While most animal behavior researchers have mastered the process of knowledge creation, generating knowledge that can readily be applied requires a different set of skills. The process and timeframe of fundamental scientific knowledge production is often not relevant to those who might apply it, such as conservation or wildlife managers. Additionally, the complex challenges that policy makers, managers and practitioners face are often not adequately communicated to and among scientists. This mutual disconnect in discourse, relationships, common terms, and practices is especially apparent when animal behavior researchers seek to have applied impact. We argue that bridging the complex implementation gap in animal behavior requires a formalized vision for change. We turn to change model theory, a tool commonly used in other fields for identifying the links between actions and outcomes necessary for enacting large-scale change. We focus on the subfield of conservation behavior with a change model that outlines specific ways to improve collaboration and coordination between animal behavior science and conservation practice. We present this targeted change model, review each strategy the model outlines, and highlight pressing actions that people from various career stages and backgrounds can take. We encourage researchers to further the alignment of science with management needs by developing the proper communication mechanisms for improved cultural exchange and plan future change model efforts directly targeting managers. Beyond the conservation behavior change model we present, we also discuss the broad applicability of change models to enhance the application of academic research to other fields. Fundamental science researchers are increasingly required to show impact of their work on society; the change model process we describe here can enable further impact.