Universiteit Leiden

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Species Literacy: The perception and cultural portrayal of animals

In his dissertation Michiel Hooykaas outlines the results of six empirical research projects focused at biodiversity awareness in the Netherlands, specifically people’s knowledge about animals.

M.J.D. Hooykaas
30 June 2022
Thesis in Leiden Repository

Providing insight into people’s perception of animal biodiversity is valuable both from a scientific perspective and from the perspective of conservation, as biodiversity loss continues and the relationship between humans and nature is under increasing pressure. The first part of this thesis focuses on species literacy, a newly coined concept that stands for broad and in-depth knowledge about species. Quantitative research projects are described that established the level of species literacy in professionals and laypeople. The second part of this thesis explores the portrayal of animals in cultural products aimed at children. Quantitative content analyses were used to examine the image of animal biodiversity conveyed by two product categories: picture books and clothes. The patterns uncovered in cultural portrayals of animals mirrored the knowledge patterns found in the first part of the dissertation. Animal groups well known by people predominated children’s fashion and picture books, while others were portrayed less frequently and in less specific manners. The revealed patterns imply that Dutch laypeople currently miss out on enriching experiences with biodiversity, and they hold important implications for conservation. The third and final part of this thesis explores, from the perspective of biodiversity communicators, the potential to connect people with biodiversity in places that are becoming increasingly urbanized. As such, promising avenues to foster species literacy and engage people with biodiversity are distilled.

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