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My Research

The traditional approach to academic research of selecting one study system and sticking with it for an entire career never felt like a good fit for me. My interests are wide-ranging, and this is partially reflected in my research topics: peat swamp forest ecology, forest recovery after landslides, wildlife crime, and environmental education, among others. I'm content working on a variety of ecosystems, species, and conservation problems, provided they meet one requirement.

 

That requirement? That the work will make a difference for conservation.

While I continue to lead research into range of conservation problems, my largest current research program focuses on the way in which biodiversity conservation is portrayed in online media, including social media. I am a co-PI of the Impacts of Social Media on Wildlife project funded by Princeton Language and Intelligence, and over the past few years my colleagues and I have published papers analyzing comments on orangutan videos and the effect of captioning on Instagram posts of primates. One of our current research avenues is to follow up the Instagram study with one focusing on big cats, to understand how information in captions affects viewer perceptions of humans with big cats.

This research has meaningful impact. Understanding best practices in posting images of wild animals on social media - a ubiquitous feature of our lives - could improve conservation communications and reduce demand for these animals in the illegal wildlife trade.

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