Integrating models of human behaviour between the individual and population levels to inform conservation interventions

Andrew D.M. Dobson*, Emiel De Lange, Aidan Keane, Harriet Ibbett, E. J. Milner-Gulland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Conservation takes place within social-ecological systems, and many conservation interventions aim to influence human behaviour in order to push these systems towards sustainability. Predictive models of human behaviour are potentially powerful tools to support these interventions. This is particularly true if the models can link the attributes and behaviour of individuals with the dynamics of the social and environmental systems within which they operate. Herewe explore this potential by showing howcombining two modelling approaches (social network analysis, SNA, and agent-based modelling, ABM) could lead to more robust insights into a particular type of conservation intervention.We use our simple model, which simulates knowledge of ranger patrols through a hunting community and is based on empirical data from a Cambodian protected area, to highlight the complex, contextdependent nature of outcomes of information-sharing interventions, depending both on the configuration of the network and the attributes of the agents.We conclude by reflecting that both SNA and ABM, and many other modelling tools, are still too compartmentalized in application, either in ecology or social science, despite the strong methodological and conceptual parallels between their uses in different disciplines. Even a greater sharing of methods between disciplines is insufficient, however; given the impact of conservation on both the social and ecological aspects of systems (and vice versa), a fully integrated approach is needed, combining both the modelling approaches and the disciplinary insights of ecology and social science. This article is part of the theme issue 'Linking behaviour to dynamics of populations and communities: application of novel approaches in behavioural ecology to conservation'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20180053
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1781
Early online date29 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sep 2019


  • Agent-based model
  • Conservation
  • Information-sharing
  • Law enforcement
  • Predictive modelling
  • Social network analysis


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