There is no doubt that contemporary conservation needs to be more than biology, and that it has shifted to include more of the human dimensions. The key role that other fields such as the social sciences and economics play in conservation is being recognized more and more. Despite some oppositions to the anthropocentric approach, we can all agree on one thing (or two): Human actions create the need for conservation and conservation is implemented by humans. Considering that human beings have such a big influence on conservation, understanding human decision-making and behavior can provide important insights for conservation. Which is where psychology can play a role.
The field of Conservation Psychology
Carol D. Saunders first proposed conservation psychology as a new field of study in 2003, defining it as “an applied field that uses psychological principles, theories, or methods to understand and solve issues related to human aspects of conservation”. When introduced it was expected to contribute to environmental sustainability by addressing two main research topics: (1) how humans behave towards nature? And (2) how humans value nature?
From inception, to organisation to implementation; Ghanaian Alumni, Dr John Abraham, reflects on the experience of organising the latest TAAG African Students’ Conference which took place in June. Read on…
I remember sitting at my desk in my apartment in Italy writing e-mails as far back as October, 2013 asking members of the Ghana TBA Alumni Group whether they felt we should bid to host the 2015 TAAG African Students’ Conference on Conservation Science. At that moment, my individual interest did not matter because we are a group. Thankfully, every member said YES! Let’s go for it. The hard work began from then.
A small team put the bid together and in January 2014, the good news arrived “…we are happy to inform you that your group, the Ghana TBA Alumni Group won the bid.” I jumped with excitement from my desk in jubilation. I made a few telephone calls to the people who helped with the bid before writing e-mails to inform all members of the Ghana TBA Alumni Group. We were very proud to have won this bid.
It’s the end of the field course here in Kibale and I’m now looking forward to getting home. The day my plane lands there’s a wedding to attend, but even before that there are many things I’ve missed — my wife, hot running water, reliable electricity, my record collection, and the ability to walk in the forest without fear of being trampled by elephants.
On the very last night here I went out with a small group to look for bush babies. We were rapidly successful, scanning trees with our torches and looking for the orange reflections of their large eyes amongst the foliage. I was walking slightly ahead, looking for the next one, when from the vegetation at the side of the road, moving as silently as an iceberg, a large bull elephant emerged right in front of us. What are the chances. It made it clear that…
The three teachers on our Tropical Biology Association field course here in Kibale abandoned the station for a day trip to the Rwenzori mountains, around two hours drive away (if nothing goes wrong, which it did). These fabled peaks are known as the Mountains of the Moon and comprise the tallest mountain range in Africa*. The Rwenzori Mountains National Park runs along the border with DR Congo where it merges with Virunga NP on the other side. Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
We began at the main park gate at around 1700 m and were led by our guide through several kilometres of valley floor which had been cultivated prior to the park’s gazetting. This remained in a rather sorry state, with little evidence of regeneration. I wondered why this might be the case, and whether this was a site where assisted regeneration through tree planting would be justified…