Erin Luther

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Erin comes from Nova Scotia, Canada. She received a multi-year grant  to explore the ways in which wildlife aid organizations are adapting their strategies and communications to a re-imagined notion of wildness in a rapidly urbanizing world, and how these efforts resonate with urban residents and their encounters with wild animals in the city. Erin writes:

I have been a multi-year recipient of a grant that has been critical in enabling me to both pursue and present my research. It has provided the funding for travel to interview wildlife organizations and to present the research at conferences, as well as for data analysis software. As I wrap up this research in 2017, I am preparing a number of articles for publication discussing current trends in wildlife advocacy and possible future directions. In a research note for an upcoming issue of Society and Animals, I describe the evolution of urban wildlife organizations and how they fit into the changing picture of conservation. A central goal of this research is to inform wildlife advocacy strategies that can challenge conventional modes of valuing wildlife, and ones that resonate with our increasingly urban experience.

The notion of wildness is changing, and with it, the face of wildlife advocacy. The popular conception of the wild as a place untouched by humans—pristine, fragile, and in need of protection against seemingly unnatural impacts—has long been a driving metaphor in wildlife conservation. This idea that the wild worth saving is “out there” has meant that organizations focused on helping urban wildlife have often struggled for legitimacy in the environmental sphere. In recent years, however, many big conservation organizations have begun to adopt a more expansive view of nature in their communications—one that includes humans, and can be encountered even in cities. My research explores the ways that different wildlife organizations—from big conservation groups to urban rehabilitation centres—are defining ethical relations with wildlife in a rapidly urbanizing world, and how the narratives they use shape policy, public perception, and consequently, the lives of wild animals living in the city.