Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Ecosystem Science and Policy (Graduate)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Kenneth Broad

Second Committee Member

Gina Maranto

Third Committee Member

Neil Hammerschlag

Fourth Committee Member

Jennifer Jacquet


It is widely recognized that historical data about human interactions with the natural world is critical to understanding anthropogenic environmental change over time (McNeill, 2001). However, the potential contribution of interdisciplinary historical perspectives to wildlife conservation problems remains largely unexplored. Human-wildlife interactions are informed by a variety of factors, including the scientific and ecological literacy of human populations, human values, the availability of habitat and resources for human and animal populations, and the types of resource conflicts taking place (or likely to take place) (Treves et al., 2006). The role of historical interactions in shaping present attitudes and conflicts can be significant, but often not recognized or fully understood (Rangarajan, 2013). Similarly, more work is needed to contextualize modern conservation science within the larger history of long-term human-wildlife relationships. In spite of growing recognition that natural and social systems are inextricably intertwined, the contribution historians and social scientists can make to conservation-associated academic disciplines is only beginning to be realized (Jacobson & Duff, 1998; Saunders, 2003; Mascia et al., 2003; Campbell, 2005). This dissertation uses a case study approach to demonstrate the potential contribution of historical perspectives, data, and context to understanding present and future human-wildlife interactions. Many of these relationships are seen as being in the process of being reshaped and renegotiated. The sudden and explosive growth of global wildlife tourism is one of the clearest examples of these changes, as species are increasingly sought out and commodified for humans to experience (Reynolds & Braithwaite, 2001). Wildlife tourism has been embraced by many conservation organizations and researchers as an ostensibly non-consumptive way to monetize and conserve wildlife while meeting human demand for sustainable economic development (e.g., Vianna et al., 2010). However, there have been limited efforts to place these developments, and human-wildlife relationships more broadly, in their full historical context. Chapter one, the introduction, situates the dissertation in relation to the field of interdisciplinary environmental history. Chapter two addresses the history and present status of academic research on wildlife tourism, and the impacts of current tourism practices on wildlife and human participants. It evaluates these as growing out of historic patterns of relation and intersection between scientists, wildlife, and the public. Chapter three uses the definitions and potential costs and benefits of wildlife tourism identified in chapter two to create survey questions for the general public about their understanding and perceptions of wildlife tourism. Chapter four demonstrates the potential of historical data to contribute to our understanding of conservation threats by exploring the long-term usage of scleractinian corals for medicinal purposes. Chapter five analyzes news reporting on shark attacks in South Africa to argue that “Jaws” may not be as valuable an explanatory frame for human-shark relations as previously believed. Chapter six discusses the limitations which historical patterns of human-shark interactions are likely to place on the potential expansion of shark tourism globally, and how these histories may inform regulatory policy and management. Chapter seven examines how the hybridization of polar and grizzly bears may upset historical understandings of “species” and “speciation,” and explores how the public understands and applies those concepts. The final chapter offers a synthesis of these cases studies and some general conclusions about the potential value of environmental history to contribute to our understanding of wildlife conservation challenges.


Wildlife; Policy; History; Interdisciplinary; Human-Wildlife