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 Principal Investigator

Carena van Riper, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor and conservation psychologist in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. Her lab conducts interdisciplinary and theoretically informed research to provide government agencies and community partners with the tools necessary to incorporate public viewpoints into decision-making. Dr. van Riper also specializes in survey research and design to solve problems facing the sustainability of social-ecological systems, particularly around parks and protected areas.

Post-doctoral Researchers and Graduate Students

Henry Pollock is a Post-doctoral Research Associate in the van Riper lab. Specifically, Dr. Pollock is an integrative biologist whose research combines physiology, ecology and behavior to promote effective wildlife conservation. His current research focuses on human-bird interactions to understand how and why people value natural areas for their avian biodiversity, and how this information can be used to preserve and expand these areas for future generations.

Elizabeth Golebie is a postdoc in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, advised by Dr. van Riper. Buliding on undergraduate training in aquatic ecology at the University of Notre Dame and M.S. work in human dimensions of fisheries at the Illinois Natural History Survey. Dr. Golebie's research is guided by a social-ecological systems perspective. Within the context of aquatic ecosystems, her work aims to inform management strategies to which stakeholders will be receptive and supportive. Her key interests include exploring the role of cultural values, risk perceptions and behavior, as well as identifying communication strategies to encourage pro-environmental behavior. For more information, visit her website at https://elizabethgolebie.wordpress.com/ 

Evan Salcido is a PhD student in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, advised by Dr. van Riper. He received his B.S. in Zoology from The Ohio State University in 2014, and his M.S. in Natural Resource Science & Management from the University of Minnesota in 2019. In between degrees, he worked as a contract researcher in an aquatic toxicology laboratory. Evan specializes in the human dimensions of natural resource management, with his key research interests including human-wildlife conflict, mammalian behavior & ecology, and wildlife & natural resources policy. His work aims to inform & improve our ability to reconcile human interests with environmental necessities. Evan can be approached directly around the UIUC campus, or contacted electronically at salcido2@illinois.edu.


Seunguk Shin is a PhD student in  the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science at the University of Illinois. Stemming from his background of a Bachelor's degree in environmental education and a Master's of Science degree in forest sciences, Seunguk is broadly interested in nature’s benefits to people and the relationship between people and nature. His main research interests include promotion of pro-environmental behavior and the psycho/physiological benefits of contact with nature. Connecting nature-based outdoor recreation and human environmentalism, Seunguk is pursuing better understanding of how people’s experiences with nature can impact their environmental attitudes and behavior.


Suresh Sharma is a PhD student at UIUC, in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, advised by Dr. van Riper. After completion of his Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture from Tribhuvan University (T.U.), Institute of Agriculture and Animal Sciences, Nepal, in 1994, Suresh finished his M. Sc. in Regional Development Planning, jointly from Dortmund University and University of the Philippines in 2002, and later capped with an M.A. in Socio-Anthropology from T.U. in 2005. Alongside, Suresh also served the Government of Nepal for about 16 years, as Agricultural Extension official, where he spent most of his time in participatory research and extension work with grassroots farming communities. Pursuing a deep interest in regenerative agriculture, and the need and desire to promote sustainable farming for safeguarding soil and environmental health, the core area of Suresh’s research is geared toward understanding the socio-psychological factors shaping pro-environmental behaviors, such as values, ecological worldviews (beliefs), personal and social norms of farmers in different geographical domains (e.g., hills and plains of Nepal), that could influence their decisions in the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices (SAPs). Suresh can be contacted via his email at sureshs2@illinois.edu. More info about him can be found at https://mounteverest8848m.wixsite.com/suresh.


Devin Goodson is a M.S. student in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, advised by Dr. van Riper and Dr. Hauber. He received his B.S. in Zoology with a minor in Biological Bases of Behavior from The Ohio State University in 2019. Throughout his undergraduate experience he sought to understand the wide scope of the human-wildlife dynamic by working for groups with diverse vantage points. These groups included a wildlife rehabilitation clinic, a local park system, and research labs which study human behavior and animal behavior. Through his master’s research he looks to better understand human and wildlife behavior in the hopes of encouraging sustainable conservation efforts


Melissa Clelland is a M.S. Student in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. She received her B.S. in Environmental Policy, Institutions, and Behavior from Rutgers University – New Brunswick, New Jersey in 2015. While simultaneously earning her M.S. degree, Melissa is a full time environmental scientist for a New Jersey based environmental consulting firm working within the Site Remediation department investigating and remediating contaminated properties throughout the State.  Melissa’s academic interests lie in understanding the role psychological distance plays upon support for climate change policies, risk perceptions, and pro-environmental behaviors after experiencing a natural disaster. Specifically, her master’s work focuses on support for climate change mitigation and resilience policies expressed by New Jersey residents after having experienced Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and how psychological distance from this event may influence policy support.


North Joffe-Nelson is an M.S. student in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. Having received his B.A. in Environmental Policy from Western Washington University, he is chiefly interested in how politics and economics affect the viability of conservation policy. Through the modeling of angler preference and behavior, he is interested in identifying and developing avenues for fisheries policy that are socially as well as ecologically sustainabilty.


Research Technicians

Ruth Colianni grew up sailing in the Chesapeake Bay, and was later drawn by wilderness and adventure to Denali 35 years ago. She feels privileged to call Cantwell, Alaska her home. Ruth’s first winter was spent in the desolate beauty of Kantishna and it was the hook that snagged her heart. Like many locals in the Denali region, she built her own house and still prefers to live off the grid. Many of her years in the area were spent sharing the Park with visitors taking them on interpretive tours in the Park, as well as being an interpretive trainer and driver trainer of fellow guides. She has also worked with Elderhostel in the early days of the program, and occasionally she volunteers in Denali National Park and Preserve. Her education was in Fine Arts (BFA from Arizona State University), but she swapped her camera for binoculars to follow a passion for natural history. Now Ruth has joined the University of Illinois team as a Research Technician and hopes to help with research in Denali National Park and contribute to her community.

Alison Siever is an undergraduate majoring in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences with a concentration in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. While working with the van Riper lab, Alison is excited to improve her knowledge of the social sciences in relation to natural resources, specifically fisheries. In the future, she hopes to work in marine conservation focusing on media and outreach to bring awareness and support to issues such as overfishing and coral restoration. Alison spends her free time improving her photography, working towards becoming SCUBA certified, and hanging out with her two huskies, Ice and Isla.


Sof Ford is an undergraduate student majoring in Biochemistry, minoring in Chemistry and Political Science, and is a fellow with the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment. While working with the van Riper lab, she looks forward to gaining technical research skills and building a base of knowledge about human dimensions research, which she hopes to employ in the future as a public health researcher. In her free time, she enjoys reading and baking.

Danika Ford is a student in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences with a concentration in Human Dimensions of the Environment. She is interested in understanding human behavior related to environmental issues along with environmental education for youth. In the future, she hopes to work on the social side of sustainability, either as an environmental consultant or environmental educator. In her free time, I enjoy playing the saxophone, singing, knitting, and spending time with friends. 


Previous graduate students and staff

Name, Title Topic
Riley Andrade Post-doctoral researcher: Inclusive conservation with communities in Alaska
Max Eriksson Post-doctoral researcher: Angler preferences and behavior related to the spread of aquatic invasive species 
Nate Shipley Ph.D. student: Emotions and pro-environmental behavior in worked landscapes
Clinton Lum  Ph.D. student: Values and benefits of backcountry experiences.
Dana Jounson M.S. student: Visions and preferences for conservation among protected area stakeholders
Lorraine [Stamberger] Foelske M.S. student: Community resilience in the Midwest. https://lorrainestamberger.wixsite.com/stambergersite
Sophia Winkler-Schor M.S. student: Environmental values and protected areas. https://www.sophiawinklerschor.com/
Katie Mimnaugh M.S. student: The health benefits of nature through virtual reality. https://vrdevcat.com/
Bradley Carr M.S. student: Knowledge, attitudes, and social values of ecosystem services 


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Carena J. van Ripercvanripe@illinois.edu
Department of Natural Resources and Environnmental Sciences
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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