Research Spotlight

The Center for Conservation Social Science

By Nia Morales

FWRI has a brand-new research center! The Center for Conservation Social Science Research (CCSSR) focuses on the complex relationships between people and the fish, wildlife and habitat resources FWC conserves and protects. The CCSSR, much like FWRI’s Center for Biostatistics and Modelling and the Center for Spatial analysis, has a two-fold mission of providing consulting services and supporting broader FWC programs. The center, led by Nia Morales, is comprised of human dimensions specialists Ramesh Paudyal and Matty Cleary, and economist Julian Hwang. The CCSSR does not have a physical location that citizens can visit, rather a group of like-minded individuals working towards a shared goal. We also work with Ann Forstchen and Seth Lutter for additional support and expertise. The core group of social scientists provides consulting services for FWC programs- this includes advisement and consultation for biologists and other FWC staff on the development and implementation of social science inquiry. Staff affiliated with the center support the development and integration of social science within broader FWC programs. CCSSR staff also conduct trainings for FWC staff on qualitative and quantitative social science methods, science communication, and stakeholder outreach and education.

This new center is born of the increased need for the agency to understand and incorporate public attitudes and opinions into natural resource decision-making. Humans are at the heart of most of our most pressing conservation issues and understanding how people interact with fish, wildlife, and their habitats as well as their opinions and attitudes towards management are important. Human dimensions and conservation social science use scientific methods to describe, understand, predict, and affect human attitudes and behaviors toward the natural environment. The field incorporates methods, theories, and techniques from a broad array of social sciences like economics, sociology, anthropology, psychology, political science and education.

Some projects that our staff are currently involved in include providing support to strategic initiative teams, assessing the economic impacts of bass tournament fishing in Florida, measuring caller satisfaction with the conflict wildlife hotline, understanding private landowner opinions about FWC, and developing a management plan for black crappie. As FWC continues to increase capacity for conservation social science, we can be better suited to addressing conservation challenges now and in the future.

If you or your staff want to know more about conservation social science or have a project or idea with a social science component, please reach out to Nia Morales ( For more information on the Center see