Sea turtle conservation: Volunteers’ experience of symbolic threat


Sociology and Criminal Justice

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Most research on environmental conservation organizations addresses volunteers’ motivations. A few studies analyze volunteers’ production of ecological knowledge and their contributions to science. There is scant research into organization members’ experiences as they perform their roles as conservation volunteers. This study examines the processes through which conservation volunteers derive meaning from their experiences using a case study of a volunteer sea turtle conservation group. Data from semi-structured interviews and field observations reveal conflict-ridden interactions between members of the conservation organization and three other groups: tourists, beach vendors, and the local tourist development council. Conservation volunteers perceive symbolic threat, in the form of value violations, from the other three groups. Symbolic threat influences volunteers’ emotions and behavior. An increased understanding of volunteers’ experiences of threat can suggest ways to make their experience more rewarding, thus increasing their likelihood of continued participation, and ensuring the sustainability of the conservation organization.

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Journal of Environmental Planning and Management

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