Conservation Criminology at Michigan State University

About Conservation Criminology

Since 2006, MSU has exhibited leadership in advancing the inter- and multi-disciplinary study of environmental crimes and risks at the intersection of human and natural systems. Historically, research on environmental problems has been conducted within disciplinary boundaries, with little input from criminologists. However, MSU recognizes that broad perspectives are paramount to increase understanding of these issues, to inform strategic policy goals, and to generate effective and equitable interventions. To these ends, MSU faculty developed a framework entitled Conservation Criminology that integrates theory, methods, and practices from criminology and criminal justice, conservation and natural resources management, and risk and decision sciences. The framework was introduced in a seminal paper published in the British Journal of Criminology. Conservation Criminology faculty have since produced numerous publications related to the framework and delivered presentations to professional societies and agency partners. Many research projects associated with Conservation Criminology have been conducted in collaboration with governmental and non-governmental environmental organizations. The goal of these collective activities is to expand the perspectives and tools used to understand and address environmental crimes and risks and to provide novel empirical evidence for positive change through research, teaching, and engagement efforts.

In the research arena, Conservation Criminology faculty and students have used the framework to examine specific environmental problems using a multi- or interdisciplinary lens. These projects apply the framework to understand, predict, and potentially change human and organizational behaviors that pose risks to the environment. Projects also consider how humans behave in response to environmental risks and environmental and conservation policy designed to reduce those risks. Select research topics include climate change, corporate environmental performance, corruption in conservation, environmental justice, global trade in electronic waste, illegal fishing, illegal logging, human-wildlife conflict, water security, wildlife disease, and wildlife poaching.

The framework provides a foundation for three online courses that comprise a graduate-level certificate, also entitled Conservation Criminology. The courses synergize traditionally disparate disciplines to help students better understand the causes and consequences of environmental problems. Interaction with students from divergent backgrounds in these classes further advances critical thinking and the development of interdisciplinary perspectives and networks. In addition to course content, the applied nature of the courses increases students' ability to use multiple disciplines to resolve real-world issues.

Finally, the Conservation Criminology framework is being used to engage with professional societies, agency partners, and non-governmental organizations. Conservation Criminology conference sessions and special journal issues increase awareness of the framework and build the social network of individuals working to resolve environmental risks. Collaboration with environmental enforcement agencies and non-governmental organizations offer academic perspectives to practitioners and produces research that can be used to improve interventions. Agency and non-governmental partners to date include the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Environment Agency of England and Wales, INTERPOL's Environmental Crimes Committee, and the World Wildlife Fund.