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Community participation in biodiversity monitoring

Hobbs, Sarah (2012) Community participation in biodiversity monitoring. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

The involvement of communities with wildlife is increasing on a global scale. Participatory approaches differ across the world, from natural resource management, environmental quality monitoring, to species and habitat data gathered through citizen science programmes. The personal and community benefits of engaging with nature are acknowledged through ongoing research, particularly in terms of health and wellbeing, yet simultaneously people are becoming increasingly distanced from nature due to factors such as urbanisation. In order to maximise the benefits associated with participatory initiatives, it is important to engage with a cross section of societal groups, providing opportunities for all, at the same time as collecting wildlife data from all habitats. In this study, I confirm that participation in citizen science can achieve social and potentially community-level benefits on national, local and individual scales. Through semi-structured qualitative interviews, I found that conservation organisations strive to engage with a cross section of societal groups. However, postcode analysis of current wildlife recording scheme participants confirmed that socioeconomically deprived communities are under-represented in these activities. I designed a simple garden wildlife study in a socioeconomically deprived community to investigate the reasons behind this, and found that although a proportion of residents were motivated to participate, the majority had not done so in the past, which was largely attributed to a lack of awareness of opportunities. Despite this, many of these participants shared the same motivations for participation as those currently engaged. Working with a small group of community volunteers, I used semi-structured interviews to reveal that participation in an ecological study can bring about positive personal benefits with the potential to lead on to wider positive outcomes in the future. A significant factor in these transformative effects appeared to be the role of activity practitioners in supporting future participation. Alongside this investigation, a study of habitat use by hedgehogs in an urban setting, current garden management, and resources in the wider area appeared to have a positive effect upon hedgehogs. Throughout all participants in this study, motivations for involvement were centred on contributing to a local study, an interest in the focal wildlife species/taxa, helping conservation and learning. Gardening for wildlife was a popular activity, with many participants reporting both an active encouragement of wildlife into the garden, and a desire to learn more about this topic. This thesis demonstrates how traditional environmental activities are not successfully engaging with people from socioeconomically deprived communities. There are likely to be many factors associated with this, but from the findings of this research, some recommendations can be made to improve future participatory approaches as well as building upon the positive effects of working with community volunteers.  

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Community participation, OPAL, socioeconomically deprived, citizen science
Academic Units: The University of York > Environment (York)
Depositing User: Miss Sarah Hobbs
Date Deposited: 28 May 2012 13:34
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:48
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2377

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