Pathways 2018 Conference Theme: Resurrecting the Wild

The Pathways Conference aims at bringing researchers and practitioners together that value the potential contributions of social science to the improvement of conservation management. The conference was initially launched in 2008 by the Colorado State University. The 2018 conference in Goslar marks the first stint in Europe and wants to attracts enthusiastic presenters and trainers allowing professionals to participate and engage with similar professionals across national, state, and institutional boundaries.

Issues of interest to the conference include, but are not limited to these following topics and themes:

  • management of human-wildlife conflicts,
  • institutional, governance and legal requirements for human-wildlife coexistence,
  • management of recreational fisheries,
  • social science integration into conservation management
  • values, attitudes, norms, emotions and fears as explaining variables for the acceptance of nature conservation and wildlife management,
  • managing stakeholder expectations and engagement processes,
  • coupled social-ecological systems,
  • human involvement in nature and wildlife conservation (volunteer and citizen science motivations and management),
  • managerial tools such as human dimensions communication and education.

Since the introduction of the EU’s nature legislation – namely the Birds Directive (1979) and the Habitats Directive which jointly create the Natura 2000 network – the number of strictly protected species and the area of protected areas in Europe have increased manifold. As a matter of fact, Natura 2000 is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world and covers 18% of the land area and 6% of its marine territory. Over the course of the last two decades, many endangered species have made a remarkable recovery. Most emblemic are large carnivores such as brown bear, wolf, lynx and wolverine, but other species such as beaver, otter, Northern geese, cormorant or crane are included in this list as well. All these species, regardless whether they are carni-, herbi- or omnivorous, bring with them a potential for conflict as most parts of Europe have been cultivated by humankind for centuries, if not millennia. Hence, their return requires adaption of human behavior and management strategies to allow co-existence and to minimize conflicts. In addition, other management issues in nature conservation – such as the rising numbers and abundance of alien invasive species – require better multi- or interdisciplinary scientific approaches and transdisciplinary settings in order to improve the interface between scientific research and practical field experience from many affected stakeholder groups. Especially important is the integration of social sciences into conservation and wildlife management strategies as most managerial efforts require dealing with species, habitats, and human beings.


In a nutshell, these challenges may be reference as the “human dimensions of conservation and wildlife management” as they deal with the social attitudes, processes, and behaviors related to how we maintain, protect, enhance, and use our natural resources.  Managing natural resources involves not only ecological processes, but also social processes and their combined consequences as well. Human dimensions research examines how the “science of human systems” or theory-based social science can improve natural resource management and focuses on how people’s knowledge, values, and behaviors influence and are affected by decisions about the conservation of wildlife and management of natural resources. It is important groundwork for integrated management approaches that reflect all pillars of sustainable development and, in the end, would provide for an improved management of Natura 2000 throughout Europe.