Human dimensions of wildlife conservation

November 19, 2009

Conserving endangered species such as tigers and Asian elephants demands careful balancing of wildlife and human needs. To achieve this balance, wildlife conservation workers must understand sociopolitical and economic factors as well as ecological ones. This requires interdisciplinary training. So says Nelson Institute assistant professor Adrian Treves, who designed an advanced course on human dimensions of wildlife conservation offered recently to 16 M.S-level students in wildlife biology and conservation at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India. Treves taught the 11-day course with Nelson Institute Land Tenure Center (LTC) affiliate Teri Allendorf and with Sanjay Gubbi and Ajith Kumar of the Centre for Wildlife Studies, a non-governmental organization in Bangalore. Blending content on human behavior, attitudes, land uses, economics, and politics with existing curricular material on wildlife conservation, the course combined intensive classroom instruction, small-team advising, a field practicum, and collaborative research. Treves says the experience enhanced the students' Indian degree program -- a collaboration between the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the National Centre for Biological Sciences, and the Centre for Wildlife Studies -- and advanced a long-term, interdisciplinary relationship between Indo-U.S. partners. Its ultimately goal: to improve the practice of conservation in India. The Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum, the LTC (through a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the U.S. Agency for International Development), the Nelson Institute's Carnivore Coexistence Lab (directed by Treves), and the Centre for Wildlife Studies all provided funding for the course. Treves has taught various aspects of wildlife ecology and conservation as well as interactions with people for the past 12 years. He was a visiting assistant professor at Makerere University, Uganda (2005-06), and has trained Wildlife Conservation Society teams on conservation planning in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Madagascar, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and the United States. Since 2007, he has taught international, interdisciplinary, applied conservation research and planning courses as a faculty member of the Nelson Institute. Treves hopes to offer the new course in other locales in the future.