Center for Conservation Social Sciences

Center for Conservation Social Sciences

Urban Anglers

Urban Anglers

Agroecology in the Alta Verapaz highlands of Guatemala

Agroecology in the Alta Verapaz highlands of Guatemala

Whitetail Deer

Whitetail Deer

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Fall in New York

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Center for Conservation Social Sciences Mission Statement

(Formerly the Human Dimensions Research Unit)

CCSS strives to expand the understanding of academicians, students, natural resources agency staff, non-governmental organizations and policy makers about the social dimensions of natural resource and environmental management and policy. We do this by studying the interactions of social and ecological systems and applying theory and empirical findings to real-world, contemporary problems. Our research outcomes, which include empirical data, conceptual frameworks, and theoretical insights, are reported at conferences and in peer-reviewed journals, books, policy briefs, outreach publications, and reports of various types. CCSS research is used by a wide array of decision makers and natural resource practitioners, especially those in state and federal agencies, to develop, implement, and evaluate environmental policies and management approaches.

Center for Conservation Social Sciences Description

The Cornell Center for Conservation Social Sciences and its cooperators comprise dozens of faculty, staff, graduate assistants, and undergraduate student researchers and interns. Research and outreach programs are supported by grants and contracts from federal and state agencies, nongovernmental organizations, foundations, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station. Our capacity to conduct large-scale studies is enhanced by our association with the Cornell Survey Research Institute, which provides expertise and support for telephone and web survey research, and the Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research, which offers computer support access for CCSS research.

CCSS faculty may be affiliated with graduate fields and academic departments across Cornell, and staff are part of Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources. Our graduate faculty have membership in the fields of Natural Resources, Development Sociology, Public Affairs, Global Development, and Water Resources. CCSS faculty and staff also contribute to the Extension and teaching functions of the Department of Natural Resources.

CCSS has earned an international reputation for advancing social science assessment and stakeholder involvement in natural resource management. A pioneer in this field and the oldest unit of its kind located in a university setting, CCSS (formerly the Human Dimensions Research Unit) has a history that extends to the early 1970s.

Center for Conservation Social Sciences History

In 2018, Cornell’s Human Dimensions Research Unit (HDRU) became the Cornell Center for Conservation Social Sciences (CCSS). The HDRU had a long and productive track record of externally funded research and publications, teaching undergraduate and graduate students, and outreach and consultation to effect positive change in conservation and environmental management practices. Designation as the CCSS acknowledged that the group’s long-term comprehensive focus on the human dimensions of natural resource management had effectively expanded since its inception in the 1970s to include a broader array of problems and methods. 

The “Cornell Center for Conservation Social Sciences” reflects the depth and breadth of this group’s scholarship encompassing social science-based empirical work on the interactions of social and ecological systems. This work is designed to inform decision making, risk management, response to environmental change, policy making, planning, management, governance, and the advancement of theory. The name conveys an applied, problem-solving orientation consistent with the lan-grant mission of Cornell, the Department of Natural Resources, and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the academic units within which the CCSS is located at Cornell, as well as the breadth and depth of the methodologies used across the social sciences. 

CCSS faculty, staff, and students employ a wide range of social science approaches, including applied and foundational work in environmental psychology, sociology, communication, education, policy, and economics. Inquiry exploring how social and ecological elements interact as a system shares the spotlight with these disciplinary approaches.  The methodological approaches and geographic scope—from local to global—of this work has similarly broadened.