All issues of wildlife conservation and the welfare of the planet are ultimately caused, avoided, or solved by human choices. Why then, has the study of human behavior never been in the forefront of conservation efforts? The work of conservationists and psychologists has rarely overlapped in the past, so little research has focused on how to best motivate people to make decisions related to improving conservation for wildlife.
My research focuses on the emerging field of conservation psychology, an interdisciplinary field that draws from biology, psychology, and behavioral economics to explore applicable, evidence-based solutions to contemporary conservation problems. Examining how populations develop knowledge, attitudes and behaviors that either help or harm wildlife can better help conservation practitioners develop policies and communication strategies that lead to long-term behavior changes that benefit wildlife.
Over the last seven years, I have conducted and managed conservation research projects for nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, zoos, and sanctuaries, both domestically and internationally. These projects seek the most effective ways to assess the impact of conservation education programs on visitors to zoos and sanctuaries and to explore different messaging strategies for conservation organizations’ marketing platforms. As a graduate student in the Evolutionary Anthropology Department at Duke University, I have also gained considerable experience teaching and conducting research in the fields of animal behavior and animal physiology, with a focus on great ape species.