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  • We can have the science at our fingertips when it comes to conservation and environmental issues, but effective connection with the public is often critical to the success of any programmes or initiatives. In this story, we meet Dr Rebecca Jarvis who is a social scientist working on the community dimensions of conservation.

    This is part of the series In Her Nature: New Zealand women changing the way we connect with the world around us, meeting New Zealand women working at the intersection of people and nature. These stories are a feature for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2020.

    It’s all about the people

    Dr Rebecca Jarvis from Auckland’s AUT is enthusiastic about the importance of the public in creating long-term conservation and environmental solutions. With a PhD in socio-ecology, her focus is how people make decisions to work together, how people engage in the environment and how that knowledge can be used to create conservation solutions that work.

    “There are many different disciplines within social science and I’m pretty interdisciplinary, so sometimes I lean on behavioural psychology and sometimes I lean on political ecology. It means bringing together different aspects of different social sciences that are most relevant for a particular situation. I definitely see myself as being a pragmatist – I’d rather have the problem outlined and then figure out the right team for the right solution, you know. This also means working with people engaging in different social sciences to find a good solution together.”

    She has just begun a new role, carrying out social science research that will feed into a broader programme seeking to enhance biodiversity and carbon sequestration on farmland nationwide.

    “So this project I’m going into, we’re going to start brainstorming different communication projects, different ways of creating extension, communication and engagement activities. Part of my job going into this will be to understand how we can design and communicate our knowledge in different ways.”

    Creative solutions for conservation challenges

    Rebecca frames her research area as the social dimensions of conservation – a catch-all title for research that draws on behavioural psychology, political ecology and other social sciences, depending on the needs of the project. She believes that valuable information and knowledge can come from any source, whether science driven or community led, that information sharing is a two-way street and that knowledge exchange is critical.

    “One of the principal tenets of knowledge exchange is that scientific knowledge is definitely not the only knowledge. There’s lots of different knowledges that different people can bring to a project, including local, indigenous and experiential knowledge. And if you’re going to design a project that you hope lots of people will work with you on, then it’s really important to bring those people together and combine those knowledges. Doing so means you can jointly frame the problem and find a solution that you can all action together.”

    While Rebecca’s career has followed a science pathway, she is adamant that conservation and environmental solutions can come from any quarter.

    “If we’re going to build a better world, then we need lots of people doing lots of different things. So whether that’s an art project that’s also got an environmental twist or writing science fiction about positive climate futures or if you go into business, then sustainable business. There are all sorts of different options. Be creative and make change that way.”

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    This article was written by Anastasia Turnbull.

      Published 8 February 2020 Referencing Hub articles
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