasive in human-wildlife issues globally. He has also published articles promoting the ethical consideration of nonhuman animals within conservation science and policy that are subject to harm or killing, such as outdoor cats and wild horses. He is also a founding member of PANWorks, a not-for-profit think-tank dedicated to cultivating compassion, respect, and justice for animals.