Being a Biodiversity and Society researcher, I study people's perceptions of biodiversity and explore ways of connecting the public to the multitude of life on our planet. How can people open their eyes to biodiversity?
Species literacy, cultural representations, science communication, urban nature
Knowledge of and about species enriches our lives. It makes us feel at home, sharpens our perception, and can be a first step towards nature conservation. I coined the concept species literacy, which encompasses broad and in-depth knowledge about species. How does knowledge about species relate to our understanding of biodiversity and to our attitudes and behavior?
We do not only encounter biodiversity in nature. For example, we run into animals every day in the form of cultural representations: in the media, as toys, or depicted on our clothing. Now that direct nature experiences are becoming scarcer, the impact of these portrayals on our perception of biodiversity will be relatively large. What image of biodiversity do cultural sources portray?
Connecting with biodiversity
As biodiversity continues to decline globally and locally, it is increasingly important to involve people in biodiversity. Communication can help bridge the gap between humans and nature, but communicating about biodiversity can be a challenge. How can a relationship between people and biodiversity develop that is mutually enriching?
Hooykaas, M. J. D., Aten, C., Hemelaar, E. M., Albers, C. J., Schilthuizen, M., & Smeets,
I. (2021). Children’s species literacy as estimated and desired by biodiversity
communicators: A mismatch with the actual level. BioRxiv, 1–15.
Hooykaas, M. J. D., Schilthuizen, M., Aten, C., Hemelaar, E. M., Albers, C. J., & Smeets,
I. (2019). Identification skills in biodiversity professionals and laypeople: A gap in
species literacy. Biological Conservation, 238, 108202.
Hooykaas, M. J. D., Schilthuizen, M., & Smeets, I. (2020). Expanding the role of
biodiversity in laypeople’s lives: The view of communicators. Sustainability, 12(7),
Hooykaas, M. J. D., Aalders, A. K., Schilthuizen, M., & Smeets, I. Animals in fashion:
Portrayal of animal biodiversity on children’s clothing. Society and Animals.
Accepted for publication (July, 2021).
Hooykaas, M. J. D., Holierhoek, M. G., Westerveld, J. S., Schilthuizen, M., & Smeets,
I. (2022). Animal biodiversity and specificity in children’s picture books. Public
Understanding of Science, 31(5), 671–688.
Hooykaas, M. J. D., Schilthuizen, M., Albers, C. J., & Smeets, I. (2022). Species
identification skills predict in-depth knowledge about species. PLoS ONE, 17(4),
I am the teaching coordinator of the bachelor and master program of Naturalis. I keep an overview of the internships and courses offered by Naturalis, work on education policy, and contribute to the development of courses and learning trajectories. In addition, I am the course leader of the Biology course Animal Biodiversity at Leiden University, in which I give lectures and organize labs about the diversity and evolution of the animal kingdom. In the past I have taught science communication and popular science writing.