Gene Myers
(Olin Eugene Myers Jr.)
Huxley College of the Environment
Department of Environmental Studies
Western Washington University
516 High St. Mailstop 9085
Bellingham, Washington 98225-9085
Phone: (360) 650-4775
FAX: (360) 650-7702
Gene"dot"Myers "at" wwu "dot" edu

(just click here; pardon the anti-spam jargon)

Teaching: Programs & advising
Goals and Motivating Problems in Research and Teaching
Resources for Environmental Studies Students
Conservation Psychology

Teaching: Programs & advising
I teach in Huxley's core, and in the environmental education undergraduate program. I help with our Minor in Sustainable Design, offered jointly with Western's Engineering Technology Department. And I also teach and advise students in our Master of Education in Environmental Education programs, including our Residency option in partnership with the North Cascades Institute.

Current courses: (apologies for broken links -- I haven't caught up with campus server changes yet)

ENVS 305, Environmental History and Ethics
ENVS 381, Introduction to Environmental Education
Spring Block Courses -- no links, but I co-teach the next four courses with Prof. Wendy Walker in the spring:
ENVS 474, Outdoor Education
ENVS 476 Leadership for a Sustainable Future
ENVS 483 Field Methods in EE
ENVS 484 Natural History for Environmental Education
ENVS/ Estu 487/587, Conservation Psychology
Estu 575, Research and Evaluation in Environmental Education

  Other courses have included:

Goals & motivating problems in research and teaching

My long-term intellectual goal is to bring an understanding of life-span development to bear on the challenges of human ecology, and especially to the practice of environmental education. My work here fits in four main strands:

A. Human-animal interaction
The study of the relations of humans to animals is an interdisciplinary endeavor that is receiving exploding levels of attention from historians, sociologists, biologists, psychologists and others.  My contribution is to bring a human developmental perspective to bear on the psychological foundations of children's relations to animals.  Much of my work in this area has been theory-building and qualitative, although some studies in progress are quantitative, and planned studies move more in this direction.  Some of my explorations here:

  1. Further development of my theory of child-animal relations: Do the early invariants features of interactions shown by young children in their relations with animals show up across cultural differences? How do different cultural meaning systems facilitate or inhibit responsiveness toward animals? How do children's conceptions of animals' needs change with development?

  2. New empiricism: my approach to ethics, and my studies of relations with animals are informed by what my former graduate advisor Eugene Gendlin terms the 'responsive order.' I want to further explore this foundational dimension of my work, by which it may transcend the impasse of postmodernism.

B. Development of Environmental Care and Responsibility
A major foundation for the field of environmental education, as well as for other fields related to conservation and human behavior, is the development of the skills, knowledge, attitudes and values that enable individuals to make environmentally sound choices. My research in this area applies insights from human development to problems in environmental care and moral development, and in understanding the ways members of divergent social groups become environmentally responsible.  Two major themes (and several minor ones) appear in this strand of my work: one has to do with the growth of childhood care toward animals into responsibility for species and ecosystems; the second focuses on college-age development of environmental concern and careers.

  1. Caring for and about nature: What developmental significance do natural environments hold for our species? Of urgent interest is the question: How does the robust care for animals we observe in many children and adults develop to include practical care for habitats, species and ecosystems?

  2. Moral development and environmental ethics: Environmental content has seldom been examined in the study of moral development; indeed, the field of environmental ethics is very fluid and problematic. How can existing moral developmental frameworks most fruitfully be applied? From my study of moral development, I want to emphasize moral functioning - not just abstract ethics or judgment, but how we feel, respond to others, and act when we confront choices in our lives and careers. Habits of defensiveness versus productive coping are critical. Further, beyond what formal environmental ethics may tell us, how do we compromise yet retain personal integrity? How can we strive for change in an imperfect world? Moral developmental theory may have much to tell us here.  These are important questions in both my research and teaching.

C.  Conservation Psychology
My colleagues and I are entertaining the term 'Conservation Psychology' to capture the areas above, and others. We want to encourage more psychologists to use their specialties to address some of our urgent problems of sustainability and conservation. In this area, here are some of the problems that motivate me:

  1. Developing a psychologically, sociologically, and culturally informed approach to environmental studies. I assume we must look at environmental problems in context of political and economic systems, and I am very interested in ecological economics as an important critique and emerging source of policy alternatives. However, underlying these systems are cultural-psychological phenomena which we must understand to provide effective educational programs and policies. What multiple pathways into environmental concern do we discover if we look in a culturally and psychologically informed way?

D. Teaching Environmental Studies and Environmental Education

  1. Bringing environmental history and environmental ethics together. Both these topics support large sub-specialties now, but too often their disciplinary structures prevent asking enlightening questions that come at their crossing. How are we to appreciate and evaluate choices made in the past that led to present problems? What changes in values and sentiments does this reveal? What ethical concepts are most appropriate now for judging the dilemmas that have passed to us? What lessons might all this have for present choices?

    How can all my above interests (plus many important concepts from environmental studies) be combined in the best possible ways to prepare our students?  I am very concerned to prepare students who can effectively marshall key skills and ideas, but more importantly their own full capacities, on behalf of both humanity and nature.  In my teaching I am constantly asking how to do this better, in ways that both challenge and support my students.


Myers, Jr., O. E. (Forthcoming). Conservation psychology. In M. Mascia, (Ed.), Conservation Social Science: Understanding People, Conserving Biodiversity. Wiley / Blackwell.

Myers, Jr. O. E. (2013). Children, animals, and social neuroscience: Empathy, conservation education, and activism. In M. Bekoff (Ed.) Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservation (pp. 271-285). University of Chicago Press.

Myers, G. & Park, C. (2013). Review of environmental education in the US National Parks Service according to social transition: A case study on two Pacific Northwest National Parks. Journal of Environmental Science International 22(4), 385-396.

Myers, Jr. O. E. (2012). Children and nature. In S. Clayton (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Environmental and Conservation Psychology (pp. 113-127). Oxford University Press.

Myers, Jr. O. E., Beringer, A. (2010). Sustainability in higher education:  Psychological research for effective pedagogy. Canadian Journal of Higher Education 40 (2), 51-77.

Clayton, S. & Myers Jr. O. E. (2009). Conservation psychology: Understanding and promoting human care for nature. New York: Wiley / Blackwell Publishers.

Myers Jr. O. E., Saunders, C. D. & Bexell, S. (2009). Fostering empathy with wildlife: Factors affecting free-choice learning for conservation concern and behavior. In J.H. Falk, J.E. Heimlich & S. Foutz (Eds.), Free-Choice Learning and the Environment (pp. 39-55).   Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press.

Taylor, A., Lockhart, J., Myers Jr., O.E., Vidana, S., Simon, I., Kenny, C., DeLise, I., Packard, B. & Lind, B. (2008). “Green” eggs and ham: Target mapping makes university food more sustainable and unites disparate groups. Management Accounting Quarterly 10(1), 1-17. 

Kahn, Jr. P. H., Saunders, C. D., Severson, R. L., Myers, Jr. O. E. & Gill, B. T. (2008). Moral and fearful affiliations with the animal world: Children’s conceptions of bats. Antrhozoos 21 (4), 375-386.

Myers, Jr. O. E. (2007). The significance of children and animals: Social development and our connections to other species. Second, revised edition. West Layfayette, IN: Purdue University Press.

Myers, Jr. O. E. (2006). The psychology of photographic imagery in communicating conservation. Non-refereed technical report. [pdf version of report]

 DeCassis, S., DeChambeau, P., Hoar, M., Howard, B., Lax, S., McClain, K. Russo, T. Shepherd, K., Thurman, A. Weeks, S., Kuhn, G. & Myers, G. (Estu 471 course group) (2006). WWU employees’ transportation to work: A focus group study of perceptions and needs. Non-refereed technical report, available as a link at:

Myers, Jr. O. E., Hagen, D., Russo, A., McMullin, C., Lembrick A., Silbaugh, B.  Parker, K. (2006). Benefits of a campus transit pass: A study of students' willingness-to-pay for a proposed mandatory transit pass program. Transportation Research Record, Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 1971, 133-139. [Abstract]

Dear, C. & Myers, Jr. O. E. (2005). Recreationists' Understanding of Subsistence in Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, Alaska. Society and Natural Resources 18: 821-837. [Abstract]

Myers, Jr. O. E., Saunders, C. & Birjulin, A. (2004). Emotional Dimensions of Watching zoo animals: An experience sampling study building on insights from psychology. Curator 47(3): 299-321. [Abstract]

Myers, Jr. O. E. & Russell, A. (2004). Human identity in relation to wild Black bears: A natural-social ecology of subjective creatures. In S. Clayton & S. Opotow  (Eds.), Identity and the natural environment (pp. 67-90).  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. [Abstract]

Myers, Jr. O. E., Saunders, C. D. & Garrett, E. (2004). What do children think animals need? Developmental trends. Environmental Education Research 104): 545-562. [Abstract]

Myers, Jr. O. E., Saunders, C. D. & Garrett, E. (2003). What do children think animals need? Aesthetic and psycho-social conceptions. Environmental Education Research 9(2), 305-325. [Abstract]

Bott, S., Cantrill, J. G. & Myers, Jr. O. E. (2003). Place and the promise of Conservation Psychology. Human Ecology Review 10 (2): 100-112. [abstract]

Myers, Jr. O. E. (2003). "No longer the lonely species: A post-Mead perspective on animals and the self." International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 23(3): 46-68. [Abstract]

Myers, Jr. O. E. (2002). Symbolic animals and the developing self. Anthrozoös: A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People and  Animals 15(1): 19-36. [Abstract]

Myers, Jr. O. E. & Saunders, C. (2002). Animals as links to developing caring relationships with the natural world. In P. H. Kahn Jr. & S. R. Kellert (Eds.), Children and nature: Psychological, sociocultural and evolutionary investigations  (pp. 153-178).  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. [Abstract]

Myers, Jr. O. E. (2001). Young children's animal-role pretend play. In R. Mitchell (Ed.), Pretending in Animals and Humans (pp. 154-166). Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. [Abstract]

Myers, Jr. O. E. (2001). Pets. In J. Reinier & P. F. Clement (Eds.), Boyhood in America. ABC/CLIO.

Myers, Jr. O. E. (2001, Spring). Some issues to consider in the role of psychology in conservation. Population and Environmental Psychology Bulletin 27(2): 2-4.

Saunders, C. D. & Myers, Jr. O. E. (2001, Spring). Using conservation biology as a model for thinking about conservation psychology. Population and Environmental Psychology Bulletin 27(2): 7-8.

Myers, Jr. O. E. (1999). Human development as transcendence of the animal body and the child-animal association in psychological thought. Society and Animals 7(1): 121-140. [Abstract]

Myers, Jr. O. E. (1998).Children and Animals: Social Development and Our Connections to Other Species. Boulder: Westview Press. (Book cover) (Table of Contents)

Myers, Jr. O. E. (1996). Child-Animal Interaction: Nonverbal Dimensions. Society and Animals 4(1): 19-35. [Abstract]

Myers, Jr. O. E. Ecological senses of self: Beyond anthropocentric conceptions. In S. D. Wright (Ed.), Progress through integrative perspectives pp. 18-20. (Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference of the Society for Human Ecology, Michigan State Univ., 1994.)

Myers, Jr. O. E. (1996). Review of The Biophilia Hypothesis (Edited by Stephen Kellert & E. O. Wilson). Environmental Ethics 18(3):327-330.

Edited Volumes

Saunders, C. D. & Myers, Jr. O. E. (Eds.) (2003). Special issue: Conservation psychology. Human Ecology Review 10 (2).

Selected Presentations

Myers, Jr. O. E. (2010, July). Psychology for conservation institutions: Synthesizing and looking forward. Paper presented at the 24th International Congress for Conservation Biology, Edmonton, Alta, Canada, July 3-7.

Myers, Jr. O. E. (2008, Sept). President's opening talk. 16th International Conference of the Society for Human Ecology, Bellingham, WA, Sept 10-13.

Myers, Jr. O. E, (2007, Oct.). Psychological inquiry and conservation: Tracing the linkages.  Paper presented at the 14th International Conference of the Society for Human Ecology, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct. 4-7.

Myers, Jr. O. E. & Saunders, C. D. (2006, Oct.). Attunement, empathy and caring with wild animals: A theoretical overview. Paper presented at the 14th International Conference of the Society for Human Ecology, Bar Harbor, ME, Oct. 18-21.

Myers, Jr. O. E. (2006, June). The psychology of visual imagery in communicating conservation. Paper presented at the 12th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management, Vancouver, BC, June 3-8.

Myers, Jr. O. E. (2005, October). A moral functioning perspective on biocentric values. Paper presented at the 20th Anniversary Conference of the Society for Human Ecology, Salt Lake City, UT, Oct. 13-16.

Myers, Jr. O. E. (2005, October). The psychology behind imagery. Panel presentation at the Conservation Photography Symposium, 8th World Wilderness Congress, Anchorage, AK, Oct. 1-5.

Myers, Jr. O. E., Saunders, C. D. & Garrett, E. (2003, May). Children's developing conceptions of what animals need: An interview/drawing study. Paper presented at the 83rd Convention of the Western Psychological Association, Vancouver, BC, May 1-4.

Myers, Jr. O. E.  & Saunders, C. (2002, Aug.). Emotional dimensions of animal observation: An experiential sampling study. Paper presented at the 110th annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Chicago, IL, Aug. 22-25.

Myers, Jr. O. E. (2002, May). Presenter and panelist. Conservation Psychology: An invited dialogue,  at Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, IL,  May 10-12.

Myers, Jr. O. E. & Russell, A. (2001, Aug.). "Sense of identity in relation animals: A qualitative study of wild black bears and people with intimate knowledge of them." Paper presented at the 10th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Anthrozoology, Davis, CA, Aug. 4.

Myers, Jr. O. E. & Saunders, C. "Growing up green: A developmental model of caring attitudes and action for nature." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Seattle, WA, April 13, 2001.

Myers, Jr. O. E. "Human ecology and human development," paper presented at the 8th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management, Western Washington University, July 19-22, 2000.

Kahn, Jr., P. H., Saunders, C. D. & Myers, Jr. O. E. (2001, April). Children’s Moral Relationships with Nature: Toward a Biophilic Account of Fear and Caring. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Seattle WA, April 12.

Kahn, P. H., Jr., Saunders, C. D., & Myers, G. (2001, April).  Children's conceptions of bats: Toward a biophilic account of fear and caring.  Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Minneapolis, MN.

Kahn, Jr., P. H., Saunders, C. D. & Myers, Jr. O. E. (2000, June). Fear and caring in the animal world: Children's conceptions of bats. Paper presented at the 20th Annual Meeting of the Jean Piaget Society, Montreal, June 1-3.

Myers, Jr. O. E. "Children and animals: To be human is to be not an animal," paper presented at Thresholds of Identity in Human-Animal Relationships: An Interdisciplinary Colloquium, University of Santa Barbara, March 10-11, 2000.

Myers, Jr. O. E. "An ecology of subjects: Describing the structure of child-animal interactions." Faculty Salon, Western Washington University, May 12, 1999.

Myers, Jr. O. E. "Are children biocentrists? Children's interactions with animals." Seminar Series, Huxley College, Bellingham, Apr. 13, 1999.

Myers, Jr. O. E. "Investigating the place of animals in childhood: Reflections on social science research," Seminar Series, Huxley College, Bellingham, Jan. 13, 1999.

Myers, Jr. O. E. "Chasing pigeons, talking animal, and eating guinea pigs: Children, animals and anthropocentrism in developmental psychology," invited paper presented at the Conference on Children and Animals at the University of Pennsylvania, March, 1998

Myers, Jr. O. E. (1997, August). "Choice of major and environmental concern among undergraduate students of color," paper presented at the conference of the North American Association for Environmental Education, Vancouver, B.C.

Myers, Jr. O. E. (1997, August). "Significant life experiences" invited symposium participant at the conference of the North American Association for Environmental Education, Vancouver, B.C.

Myers, Jr. O. E. "Values, Cultural meanings, and Value Orientations: What does a Kluckhohn Interview measure?," Rapporteur for workshop at Kluckhohn Center, Values Symposium II, Stimson-Green House, Seattle, February, 1997.

Myers, Jr. O. E. "New Intersections Between Moral Development and Environmental Ethics," Seminar Series, Huxley College, Bellingham, WA, 1995.

Myers, Jr. O. E. "The Environmental Justice Movement in South Chicago," Seminar Series, Huxley College, Bellingham, WA, 1995.

Myers, Jr. O. E. and Iozzi, L. "The treatment of nature as a 'moral patient' in the United States from a developmental point of view." Presented at the Advanced Research and Training Seminar on "Eco-ethical thinking in cultural comparison," International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology, Universitat des Saarlandes, Germany, 1994.

Myers, Jr. O. E. "Space dogs, staring turtles and monkey Japanese: Forms of animal presence in a nursery school." Presented at the Natural History Workshop, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME, 1992.

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