Measuring the Impact of Human Behavior on Conservation Efforts

Human activities are often the direct cause of threats to wild species and habitats. Conserving our planet’s biodiversity requires understanding which of our activities do harm, and developing and implementing sustainable practices and behaviors that will benefit both human populations and the nature that surrounds them.
CBSG’s approach to endangered species conservation planning already takes the human element into account by explicitly including a variety of stakeholders in planning workshops that use stakeholders’ knowledge and expertise to create effective solutions to species conservation. However, we need to expand our thinking to further include the human behavioral element and to develop increasingly comprehensive, community-based conservation plans while remaining true to our trademark focus on rigorous quantitative scientific analysis.
To help us achieve this goal, we have initiated a partnership with Rare, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that emphasizes social change in its global biodiversity conservation programs. Rare takes into account human needs and behavior, beliefs about nature, and local pride to better understand communities with the greatest stake in conserving a species or area. Staff at Rare use expertise in social marketing to create a “Theory of Change” that seeks to identify how raising awareness and shifting attitudes can facilitate behavioral change for the benefit of local communities and biodiversity.

However, implementing this theory on the ground requires a practical prediction of the types of behaviors, and the magnitude of change in those behaviors, that are necessary to see a positive outcome for the future of an endangered species.
That's where CBSG comes in: through contributing additional quantitative rigor to Rare’s work through our respected approach to population viability analysis and use of predictive modeling tools like Vortex.

The first test of this initiative took place in northern Peru in mid-August, where CBSG and Rare met with experts on species biology and local forest conservation to discuss threats to the Critically Endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda). Using the information gathered at the workshop, CBSG is conducting a PVA-based risk assessment for local populations of the woolly monkey.

A second, larger workshop, tentatively scheduled for spring 2014, will bring together a broad group of local stakeholders and international conservation organizations to identify promising behavior change scenarios to be implemented. Rare will then work with local communities to facilitate the implementation of these strategies and monitor progress towards the desired conservation result.
We look forward to exploring complex questions around how knowledge, attitudes, and communication must develop in order to influence human behavioral change—change that is beneficial to local biodiversity while respecting the norms and needs of associated human communities.