Identifying and Clarifying the Multiple Identities of U.S. Conservationists by Listening to Their Voices
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Persons interested in conservation are often involved in negotiating their identities based on cultural values that guide what it means to be conservationists within the United States. In this dissertation, I focused on how negotiation of multiple identities impacts decisions regarding conservation and interactions with others. I adopted a critical interpretative lens to explore how conservationist identity emerged from roles of conservation scientists as they promote biodiversity conservation and negotiate the scientist-advocate paradox, agriculturalist producers as they talked about Best Management Practices (BMPs) for the Yellowstone River, and local community leaders that explained their governance of the Yellowstone River watershed and negotiated tensions between individual rights and the common good. In my first study, I analyzed professional conservation biology literature to determine how it framed credibility. Findings indicated that when identifying themselves as conservationists, conservation scientists typically discussed credibility as a static entity lacking dimensionality (expertise, trustworthiness, and goodwill). They identified expertise or trustworthiness as important, but rarely mentioned goodwill. For my next study, I selected a cultural inventory research approach to examine voices agriculturalists used to construct their conservation identity. Findings indicated that agriculturalists, when identifying themselves as conservationists, talked about their ecological and social responsibilities and explained how conservation and production are intricately linked to enable them to provide a sustainable resource base for future generations. In my final study, I used informant directed interviews to enable local community leaders to explain their perspectives about democratic governance along the Yellowstone River. Results indicated that when identifying themselves as conservationists, local community leaders talked about negotiating the democratic paradox and the importance of agonistic pluralism to effectively govern the Yellowstone River watershed. Overall, this research demonstrates that negotiation of multiple identities may differ when addressed to professional and lay audiences that perform particular roles associated with natural resource conservation. These findings offer general principles that can be applied to similar groups involved in conservation across the United States and enable an enhanced understanding of how the negotiation of multiple identities impacts decisions regarding conservation and interactions with others.
Horton, Cristi Laine Choat (2015). Identifying and Clarifying the Multiple Identities of U.S. Conservationists by Listening to Their Voices. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from