Human Dimensions: Bridging Ecology and Social Science for Better Decision Making

by Nia Haynes


While part of a fish and wildlife manager’s work is to understand animal population levels and trends, actual management decisions take place in an environment that includes social, cultural, economic, and political elements. These decisions can’t focus on ecological science alone. The human factor is often the least understood, yet a primary factor influencing many environmental issues.

My job as a human dimensions (HD) specialist is to use social science to describe, understand, and predict human attitudes and behaviors toward the natural environment and wildlife, specifically freshwater systems. HD bridges ecological science with social science and forms the basis for making better management decisions in ways that will enhance our ability to conserve and manage our natural resources and encourage an open and informed exchange of ideas.

I’m currently designing a state-wide survey of freshwater angler values, attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors. I’m also working with other FWC staff to help them develop or enhance understanding of their diverse stakeholder attitudes and behaviors through social science methods like surveys, interviews, and focus groups and through outreach and education. If you’re interested in learning how HD can help freshwater fisheries issue in your area, contact me at

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