A professor of parks and recreation recently co-authored an environmental research paper that discusses struggles with the social sciences and the conservation outcomes.
Rebecca Thomas, assistant professor of parks and recreation, co-authored the paper, which was published in Biological Conservation, an international leading journal in the discipline of conservation biology. Thomas has supervised several different faculty research projects, such as a preservation study at Goddard State Park in Pennsylvania.
The feature, “Conservation Social Science: Understanding and Integrating Human Dimensions to Improve Conservation,” talks about 10 examples in which social sciences can be beneficial to the public in hopes to better the commitment to conservation.
“Conservation biology is a field of practice in which a broad diversity of disciplines are represented in order to achieve the aim of ensuring sustainability of Earth’s biological diversity,” Thomas said. “These disciplines include some of the ‘hard’ science discipline such as physiology, epigenetic, ecology, population genetics and veterinary medicine.”
Thomas said that Biological Conservation is a leading international journal that reaches a broad audience of conservation scholars and practitioners, which is why she wanted to join it.
Thomas said that the article was collaborative effort that came from a 2014 workshop at the North American Congress of the Society for Conservation Biology, which was funded by the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
“The purpose of that workshop was to develop a proceedings report that articulated the specific contributions of different social science disciplines to the field of conservation biology,” Thomas said.
Thomas said she was one of about 16 scholars who participated in the workshop, and represented the discipline of environmental education and communication.
“This is an important topic for the public because biodiversity conservation affects all of us,” Thomas said. “The biological organisms with which we share this planet provide us with goods and services that enable our own survival.”
Thomas said that the opportunity influences her teaching at SRU, including courses she teaches such as Natural History of Ecosystems, Wildlife Wildlands and Field Methods and Foundations in Sustainability.
“I try to guide my students in learning how to think across disciplines and engage with different perspectives as this is the only way forward in the science of conservation,” Thomas said.