Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Applying a social-ecological systems approach to human-bear encounters across the Pacific Rim: Advancing resilient human-wildlife management strategies
by Jochum, Kim A., Ph.D., University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2014, 215; 3640326
Abstract (Summary)

Wildlife management is challenged with addressing human resource needs while simultaneously conserving wildlife populations. Conflicts between humans and wildlife have increased across Northern countries with the expansion of human communities and environmental changes. Lack of information exists about reasons for such occurrences. This study explores adaptive capacity and resilience in coupled human-wildlife systems through the analysis of social and ecological factors contributing to perceptions of negative and positive human-bear ( Ursus spp.) encounters. I first developed a theory to evaluate human perceptions and behaviors during human-wildlife encounters. Secondly I adopted an interdisciplinary framework to analyze human-bear encounters in urbanizing regions of south Sakhalin Island, Russian Far-East, and southcentral Alaska, USA. These case studies facilitate an analysis of perception development across spatial and social scales while incorporating approaches of both social and ecological sciences. Hunting, tourism and overall anthropogenic impacts are central to bear management, whereas cultural and social interests are perceived to not be considered in bear management decision-making across study regions. In Alaska, political interests are prevalent in bear management, whereas on Sakhalin, economic interests, including illegal animal trade and poaching prevail. Across study regions the perception of an encounter with a bear was dependent on the socio-economic situation of the individual having the encounter. The higher a person's socio-economic status was, the higher was their probability to perceive bear encounters as positive. Further, spatial and social scales across which perceptions vary are identified. Scales include urban-non-urban areas, wildland-urban interfaces, and a recreation-subsistence interest divide. Outside of urban areas, people's interests in recreation versus subsistence affect their perceptions toward bear encounters. Subsistence collectors of fish, game or plants are more likely to have negative encounters. Within urban areas, increased experience with encountering bears and length of residency are associated with positive encounters, whereas closeness to residences while not in sheltered environments increases negative encounters. These findings constitute spatial and social barriers and benefits to individualistic perception formation during human-bear encounters. Their identification advances resilience in researched human-wildlife systems and helps us to understand the adaptive capacities within these communities. The successful spatially-explicit integration of social and ecological variables promotes the opportunities for integrating human dimensions in wildlife management.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hundertmark, Kris J., Alessa, Lilan
Commitee: Brinkman, Todd J., Kliskey, Andrew D.
School: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Department: Biology and Wildlife
School Location: United States -- Alaska
Source: DAI-B 76/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Wildlife Management, Ecology, Social psychology
Keywords: Alaska, Human behavior, Human-bear encounters, Human-wildlife management, Russian far-east, Ursus spp.
Publication Number: 3640326
ISBN: 9781321256932