Human of IFE - Ms Katie Woolaston

30th April 2020

Katie Woolaston is a researcher with the Institute for Future Environments' Centre for the Environment and a Lecturer with the QUT Faculty of Law. 

Chief Investigator - Centre for the Environment

Lecturer -  QUT Faculty of Law

What are you working on at the moment?

This is a very busy time. I’m mostly spending my time getting three courses online in the law faculty and home-schooling my children as a result of Covid-19 school closures! I’m also putting together a special journal issue on Environmental Law’s Extinction Problem with Professor Afshin Akhtar-Khavari from the Law School. We are also co-authoring a paper for the issue, on the compassion deficit in environmental law, and its link to the rising extinction rates amongst Australian species.

Why is your work important?

Our problematic human-wildlife relationship reduces positive conservation outcomes and can cause death and injury to people. As attitudes and values toward wildlife turn negative, conservation efforts can become futile. These attitudes are affected by many things. For example, laws implemented from the ‘top-down’, irrespective of community cultures, expectations, and ideas, result in more negative attitudes towards the wildlife that laws were designed to protect. Therefore, conservation outcomes can be affected by changing the way people feel about wildlife through governance regimes.

What excites or inspires you about your field?

Collaboration! I work with some amazing ecologists, social scientists, anthropologists and conservation biologists, amongst others. Every discipline has theoretical limits and sometimes we need to look outside of our traditional disciplines in order to pinpoint what those limits are. We then need to look at how we might be able to breach those limits and bring in different aspects of different disciplines in formulating a plan that might work across many different areas. Collaboration is a fantastic way to do this, and I get so excited to learn about other disciplines and attempt to bring them together in governance frameworks.

What are your hopes for the future?

My hope is that humanity learns from this very difficult time by questioning and reconfiguring the relationship that we have with wildlife and the environment as a whole. It is promising that there are calls to end the live wildlife trade and that China has made a move on banning the sale of dogs for meat. I hope that the Western world also questions their relationship with wildlife and the destruction of ecosystems that optimises opportunity for the spread of zoonoses.

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