Whether and how conservation ideas and practices spread can have major impacts on both people and ecosystems. Mbaru’s project examines how people adopt conservation initiatives but also determines social and environmental impacts of doing so. His study integrates decades of social science theory on diffusion of innovations with novel breakthroughs in social network analysis to offer a clearer understanding of the factors that shape conservation adoption decisions over time. He then draws on social network theory and methods to develop specific criteria for selecting key stakeholders to facilitate diffusion related conservation objectives. Mbaru’s work analyses impacts of conservation through two different contexts: (i) by demonstrating how adoption or non-adoption of conservation affect peoples wellbeing; (ii) by showing whether adoption of conservation can potentially lead to environmental improvements. The potential explanatory power of this analysis is verified through a concrete case study, i.e., adoption of a fisheries bycatch management initiative in a coral reef fishery.
Mbaru became interested in fisheries science in 2009 after finishing his undergraduate studies in fisheries and aquatic science at Moi University, a public university in his native Kenya. He undertook his MSc (fisheries science) at the Rhodes university in South Africa working on the implications for introduction of fish aggregating devices (FADs) in nearshore coastal fisheries. Since 2013, Mbaru has been working at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), when he became passionate about marine conservation. He got involved in developing a number of innovative fisheries conservation strategies including the design of modified fishing technologies that reduce bycatch in coral reef fisheries. Mbaru has worked closely with local and international NGOs involved in marine conservation efforts in a bid to achieve better environmental outcomes in the context of major change. In early 2015, he started pursuing his PhD, which investigates better ways to facilitate conservation diffusion. He is supervised by Prof. Josh Cinner, Prof. Nick Graham, Prof. Tiffany Morrison, Dr. Michele Barnes and Dr. Christina Hicks.