Education and the Future of Conservation

Supervised by Dr Aidan Keane (University of Edinburgh), Dr Janet Fisher (University of Edinburgh), Dr Chris Sandbrook (University of Cambridge) and Dr George Holmes (University of Leeds)

My PhD aims to investigate what conservation students are being taught and how higher education teaching may influence students’ perspectives of conservation. I am using a mixed-method design to collect data on university level conservation teaching in the UK and Australia. The three main stages of my project are described below, and you can find further information on our research group website.

Mapping conservation teaching

In the first stage of my project, I am using online surveys and content analyses to map conservation teaching in the UK and Australia. This data will provide novel insights into what topics and skills are being covered in current conservation courses. You can read more about my online education survey here.

Exploring students’ conservation views and the effect of education

The aim of the next stage of the project is to explore students’ perspectives on key topics in current conservation debates and investigate how their conservation views may change in relation to the teaching that they receive. I am using the 38 statements developed by the Future of Conservation project in a before-after survey design. Conservation students will be asked to respond to the same 38 Likert-type statements at the start and end of their conservation module or academic year. This will allow me to explore students’ views on different conservation topics and any changes in views will be modelled against teaching variables. Students and educators that participate in the before-after study will receive bespoke summaries of the before-after survey results. To read more about the before-after study and the summary feedback click here.

Infographic for before-after study process.

Interdisciplinarity in conservation teaching

The final stage of my PhD will explore the role of interdisciplinarity in conservation higher education. Conservation is often described as an inherently interdisciplinary field and ‘interdisciplinarity’ has been highlighted as key to meeting modern day conservation problems. Still, we know little about educators’ perceptions of interdisciplinarity or how ‘interdisciplinary teaching’ is done in practice. I will use in-depth interviews to understand educators’ perceptions of interdisciplinarity in conservation and investigate current approaches to interdisciplinary teaching.