The effects of photographing wildlife on engagement with biodiversity issues

The effects of photographing wildlife on engagement with biodiversity issues

Author: Emma Hanisch – University of Otago, United States

One of the most pressing ecological problems we face is the loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity refers to the variety, abundance, composition, distribution, and interactions of life on Earth, at genetic, species, and ecosystem levels. There are an estimated 8.7-9 million (non-bacteria) species on Earth, many of which have not been identified. But largely thanks to human activity and expansion, we may lose many of those species before we even discover them. If current extinction trends continue, we will face a new mass extinction event (75% of species lost) within 250 years if not sooner.

The first steps for conservation are appreciation for biodiversity, and understanding the problem of biodiversity loss. Conserving biodiversity on a global scale will require mass participation, so the more people who are motivated to protect it, the better. One way to achieve this is to encourage people to develop long-term personal interests in nature, ideally while doing something enjoyable. This is where wildlife photography comes in.

Photography has become an extremely popular hobby recently, thanks to the availability of digital cameras and smartphones, as well as easy photo sharing on social media. When a person photographs something, they become more engaged with it and often want to learn more. This is especially effective when the subject of the photo is an animal, since we easily form powerful emotional connections with animals. Wildlife photography also gives the photographer a reason to spend time out in nature, which on its own allows for the development of deep emotional connections with the environment.

My thesis research indicates that photographing wildlife increases awareness of biodiversity, interest in wildlife, environmental concern, and especially emotional attachment to nature. These in turn are likely to increase the likelihood of engaging in pro-environmental behavior. This is promising for communication practices around biodiversity and conservation.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Visual talk
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice