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BU professor of biology publishes textbooks in multiple languages

Boston University’s department of biology continues to expand its global presence with the publication of biology professor Richard Primack’s conservation biology textbooks in multiple languages.

The Essentials of Conservation Biology and Primer of Conservation Biology textbooks exist in 34 editions, 30 of which have been adapted to foreign countries, Primack said.

“In so many countries, people knew very generally about the idea of conservation, but they didn’t have specific knowledge about how to carry out conservation projects,” he said. “As a result of reading my book and taking the courses … the people who run national parks, government workers, they have so much better appreciation of how to carry out conservation projects.”

Officials from the books’ publisher, Sinauer Associates, Inc, said Primack’s commitment to his specialization has motivated him to take extensive measures to ensure the translations are relevant to the countries they are intended for.

“He [Primack] is so committed to his field of conservation biology that he has worked very hard to facilitate the translation into different languages,” said Marie Scavotto, marketing coordinator at Sinauer Associates, Inc. “What is different about his approach is that he encourages these translating authors to be coauthor with him on these projects and to incorporate examples that are particular to the location in which they live, and that’s something that is not done a lot.”

Primack said he takes a collaborative approach to the translation of his textbooks and tailors his textbooks to each country, which includes Japan, France, Turkey and China.

“A few years ago we had an edition that came out in Chinese,” Primack said. “I invited one of my colleagues in China … He and his students and his colleagues translated the book into Chinese and removed a lot of the examples from United States and Europe, so the book is adapted for Chinese readers; it has Chinese examples.”

Primack said there was no particular region where he focuses his translations, but his conservation biology textbooks will soon reach the Middle East, with editions for Iran and Pakistan.

“We want to try to have better relationships with Iran on kind of a scientist-to-scientist basis,” Primack said. “I’ve written to scientists in Iran but never really have gotten much of a response. So about a year ago, I have written to an Iranian scientist who was extremely enthusiastic about this idea, who liked this idea very much so it started to happen really quickly.”

By publishing his textbooks in an array of languages, Primack has established himself as not just an influence at BU, but one of the global leaders in conservation biology, said Michael Sorenson, chair of the biology department.

“Professor Primack has worked tirelessly to maximize the impact of his conservation biology textbooks by working with colleagues around the world to translate them into many different languages,” Sorenson said. “In the process, he has taken the innovative approach of incorporating local conservation examples into each new version, making the material more relevant to the students in a given country or region. These efforts have helped make him one of the leading names in conservation biology around the world.”

Amanda Gallinat, a first-year graduate student at the Graduate College of Arts and Sciences and student of Primack, said she and other students benefit from Primack’s global experiences.

“Part of translating this book internationally and working internationally is that he has many, many anecdotes that go with the concept he teaches,” he said. “It’s interesting and fun to listen to him during these lectures to give these examples and tell these stories.”

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