CLS Congratulates Thomas Offer Westort

We are happy to announce that Tom successfully defended his Master’s Thesis titled “Attitudes About Acceptable Risk in the Context of the Biodiversity Crisis” on April 12th. Crafting and enforcing conservation policy requires making normative judgements about what levels of risk are acceptable. These judgements include crucial decisions that impact which species qualify as “endangered.” If a government’s policies are going to represent the values of the public they govern, then public attitudes should be understood. Unfortunately, essentially nothing is known about public attitudes as they pertain to acceptable risk and the biodiversity crisis.

Read more about Tom’s research below.

My research aims to address this gap using data from an internet-based survey (n=1050). I focused on the Endangered Species Act of 1973 which defines an endangered species as “any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” Because a species’ risk of extinction increases with decreasing geographic range, the phrase “significant portion of its range” requires a judgement about what level of risk is acceptable. I then examined how the public’s attitudes regarding risk differs both from the guidance provided by conservationists and the practices of government agencies. I also explored the extent to which variation in attitudes could be explained by relevant knowledge, social identity, level of education, personality, moral foundations, and numeracy. I then used structural equation modeling to model the relationships between predictors.


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