Impacts of Science Communication & Penguin Encounters: Creating Pro-environmental Concern

Sunday, February 14, 2016
Monae Verbeke, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom
This thesis explores the construction and negotiation zoos as spaces for public engagement with the environment, forming part of the field of science communication and environmental sociology. In addressing how social interactions in human-animal encounters serve act as a facilitation mechanism, this research analyses how cultural change in environmental science occurs. A case study is presented of penguin encounter participants at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), analysing visitor performance and cultural representations of zoos. The research explores how social interactions unfold in the zoological space by investigating the sociocultural ways through which visitors direct and enhance their personal and co-visitors’ meaning making. Ten participant performances were analysed in the context of joint encounters. Their performances were further analysed through their personal attitudes, as well as the sociocultural and institutional context of each encounter. Quantitative and qualitative data were gathered using questionnaires, observations and document analysis. Two patterns of discourse have been identified: the negotiation of environmental experts and engagement with environment through understandings of risk. From each of these themes, key points in the experiences used in the construction of the Trajectory Equifinality Model (TEM) of expertise and risk. The TEM uses individual cases to develop a clear understanding of the penguin encounters role in broader science communication practices. Ultimately, this research details how participant interactions with individual animals can encourage zoo visitors to build ex-situ species level environmental concern.