During my Masters work studying black bears in southwestern New York (2010-2013), I worked with hundreds of landowners in order to set up research sites on their property. Developing relationships with my landowners, hearing their stories, answering their questions, and following up on sharing the results of our research with them, I learned how successful wildlife management and stewardship requires not just the science but also collaboration with the public and different stakeholders .
I have applied this in my PhD work by developing a citizen science project called iSeeMammals, formally incorporating citizens and volunteers in my research. While the project collects auxiliary data on the presence and absence of bears in New York, it also serves more social objectives. Citizen science has been shown to increase scientific knowledge and awareness. Modern technology, especially the internet and social media, enables more demographics to be reached: not just the hunters, trappers and fishers (the people!) who traditionally have had a relationship with wildlife agencies, but also hikers, birdwatchers, and education groups. By being part of the data collection, volunteers (i.e., citizen scientists) are engaged in wildlife research that will affect the management of their local wildlife. I believe that the future of wildlife management will depend on part in the ability to engage with the public and non-traditional stakeholders.
Decisions made in wildlife management should reflect the input of its increasingly diverse constituents. Furthermore, I believe that diversity, in background, skills, and objectives, should be visible and transparent. I take every opportunity to speak to a wide range of groups and organizations about my research; the benefits are a two-way street: while the audience learns about black bears and wildlife management and hopefully see me as part of a new, diverse wave in wildlife management, I also benefit from hearing their new perspectives, accounts, and concerns that help me do my research more effectively.
While diversity is important in making current decisions, the future generation is also an important area where diversity should be encouraged. ---