Michael Noonan, PhD

Professor of Animal Behavior

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The CAC Formula

The Canisius Ambassadors for Conservation (CAC) was founded in 1999 as a program devoted to instilling a wildlife conservation ethic in the next generation of citizens. The CAC formula is one in which select Canisius College students travel with Dr. Noonan to study wildlife at the front lines of conservation, and thereafter draw audiences into a love for wildlife and ecosystems that they inhabit.

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The message of CAC is a positive one. The program does not gloss over the many challenges that wildlife face. But the world’s media is so saturated with negative reports concerning the environment that many young people have begun to feel a sense of hopelessness at the thought of accomplishing anything positive. It is the position of the CAC program that a negative approach to environmental challenges is both unwarranted and unhelpful. There is ample evidence that when our citizenry is properly informed and appropriately motivated, effective ecological preservation is possible. The return of bison to our prairies and the great whales in our oceans are two prime examples. But the California condor, the Black-footed Ferret, and Przewalski’s Horse, top an increasingly long list of other success stories. Consider also the air and water quality that we experience today compared to sixty years ago. At the time of Rachael Carson’s Silent Spring, most experienced “smog alerts,” and our waterways suffered from toxins that had been carelessly released onto our land. But with increased knowledge our nation responded by creating the Environmental Protection Agency, and we passed increasingly strict regulations. As a result, over the course of just one generation, our waters and air were gradually cleaned. The lesson is clear. With the proper understanding, people can be mobilized to take positive actions on environmental issues. There is every reason to believe that we can continue to do so.

A positive message is also the right one because it is the only way to counteract a sense of pessimism that leads to inaction. Lastly, a positive message is also the right one, because quite frankly that is the way in which we should live our lives—approaching each day with an intention to make the world a better place.

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Over the past twenty years, that positive call to action by the CAC has been disseminated via multiple pathways.  CAC students have visited classrooms to make presentations, delivered educational programs at our local zoos and aquariums, installed video displays and interactive computerized kiosks at facilities around Western New York, and maintained an extensive website presence (at conservenature.org).  Increasingly, the CAC program has also produced its own video programs that have been effective at engaging school children both intellectually and emotionally.