What We’re Reading: May 13, 2016

Citizen Science Can Instill Conservation Attitudes
This paper (sub) investigates the attitudes of people participating in COASST, Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, a citizen science program focusing on beached birds. Even without specific educational goals, participants increased their conservation stewardship and developed a strong sense of place for the beaches that they patrolled. For example, one participant said “When I first started the bird surveys I didn’t pick up trash, I was more occupied with the birds. Now I feel like it is my beach. I do feel more ownership and now it is just a given that I pick up trash.” Citizen science programs may inadvertently promote conservation action and behaviors as participants feel more responsibility and civic duty to take care of the ecosystem they are studying.

Camera Traps for Ecosystem Management
Charismatic species can incentivize people to protect an ecosystem under the assumption that protecting habitat for one species benefits all. However, different species have different considerations and responses to human and environmental factors. This study (sub) used camera trap data on 44 mammals to understand the large-scale factors influencing species richness and occupancy within and outside of a protected area in Botswana. Being within the protected area and more cover were important factors associated with  increased species richness, but species did vary when broken down by body size. More importantly, camera traps may be a cost-effective solution to identify broad-scale management goals for protected areas.

Is Anger the Path Towards Conservation?
A team of researchers used a global media watching company to track the number and timing of main-stream and social media mentions of the Cecil the Lion story. Based on their media analysis (open), they suggest that this story gained worldwide attention because it evoked anger in anti-hunting and hunting advocates. This paper reminded me of the anger evoked by the movie Blackfish about orca captivity. Both of these incidents (maybe not Cecil directly) were followed by action including the listing of lion subspecies as endangered or threatened under the US ESA, and declining attendance and profits at SeaWorld. The authors of this study point out that anger can persist in media stories longer than sadness, an emotion associated with many conservation and environmental stories. Thus should conservationists try to provoke anger as a call to action? Interestingly, the authors point out that while there are a number of conservation issues associated with the Cecil story, the public may have responded due to the animal welfare issues rather than the conservation issues. Lots to think about here, and the discussion of this paper has even more thought provoking material.

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