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I admire his passion for conservation and his dedication to saving the jaguar from extinction.
Josh is currently running a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for
research on jaguars in Guyana.
Q.) How long have you been blogging, Josh?
A.) I have blogged since June of 2015, so for about a year and a half.
Q.) What sparked your interest in conservation?
A.) I have always loved animals. As a child, I enjoyed looking for deer in local parks, going to the Cleveland Zoo, and learning everything I could about wild animals. I always wanted to contribute to their conservation, but figured I had the wrong skill set. So at first I settled on Psychology, specifically Mental Health Counseling. However, after carrying out some voluntary work for the Center of Biological Diversity, and after discovering Wild Safari Live, I knew what I had to do. So now, I’m trying to use my social science background to help wild animals.
Q.) Why jaguars in particular?
A.) Many reasons, with the first being where they live. Jaguars inhabit some of the most bio-diverse landscapes on Earth. In order to conserve top predators like jaguars, you have to conserve all the links of the food chain they depend on. They also perform valuable services by keeping the populations of large herbivores and smaller predators in check. By conserving jaguars, then, we can benefit entire tropical ecosystems.
Another reason I focus on jaguars is the social challenges involved in protecting them. These wide-ranging animals occasionally harm livestock, and every now and then humans. As such, it is impossible to conserve them without fostering strong relationships with local people. My training in Counseling, and Psychology more generally, makes me well suited for this task.
But most importantly, jaguars are extraordinary creatures. The more I learn about them, the more fascinating they seem. As Richard Mahler puts it inThe Jaguar’s Shadow (2008), they are “miracles of evolution” that have “a right to exist.”
Q.) Why Guyana?
A.) Guyana is like nowhere else on Earth. This small, South American country is home to some of the largest tracts of unbroken rain forest in the world. This makes it a potential stronghold for threatened species like jaguars. However, reports of conflicts with jaguars are on the rise (J. Persaud, January 6, 2017, personal communication), It is therefore vital that I get in there now, in order to help address this conflict before it gets out of hand.
Q.) Tell us a little about your campaign and research.
A.) For my thesis, I want to spend several weeks living among local communities in Guyana: learning about their beliefs regarding jaguars. Beliefs about large predators have been found to influence their acceptability (Inskip et al., 2016; Carter, Riley, & Liu, 2012; Slagle, Zajac, Bruskotter, Wilson, & Orange, 2013), making this an important topic to study. Communications with conservationists in Guyana have confirmed that it would be helpful to learn more about people’s jaguar-related beliefs. But in order to carry out this research I will need funding.
This is where my GoFundMe campaign comes in. When I was applying to Humboldt State University, all the information about my Master’s program stated that students perform their research during their second year. I assumed this meant I had a whole year to learn about conducting research, make contacts, and plan my thesis. But when classes began, my cohorts and I were strongly encouraged to do our fieldwork this summer. This gives me little time to get everything in order, while simultaneously taking on a full course load: compromising my ability to acquire grants. But I refuse to give up, and have recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for my research.
Q.) Will you blog while traveling and conducting research?
A.) I will try my best. I am going to have limited internet access while in Guyana, so I can’t make any promises. But I will take lots of notes and pictures, and will have plenty to write about when I return!
Two years ago, when I decided to leave my Counseling program at Cleveland State University, I had no idea where my journey would take me. Now I am planning to study people’s beliefs about jaguars in Guyana for my Master’s research. This is a remarkable development, but I need your help to make it happen.