Education and the future of conservation


The future of conservation is uncertain. There are ongoing debates about what the goals and tools of conservation should be. Over the coming decades, those studying conservation today will play a key role in shaping the direction of the field. Formal conservation training is no longer confined to natural science departments. Instead, conservation education now includes a range of perspectives and a variety of different academic disciplines (such as anthropology and politics). However, little is known about the topics covered in conservation courses and the role of formal education in shaping the views of conservation students.

This research will investigate the role of higher education in shaping the views and skills of future conservation leaders. A mixed methods approach will be used to map current conservation teaching and investigate how students’ conservation perspectives are influenced by the conservation education that they receive. The flow diagram below shows the different stages in this research project:

First, online surveys will be sent to module/unit coordinators to map the topics and skills being covered in conservation modules/units across the UK and Australia. For further information about this survey, please see our survey web page.

In the second stage, we will be using a before-after survey design to explore students’ conservation perspectives and investigate whether they change in relation to their conservation teaching. The before and after surveys will include the 38 statements from the Future of Conservation Project. For more information on this stage of the research, please visit our before-after study webpage. Alongside the surveys, focus groups will be conducted to further investigate students’ attitudes towards controversial topics in conservation.

Finally, I intend to interview conservation educators about the challenges of teaching conservation and the role of interdisciplinarity in conservation higher education.

This research will provide an overview of current conservation training and new insights into the role of conservation teaching in shaping the next generation of conservationists.


Helena Slater (PhD student, University of Edinburgh)


Aidan Keane (University of Edinburgh)
Janet Fisher (University of Edinburgh)
George Holmes (University of Leeds)
Chris Sandbrook (University of Cambridge)


NERC E4 Doctoral Training Partnership