Statement of purpose:
My background in interpersonal, organizational, and rhetorical communication studies allows me to see the opportunities for people-focused, climate-change solutions. I am a believer that connecting people to the natural world through outdoor experiences can mitigate the effects of climate change. I discovered my passion for connecting parks and people while I was an undergraduate exploring the amazing landscapes of National Parks one summer. After those experiences, I let this new spark drive me to found, then lead, “The National Parks Club,” an organization dedicated to engaging students with issues of conservation by providing outdoor recreational and service experiences for all. After both witnessing and personally experiencing the profound ways experiences in nature can change attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyles, I was drawn to research how to best develop and use communication and connection as a climate mitigation strategy within natural resource management. Natural resource managers are at the frontlines of human interaction with the environment, and have the unique opportunity to teach and inspire people directly.
Description of research:
My research explores the local and global impact of climate change, and works to ensure that populations with varying backgrounds and influences are up to the tasks of addressing them, through promotion of social strategies such as fostering connection to nature and strong commitments to conservation. Connection to nature is linked to the development of pro-environmental behaviors and an environmental ethic that can last throughout a person’s life. These connections can be developed throughout different stages of life and are often promoted through educational programming or initiatives. My first study analyzes the influence of language used in evaluations on fourth and fifth grade students’ self-reported connection to nature. Ensuring the language used in evaluations is culturally responsive will in turn allow programs to be more inclusive, ultimately ensuring that everyone – regardless of background or lived experience – is ready to engage with environmental issues. My second study will critically examine the concept of ambassadorship in protected and natural area conservation, applying a conceptual model to Antarctic tour guiding. Within highly climate-change sensitive locations, like Antarctica, tourism impacts are exasperated and tour guides facilitate both the safety and learning of visitors, while mitigating their impact on the environment. This study will conduct a literature review to explore the conceptual alignment of protected area ambassadorship and tour guiding, then will work to validate a protected area ambassadorship conceptual model through qualitative interviews with Antarctic tour guides. The implications of these two respective studies should inform strategies for connecting humans with nature in various settings.
Kathryn Stevenson (Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, NCSU)