Guest blog and interview with Dr.Of.What

I am really excited to introduce my new weekly feature – Trail Blazer Tuesday.  There are so many fantastic individuals out there making serious waves in STEM, and I want to showcase them for you as best I can.  For our very first feature we have Bri (@dr.of.what), an Australian Conservation Psychologist with a real love for sharks and eco-tourism!

So, over to Dr.Of.What 🙂

Bri and her dog (Frodo) walking along the beach.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do –

As I am sure many of you know, our beautiful Planet Earth is facing serious challenges, these include deforestation, loss of biodiversity, global warming, and over fishing (just to name a few). There are so many wonderful people fighting to try to minimise these issues, however, there is obviously a lot lot more that needs to be done. I believe that the way forward is a holistic approach to conservation and sustainability that includes all kinds of fields. Particularly, as many of the issues facing our planet are caused by humans and psychology is the science of humans (in a very basic definition), psychology has a very important part. Conservation psychology, which simplistically is defined as the study of how humans help or hinder the environment, is an extremely essential component in the fight to sustainability.

I am biased, because I am a conservation psychology PhD student! My name is Bri, and I am now in my second year of my PhD and I’m very passionate about conservation, and in particular how to change human’s behaviours to be more sustainable. I, like most of you, had never heard of conservation psychology until I started my undergraduate degree in psychology (which I was planning on using to become a psychologist). After realising that being a psychologist wasn’t for me, and starting to research the area of conservation psychology for my honours I fell in love. I have always loved nature & animals so I feel truly blessed to get to do this for a job.

My current research is in ecotourism as I am very interested in using wildlife tourism to increase tourist’s knowledge, change their attitudes, and importantly encourage them to engage in sustainable behaviours. Specifically, I am interested in marine ecotourism. I am not sure why I have always been drawn to the ocean, but I am. The ocean is facing detrimental challenges- Plastic pollution, over fishing, shark finning, oil spills, and so many other things, and I am very passionate about trying to make a small difference to these issues.

Plastic pollution littered across a beach.
Image credit: Plastic Pollution Coalition

As I said before, there are so many people who are working in the conservation field, and they all make me feel so proud to be working alongside them.

One thing that we particularly focus on in conservation psychology is the importance of highlighting that small changes can make a difference. Often the ‘big’ problems like global warming and deforestation can be very overwhelming and I think it can be hard to know how us, as individuals can make a difference, but we can!

Reduce your plastic, bring a reusable coffee cup, choose ethical ecotourism, and find other small changes that you can do!

Bri walking along the coast.

Why do you think the psychology of humans is so important in conservation?

Because it is human behaviours driving the sustainability and conservation crisis, it is essential to understand why humans behave in unsustainable ways and how to encourage people to perform sustainable behaviours. Understanding other aspects of psychology (e.g. attitudes, knowledge, personality etc.) is also vital in the fight for sustainability.

What do you hope to achieve with your research?

What I hope to achieve with my current research is to understand the best ways to use ecotourism to promote conservation. I am very passionate about using tourism for good, as it is such a huge industry and has immense potential. In the ideal world I would love to see all wildlife based tourism be run in an ethical way.

What’s a typical day for you?

It depends on the day! My days change all the time, generally I am either working in my office at uni, or at home. Currently I am analysing data for both my first and second studies so that involves a lot of statistics and excel hours. I am also currently preparing for my teaching roles this semester, and I am always so working on my conservation volunteer role (which includes presenting to school students). You can get a better insight into what I do in my days on my ‘day in the life of a PhD student’ on my blog.

Thanks Bri for allowing us into your world 🙂  Keep your eyes peeled for next week’s feature.

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