Inspiring ‘Civic Herpetology’: Exploring motivations for volunteers of urban herpetofaunal conservation
Monday, August 2, 2021
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Micah Miles and Kyle Woosnam, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, Milton Newberry III, Sustainable Technology Program, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA
Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia Athens, GA, USA
Background/Question/Methods In this era of urbanization, conservation of globally declining wildlife, such as reptiles and amphibians, hinges upon human behaviors that support or otherwise protect these imperiled species. For residents of urban areas, this requires that individuals be willing and motivated to take action to preserve species that they encounter infrequently, if at all, in their day-to-day lives. This research poses the questions: “How have earlier life experiences motivated urban residents to volunteer in herpetofauna conservation?” and “What role do environmental education programs or initiatives play in motivating urban residents to volunteer in herpetofauna conservation?” Employing qualitative methodology, this research seeks to explore the role of significant life experiences and environmental education programs in motivating residents or urban areas to volunteer for reptile or amphibian-focused conservation programs. Semi-structured interviews were the primary method employed in this study, although a web-based survey was used to identify eligible respondents. Data was be analyzed using qualitative coding, analytic memos, and thematic analysis to systematically identify, organize, and infer motivating and experiential patterns occurring within the data corpus. Results/Conclusions Preliminary results of this study suggest a significant overlap between the motivating experiences of study participants and those described in the significant lived experience literature of environmental education research. Analysis reveals that recent or current volunteers of urban conservation programs actively draw from their culminating experiences with reptiles and amphibians to motivate them to continue or further their engagement. While many participants leveraged their volunteer experiences to advance their current or aspired careers in conservation, the overarching takeaway from their collective experiences underscores the importance of community, empathy, and spirituality in encouraging and achieving socially-derived urban conservation goals.