Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 40 credits / 60 HE credits
Citizens worldwide are increasingly volunteering in natural resource management and governments as well as public and private environmental organizations rely heavily on unpaid volunteers to further their commitments. Another growing trend is adaptive and co-management approaches to ecosystem-based management. For this thesis purpose the focus will be on adaptive co-management and the knowledge gap about the sustainability and challenges of this approach when it relies greatly on and is driven by citizen volunteers.
Studies stress a need to increase knowledge about volunteer-based natural resource management - who volunteers, volunteer motivations and experiences, as well as challenges associated with volunteerism in order to sustain volunteers’ commitments in the long term.
The study aims to contribute to an understanding of volunteer motivations and the long-term viability of a volunteer-based adaptive co-management through a case study of Noosa biosphere reserve in Queensland, Australia. Methods used are both qualitative and quantitative; where the analysis is based on semi-structured interviews with 18 key informants and a survey conducted with 42 volunteers.
The study shows an advantage of relying on volunteers to be when volunteer involvement maximizes quantity of social networks enabling communication between diverse actors and groups in society. The results also indicate that shared decision-making power amongst the volunteers enhances a creative learning environment; accumulating knowledge through experiments combined with science that fosters self-organization.
However, challenges emerged such as the notion of volunteers’ pet projects where actions are not necessarily based on urgent issues of the social-ecological system. Additionally, volunteer burnout and turnover often results in knowledge and skill turnover, which in turn hampers feedback processes and the capacity to adapt.
Reflecting motivations emerging as important, the study suggests three underlying motivational categories that can be used to increase managerial capacity in order to sustain volunteer commitments and the long-term viability of a volunteer-based adaptive co-management: a) the Moralist, being morally convicted to promote sustainable trajectories; the Hands-on environmentalist, wanting to use ones skills and learn and interact in ones natural environment; and the Social contributor, whose aim is to strengthen social ties and contribute to the community and future generations.
2014. , 59 p.
adaptive co-management; Noosa biosphere reserve; social-ecological resilience; volunteer motivations