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Wednesday 17 November 2021 10:01am

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Dr Wiebke Finkler

An Otago researcher is breaking the “doom and gloom” narrative of sustainability issues, bringing conservation stories from across the globe to light.

Dr Wiebke Finkler, from the University of Otago’s Department of Marketing, is celebrating the publishing of her new book The Science of Hope.

The book explores the importance of hope when it comes to communicating science.

Its pages are filled with breath-taking images by leading wildlife photographers, informative chapters about humans’ desire to connect with animals, and positive conservation effort stories.

Dr Finkler says she wanted to write a book that empowers people and offers doable solutions and strategies for positive change.

“People are tired of hearing that they can’t do anything about sustainability issues and that it is all doom and gloom – I wanted to offer something that is applied and brings people together,” she says.

“Hope is not just an emotion – there is a strategy and science behind it. We all need hope in our lives, as a strategy, and as a pathway to get through life.”

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Grizzly Bear cub in Alaska. Photo: Scott Davis

Dr Finkler, who is also a marine biologist and science communicator, turned her focus to marketing after discovering the power of visual communication.

“Information alone doesn’t solve much, we have to market science instead.

“Most of conservation is about changing human behaviour, and the field that does this perfectly well is marketing,” she says.

“It was a no brainer – I can pick the tools from different fields of study and disciplines to get the impact that I want. The toolbox is very powerful.”

The Science of Hope started as a passion project for Dr Finkler. She wanted to write a book that could speak to a wider audience, not just an expert audience.

“There is a lot of power in the collective focus on what works and what we can do together, rather than what separates us,” she says.

“That narrative of what drives us apart – whether its cultural, being an expert or non-expert – all of these are divisions that I’m hoping this book can bridge.”

Dr Finkler wrote chapters on endangered and threatened species, including panda bears, elephants, great apes, whales, big cats, and even monarch butterflies, which are illustrated mostly by pictures taken by photographer Scott Davis.

The pair met while on a trip to the Antarctic, and after seeing his images, Dr Wiebke suggested they collaborated.

“He captures lightening in the bottle – for me that is magic,” she says.

Among the conservationists featured in the book are University of Otago Professors Yolanda van Heezik and Phil Seddon, from the Department of Zoology, and Lloyd Davis from the Centre for Science Communication, who co-authored some of the chapters.

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Cheetah family in Botswana. Photo: Scott Davis

Dunedin’s Orokonui Ecosanctuary also makes a special appearance, with the ecosanctuary’s environmental educator Tahu Mackenzie bringing readers’ attention to the New Zealand native Kākā bird.

Dr Finkler says The Science of Hope is about including different stakeholders and finding doable solutions, not perfect solutions, to tackle sustainability issues.

“If we all look for perfect solutions, we will make little progress.

“The solution is simple, but we have become too complicated.”

Dr Finkler says the people represented in the book are in love with what they do and feel stewardship for animals.

“I think there is a really beautiful message for humanity there.”

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