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An Interconnected Approach to Biodiversity Education and Stewardship Inspired by Arachnolgical Research

Karikó, S. J. (2018) An Interconnected Approach to Biodiversity Education and Stewardship Inspired by Arachnolgical Research. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,.

Abstract

When reflecting upon how the results of the past several decades of robust scientific studies and practitioners' work have not resulted in the type of engaged citizenry and political will to make significant changes to protect the environment, Gus Speth, former Dean of Yale School of Forestry and one of the Founders of the National Environmental Defense Fund called for "a cultural and spiritual transformation" (Crockett, 2014). Disciplines like the new discipline of planetary health that are concerned with "the health of human civilization and the state of the natural systems on which it depends" (Bosurgi and Horton, 2017; Rodin, 2015) are also calling for paradigm shifts (Myers, 2017).

But how do we create these transformational changes?

Humankind (but not all people equally) is disrupting natural systems and processes at a rate unprecedented in previous evolutionary history, acting with the might of a geologic force on the rest of nature. Biodiversity conservation education has historically applied a science-first model that has proved inadequate to make significant changes in how humans care for each other and steward the earth. In recent years, the field of conservation biology has begun incorporating the social sciences and psychology as well as recognizing and valuing indigenous knowledge - Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and Native Science (Cajete, 2000) - in response to the need for more effective solutions that take into account the impact of human behavior. Yet in the field of conservation biology the Arts have not been considered an equal partner for the field in research and education (A'Bear et al. 2017; Ardalan, 2013). Field research stations have a long history of exploring this combination of scientific research, public engagement and the arts (Swanson, 2015). In the broader educational landscape, the American National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine's (NASEM) 2018 consensus study "The Integration of the Humanities and Arts with Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Higher Education: Branches from the Same Tree" (Branches from the Same Tree) calls for an integration of disciplines and incorporation of the Arts as part of understanding and finding solutions to the challenges facing humankind in the 21st century. However the committee does not emphasize an understanding of biodiversity and humanity's place within the web of life, instead using the metaphor of the tree of knowledge and framework of workplace skills for the 21st century (NASEM, 2018).

In this interconnecting text, I begin with a discussion of the intertwined nature of current environmental challenges and opportunities, and how these problems are understood and characterized in bodies of literature. Then I consider current approaches to biodiversity conservation and education and respond to the widespread recognition for the need for paradigm shifts to address the intertwined challenges of the 21st century--challenges that cannot be separated out into single disciplines but require an integrated, multidisciplinary approach with accompanying collaborative skills to work across disciplinary and cultural boundaries. In response, I propose an interconnected approach that seeks to understand and make visible the often hidden connections among species and systems to help us better understand the nature of these challenges and help us find solutions.

I focus on spiders as the connecting thread and framing metaphor for this research, as well as the focus of scientific study. Although not all spiders make webs, all produce silk, and they provide the metaphor of the web-a way to consider the myriad interconnections and relationships among the organisms in the web of life and how actions impact each other-rippling out across a web to vibrate even seemingly distant (yet connected) parts. Spiders can be found almost everywhere on earth (except in Antarctica to date), as well as being critical to ecosystem functioning and comprising a highly diverse group of organisms (Hughes et al., 2010; Lewis, 2006). To explore these relationships and contribute to scientific understanding of invertebrates, I explore these questions by focusing on spiders.

The 'toolbox' my research draws from involves not only science, but also the creative arts (including participation in and co-creation of works of public art) and skill building (i.e., developing ways of teaching and learning about biodiversity, and offering negotiation training based on mutual gains theory) to enhance the possibility for finding innovative solutions and building networks of people with the capacity to work together. I identify some of the challenges facing biodiversity conservation and education, since many education systems and funding institutions are not necessarily set up to facilitate this type of understanding nor skill building, and I then propose an interconnected approach that embeds the arts and takes inspiration from nature. I outline this approach in detail and follow this with my own works, drawing upon the combination of my field experiences and research.

My research has resulted in scientific publications, museum exhibits, lectures, poems, movement labs, and educational experiences in formal and informal learning environments. These works contribute to the scientific understanding of the biodiversity of spiders, take a deeper look at the structural origins of color, and take inspiration from these animals to create participatory educational opportunities. Taken together, they address three of the seven challenges for invertebrate conservation identified by Cardoso et al. (2011): (1) the public dilemma; (2) the scientific dilemma; and (3) the Linnaean shortfall, as well as the UN Aichi Biodiversity Target 1 "By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably" (UN Environment, 2016). I then discuss challenges and questions for further research. In this text, I argue for an approach to biodiversity conservation and education that takes inspiration from nature, embeds the creative arts as integral to research and discovery - not just in service to Western science - and explores how the arts can be a catalyst for change as well as a thread that brings people together. In so doing, I address the idea, often attributed to Einstein, that we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that was used to create them; proposing that an interconnected approach be applied in the context of biodiversity conservation and education.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Bride, Ian
Uncontrolled keywords: Interconnectedness, Spiders, Biodiversity Education, Conservation, Stewardship, Art & Science, Art, Creativity, Collaboration, Museum Education and Exhibits, Organismal Biology, Arachnology, Negotiation, Power of Story, Poetry
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2019 15:05 UTC
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2019 07:17 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/74550 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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