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 Principal Investigator

Carena van Riper, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. She is an interdisciplinarian trained primarily in conservation psychology, but also the study of ecosystem services and outdoor recreation in protected areas. The overarching goal of her research program is to expand scientific knowledge of how and why people make decisions about the environment. She is particularly intrigued by the value concept and its influence on changes in human behavior. Her scholarship has advanced the protection of natural resources in public land management contexts and broadened representation of stakeholders to improve human well-being and the sustainability of social-ecological systems.

Post-doctoral Researchers and Graduate Students

Riley Andrade is a postdoctoral scholar in the van Riper Research Group at the University of Illinois. As a Landscape Ecologist and Geographer, Riley Andrade’s research interests include social-ecological dynamics from local to regional scales. Specifically, her work focuses on people's values and attitudes in relation to nature experiences, as well as how these factors interact with structural constraints to drive management decisions that influence biodiversity and human well-being. She joined the ENVISION project to coordinate the ‘Social learning about the consequences of multiple visions’ with the communities surrounding Denali National Park.

Elizabeth Golebie is a PhD student 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, Elizabeth’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. Elizabeth’s key interests include exploring the role of cultural values in risk perceptions and behavior, and identifying communication strategies to encourage pro-environmental behavior. For more information, visit her website at https://elizabethgolebie.wordpress.com/ 

Nathan (Nate) Shipley in a PhD student in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, advised by Dr. van Riper. He received his B.S. in Parks and Conservation Area Management from Kansas State University in 2015 and his M.S. in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management from Clemson University in 2017. The core of Nate’s research is understanding the role of sense of place in people’s daily life and how concepts of place are involved in shaping behavior, identity, and well-being. Nate directs his research on elucidating the unique role that emotion plays in sense of place and expands upon existing literature by integrating multiple psychophysiological and social-psychological theories and methodologies. Outcomes of his research include implications for policy, health, and understanding pro-environmental behavior. You can learn more about Nate and his research at his website, https://www.nathanjshipley.com/Additionally, you can contact him directly at shipley4@illinois.edu.

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 Recreation, Sport and Tourism 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.

Dana Johnson is a M.S. student in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences with a background in the social and natural sciences. She received her B.S. in Resource Conservation and Restoration Ecology at UIUC in 2018. Through her studies and professional experience, she has grown passionate about bridging the gap between the social and natural sciences to facilitate successful conservation plans. Using conservation psychology, behavior change science, and other natural and social sciences, Dana is interested in advancing applied nature conservation by integrating ecological and social drivers of change. Specifically, her research interests include understanding human-nature relationships to influence pro-environmental behavior. Particularly, her master’s work explores mending local knowledge and values with tourist and ecological values to foster comprehensive protected area management. Elements of Dana’s program of study include spatial dynamics of social values, social-ecological systems, sense of place, and facilitating pro-environmental behavior.


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.

Haley Ware is an undergraduate at UIUC. In May 2020, she will graduate with a Bachelor's of Science as an NRES major with a concentration in Human Dimensions and a Spatial and Quantitative Methods minor. Since her freshman year, Haley has been working on climate mitigation with the Leverhulme Climate Mitigation Project as a field and lab technician. She joined the van Riper lab in 2018. Mentored by Nate Shipley, Haley looks to understand the relationship between place meaning and sustainable agricultural practices in the Kaskaskia Watershed. With a background in social and natural sciences, her goals are driven by an intense desire to connect people with nature and to understand human-nature connections that influence pro-environmental behavior. 

Meggie Gaddy is an undergraduate student at UIUC studying Natural Resources and Environmental Science with a concentration in Human Dimensions. She worked as a summer intern in the van Riper lab for the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center in summer 2018 and has continued to conduct research being mentored by Elizabeth Golebie. Her interests include researching the significance of varying relationships with and perceptions of the environment and how these factors influence the success or failure of sustainability practices. She hopes to go on to implement and apply this area of research to environmental policy and advocacy so as to help create lasting and effective change that benefits both the environment and communities that rely on it.

Yen-Hsuan (Kimmy) Chuang is an Research Assistant who began to work with the van Riper through the IGNITE Scholar Program. She is majoring in Environmental Science and Political Science to understand the relationships between humans, the environment, and political institutions. She is also interested in how social ecosystem values can be attributed to physical places which affect human behaviors and values, ultimately revealing the way we treat nature. She is assisting with survey handling, data entry, and quality control, as well as presenting research being mentored being mentored by Nate Shipley. She is excited to be a part of the Van Riper Research Lab and feels extremely grateful for all that she has learned so far.

David Nguyen is currently an undergraduate student studying for a bachelor’s degree in NRES, with a concentration in Human Dimensions of the Environment. He is also pursuing a minor in “Spatial & Quantitative Methods in NRES” to complement his education in the social sciences. Currently, he is an intern on the aquatic invasive species project, which focuses on sampling local fisher people across the Great Lakes, in order to raise awareness of invasives. For summer of 2019, he is also interning on the inclusive conservation project, which deals with stakeholders around Denali National Park and Preserve. He hopes to find a career in government agencies such as the USDA or USGS, in order to help make a positive impact on future conservation efforts.

Seoyeon Jang is an undergraduate student majoring in Natural Resources and Environmental Science at the University of Illinois, and is currently working in the van Riper lab. Her interests include environmental management, environmental policy, and wildlife and conservation. She is especially interested in the impacts individual actions can bring to nature and is working closely with PhD student Elizabeth Golebie. She hopes to expand her knowledge on the equilibrium between human actions and the environment.

Gillian Rowe is an undergrad majoring in Natural Resources and Environmental Science with a concentration in Human Dimensions. She is also pursuing a minor in Sustainability here at the University of Illinois. Outside of class she is an active member of Positive Illini and Climate Reality Project. With interests in both environmental science and psychology, Gillian hopes to better her understanding of human-nature relationships through her work on the inclusive conservation project in Denali National Park. She is currently exploring different options to further her education through law or graduate school. In the future she hopes to work towards improving people’s relationship with the environment.


Previous Students and Staff

Name, Title Topic
Max Eriksson Post-doctoral researcher: Angler preferences and behavior related to the spread of aquatic invasive species 
Clinton Lum  Ph.D. student: Values and benefits of backcountry experiences.
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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