Former ABS student, Nick Jacobsen, received his PhD in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences in May 2017. His research focused on how national and international policies shape local people’s interactions with and attitudes towards large predators. With that goal in mind, his doctoral dissertation research combined methods from social science and behavioral ecology to investigate a social-ecological system made up of people, livestock, and wildlife in northern Botswana. Specifically, he compared two neighboring villages that have drastically different land use strategies. One falls within a Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) area, and therefore participates in a co-managed wildlife tourism operation. The other falls outside of the CBNRM zone, and relies primarily on livestock production and subsistence agriculture. By comparing social and ecological data from these two villages, Jacobsen focused on three specific objectives: 1) evaluate how livelihood strategies shape human-predator relationships, 2) investigate the difference in behavior of lions in these two areas, and 3) assess the linkages between local human-predator relationships, national land-use policies, and the behavior of large predators. He found that for local farmers, the costs and benefits they received from wildlife combined with underlying cultural factors to inform their attitudes and behaviors towards lions and other predators. Land-use policies set by the government have complex and sometimes unintended impacts on costs and benefits, and therefore affect the potential for people to coexist with wildlife.
Nick is grateful that the ABS program gave him the opportunity to design such a project while also providing the framework for fostering numerous collaborations with local and national institutions interested in similar issues. He is currently employed as a lecturer at Texas A&M University in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Science.