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Researching ecological impacts

Calver, M.C.ORCID: 0000-0001-9082-2902 (2005) Researching ecological impacts. In: Newsome, D., Dowling, R. K. and Moore, S. A., (eds.) Wildlife Tourism. Channel View Publications, Clevedon, Buffalo, pp. 235-256.

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Wildlife tourism seeks to increase people’s chances of exhilarating close encounters with wildlife in a context that also protects the animals. The methodologies developed by wildlife biologists to study the behaviour, ecology and management of wildlife are integral in achieving this aim and informing management of the best options to ensure the sustainability of wildlife tourism operations.

An emphasis on testing predictions derived from hypotheses may be the most important approach wildlife biology can give to applied studies of the impacts of wildlife tourism. The experience of over 50 years of wildlife biology crystallised in the 1980s and 1990s into the view that research should collect experimental or observational data to test explicit predictions about the system under study. A concise formulation of this position is:
....specific questions about nature. . . ordinarily
stated as hypotheses, which are statements about
how someone thinks that nature works. In other
words, they contain implied predictions, and
confirmation of those predictions is the most
powerful means available to demonstrate their
accuracy of our understanding of the world around us.
(Hairston, 1989: 12)

Hypotheses that do not yield testable predictions only describe events rather than explain them, so an emphasis on predictions links cause and effect explicitly and offers unambiguous advice to management (e.g. Bergerud, 1974; Romesberg, 1985; Caughley & Gunn, 1996; Ratti & Garton, 1996; Ford, 2000). In keeping with this philosophy, this chapter has five aims:

• to outline a hypothesis-testing framework for answering questions about the impacts of wildlife tourism;
• to demonstrate how testable predictions can be developed for assessing putative impacts of wildlife tourism;
• to facilitate choice of study techniques by providing concise descriptions of the major research approaches and field techniques relevant to elucidating the impacts of wildlife tourism, with an indication of key references which expand these points more fully;
• to outline key issues in data analysis, drawing conclusions and publishing the results of studies of the impacts of wildlife tourism;
• to show how the hypothesis-testing framework can be integrated into adaptive management of wildlife tourism.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Publisher: Channel View Publications
Copyright: (c) 2005 David Newsome, Ross K. Dowling, Susan A. Moore and the authors of the individual chapters
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