What is a One Health Approach to Conservation?

A powerful, now-famous TED talk from nearly a decade ago features what happened to the ecosystems of Yellowstone National Park following the reintroduction of wolves to the park in 1995. It focuses on trophic cascades, that is, that all life is intricately connected and can change the way life affects other species, even the way that rivers flow. This is the concept of One Health, an approach to biology and ecology that seeks to understand the underlying way that all living species are connected. It’s not new, but it is newly being adopted by more and more governmental bodies and environmental experts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, One Health is “an approach that recognizes that the health of people is closely connected to the health of animals and our shared environment.” One example is in the study of antibacterial resistance in waterways and how bacteria in wastewater that is resistant to traditional methods of antibacterial processes can be seen across the environment and beyond – to river wildlife, and those who consume it. 

How a One Health Approach is Incorporated by Ecologists

Check out a recent John Carroll University infographic that highlights the career of conservation scientists and biologists. They incorporate the One Health approach all of the time in their work to better understand how organisms respond to their environments and how they can best adapt, grow, and thrive in the future, despite extreme changes surrounding them. 

Conservation scientists often work with and for government agencies, for example, in researching for and developing environmental impact statements (EIS) that Federal agencies are required by law to prepare if a proposed major federal action is determined to significantly affect the quality of the environment. 

For example, in one recent EIS submitted by the Department of Energy, related to an energy expansion project across Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, the agency analyzed and assesses the environmental risks of its proposed project, including the risks of endangered species, clean air and water, surface run-off, and potential impacts on human health. The EIS must also outline procedures for ensuring protections and safeguards are put in place around minimizing these risks before beginning their project.  

Inspired Futures in Biology

John Carroll University’s Bachelors of Science in Biology includes the option for broad study in evolutionary biology, ecology and diversity. You’ll explore interconnected ecological systems and their connection to people through hands-on lab and field work (including international opportunities!), and build on research that could impact generations of people, plants, and animals. For example, in the JCU course BL419 Conservation Biology, you’ll study recent understandings of climate change and predictions for combatting its effects with a multi-faceted, interconnected approach.  

JCU is a private Jesuit university located in University Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland.