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Why Emotion Matters in Conservation Science: Why our emotional connections with nature and place matter to human psychological well-being and conservation science.
In the face of global environmental degradation and change, much attention focuses on how impoverished environments impact humans directly.
Every day we’re reminded of the loss of useful species, increased vulnerability to disaster, pollution, food insecurity, drought, pollution or other lost ecosystem services.
However, the importance of healthy land and seascapes in providing essential sustenance for our human minds and souls is less well understood.
There is increasing evidence that emotional connections to nature and place not only enhance positive feelings and boost well-being, but also have real influence on how people think and behave towards nature. Understanding how we value nature, and finding ways to deepen our connection with it, will be of benefit to both individual people and to our shared environment.
Earthwatch is pleased to present two speakers, who will draw on their experiences of working in ocean environments and mountainous regions respectively, to explore how our emotional connections to nature and place nourish our psychological well-being, and have important implications for current conservation efforts.
Speaking from his personal experience as a marine biologist, sea turtle expert and conservationist, Dr. Wallace "J." Nichols, PhD. will discuss the need for us to embrace an emotional connection with the oceans in order to conserve them, the importance of oceans for our mental health and well-being, and about the exciting and emerging field of neuroconservation. He will draw on his sea turtle research and conservation work on Baja, Mexico, where he is working alongside coastal communities to explore the cultural values of sea turtles, and engage communities in research and conservation efforts.
Dr. Anastasia Steffen will explore the strong emotional connection of mountainous environments like New Mexico’s Valles Caldera to the human psyche, and the values people hold in nature linked to past human use and culture. She will explore how the imprint of our past hunter-gatherer existence in this region informs our emotional attachment and ‘sense of place’, and how archaeology provides a tool for exploring not only our deep past but our current use, valuation and management of these environments.
By understanding as individuals what we value, we can begin to explore conservation and management through a cultural lens, so that the multiple and diverse values of a place are represented and conserved.
Dr. Wallace "J." Nichols, PhD is a scientist, advocate, community organiser, and author. J. is a Research Associate at California Academy of Sciences and founder/co-director of OceanRevolution.org, an international network of young ocean advocates, SEEtheWILD.org, a conservation travel network and LiVBLUE.org, a global campaign to reconnect us to our water planet.
He has authored and co-authored more than 50 scientific papers and reports and his work has been broadcast on NPR, BBC, PBS, National Geographic and Animal Planet and featured in Time, Newsweek, Scientific American and New Scientist, among others.
Nichols earned his MEM in Environmental Policy and Economics from Duke University's Nicholas School and his PhD. in Wildlife Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from University of Arizona. J. is working on BLUEMiND: The Mind + Ocean Initiative, merging the fields of cognitive science and ocean exploration.
Dr. Anastasia Steffen is Cultural Resources Coordinator at the Valles Caldera National Preserve and adjunct faculty in the Anthropology Department, University of New Mexico. She has worked in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico, USA, since 1990 and has led archaeological inventory and research at the Preserve since 2001.
Her research interests include prehistoric stone-tool technology, obsidian sourcing and hydration analyses, forest fire effects for archaeological resources, high-altitude adaptations, and landscape-scale management of cultural resources.
Dr. Steffen is a past President of the International Association for Obsidian Studies and is the lead scientist on Earthwatch project Encountering the Prehistoric People of New Mexico.
A man at the front line of exploration and one of the world’s most experienced divers and polar travellers, Paul Rose is an Earthwatch Ambassador, Vice-President of the Royal Geographical Society, television and radio broadcaster, a field science expert and published author. He has been working in Antarctica and the Arctic every year since 1990.
Paul is an award-winning champion for inspiring and motivating the next generation of field scientists and explorers. His television credits include the highly acclaimed BBC Oceans, Voyages of Discovery, Take One Museum and Meltdown.
He was the Base Commander of Rothera Research Station, Antarctica, for the British Antarctic Survey for 10 years and was awarded HM The Queen's Polar Medal. For his work with NASA and the Mars Lander project on Mt Erebus, Antarctica, he was awarded the US Polar Medal.
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