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The Geography of the Yellowstone to Yukon’s Social Science Research Agenda

10:20, Thursday 11 May 2023 EDT (20 minutes)

Conservation issues have strong human dimensions, be they political, cultural, and/or economic. Yet, the conservation community has prioritized the natural sciences, often outweighing social considerations when it comes to informing conservation decision-making, policy, and practice. This has led many people, including geographers, to call for the “mainstreaming of the social sciences” in conservation (See: Bennett et al., 2017). Despite positive steps in recent years, this mainstreaming remains gradual.


To address these calls, a new project at the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), one of North America’s leading conservation organizations, in partnership with the University of Northern British Columbia, has developed a social science research agenda for Y2Y. This work aims to integrate the social sciences across the organization’s research and programming in support of its mission to protect and connect the most ecologically intact large mountain system in the world (Theobald et al., in prep).


This presentation will speak directly to the role geography, as a critical discipline, and geographers can play in conducting applied research that can usefully inform the conservation of biodiversity across the Yellowstone to Yukon region, a nearly 3,400 km region spanning two Canadian provinces, the Yukon and Northwest Territories, five US states, and at least 75 Indigenous territories. 


The presentation outlines a list of overarching research questions that, if addressed, can support more strategic, effective, and just conservation outcomes in both protected areas and across broader landscapes, including the Yellowstone to Yukon region.


The presentation highlights both the results of this agenda-setting work and will focus specifically on how human geographers concerned with the co-constitution of space and society in the era of the Anthropocene, and exploring concepts such as place, scale, and landscape, can directly inform conservation efforts in the Yellowstone to Yukon region. For example, geographic insights into place and place attachment have been crucial to improving our understanding of what components of place people become attached to across vast scales and how such places give meaning to people’s lives (Smith, 2018). Through a discussion of an early-stage research project, currently underway and stemming from the aforementioned research agenda, this presentation will show how an investigation of place attachment, from a geographic perspective, can add value to better understanding what motivates people to take action for conservation across the Yellowstone to Yukon region, a crucial topic in the era of the Anthropocene (Clapperton & Piper, 2019; Grossman, 2017).

More broadly, the presentation of the priority research nodes identified by this research agenda process aims to facilitate a discussion that generates interest from geographers in attendance about these topics and intends to build collaborations and partnerships for future geographic research across the Yellowstone to Yukon region and beyond.

UNBC / Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative
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