Concepts for Wildlife Science: Theory

Part of the Springer Series on Environmental Management book series (SSEM)

We conduct wildlife studies in the pursuit of knowledge. Therefore, an understanding of what knowledge is and how it is acquired is foundational to wildlife science. Adequately addressing this topic is a daunting challenge for a single text because wildlife science is a synthetic discipline that encompasses aspects of a vast array of other academic disciplines. For example, many vibrant wildlife science programs include faculty who study molecular biology, animal physiology, biometrics, systems analysis, plant ecology, animal ecology, conservation biology, and environmental sociology, humanities, education, economics, policy, and law. The primary emphasis of this text is the design of wildlife-related field studies. Those addressing other aspects of wildlife science should find the text useful, but will undoubtedly require additional sources on design. For example, those interested in learning how to design quantitative or qualitative studies of how humans perceive wildlife-related issues will find the excellent texts by Dillman (2007) and Denzin and Lincoln (2005) useful.

In this chapter, we begin by discussing philosophical issues as they relate to science. After all, it makes little sense to begin collecting data before clearly understanding the nature of the entity being studied (ontology), what constitutes knowledge and how it is acquired (epistemology), and why one thinks the research question is valuable, the approach ethical, and the results important (axiology). Moreover, the philosophy of science provides a logical framework for generating meaningful and well-defined questions based on existing theory and the results of previous studies. It provides also a framework for combining the results of one’s study into the larger body of knowledge about wildlife and for generating new questions, thus completing the feedback loop that characterizes science. For these reasons, we outline how scientific methodology helps us acquire valuable knowledge both in general and in specific regarding wildlife. We end the chapter with a brief discussion of terminology relevant to the remaining chapters.


Natural Science Strong Inference Alluvial Valley Justify True Belief Crossword Puzzle 
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