Since I started following big cat conservation over three years ago, I have seen many calls for biological and social scientists to work together. Nearly all environmental problems stem from human behavior, so getting people to act differently has to be a major part of wildlife conservation. On December 4, 2017, leading professionals came together to affirm the importance of the behavioral sciences for conservation.
On that date, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and National Geographic co-hosted the annual Fuller Symposium. This is a meeting about the most pressing issues in conservation. This past Fuller Symposium was all about the value of behavioral sciences.
The symposium lasted for two days, and covered various topics related to understanding and changing human behavior. The symposium’s happenings have already been summarized well, both by National Geographic and by Dr. Amy Bucher (writing for UX Planet). While both articles are good, I found Dr. Bucher’s to be especially helpful.
Dr. Bucher succinctly broke down the key talks of the Fuller Symposium. They covered subjects such as:
- The influence of identity and values,
- How environmental behaviors are affected by broader social systems,
- The importance of eliciting empathy through stories,
- Meeting people where they are (instead of trying to get them to adopt your viewpoint),
- And more.
Several of the above topics are of interest to me. As long time followers of The Jaguar and its Allies might know, I previously wrote a series of posts about social identity theory. I am still curious about how social identity impacts wildlife conservation, and I would like to learn more about such research.
I have also started to become more intrigued by the power of stories. I am growing increasingly convinced that I could make a better science communicator than I could a ‘pure’ scientist. As such, I am spending more and more time wondering how to use today’s media technologies to get the public involved in wildlife conservation. Many of the talks described under the “Empathy is a change agent” section of Dr. Bucher’s article would have helped me answer this question. But even though I was not at the Fuller Symposium, I can still listen to those talks.
The WWF has kindly posted the Fuller Symposium’s agenda on this website, as well as links to the recorded videos of many of the talks. As far as I can tell, the videos are all free. These really are cutting-edge discussions, and I hope you will take a few mintues to learn more about the intersection of wildlife conservation and behavioral science.
At The Fuller Symposium, Behavioral Science Takes Center Stage – National Geographic
The Nature of Change: The Science of Influencing Behavior – World Wildlife Fund