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Current Projects

Values and environmental behavior in protected areas

National parks and protected areas generate considerable economic benefit and play important roles in sustaining ecological integrity on a global scale. These places also attract and maintain public support due to their social values that serve as motivators for owning, managing, and conserving natural resources. However, these social values are underrepresented in conservation research and practice, as well as less easily quantified and measured across spatial scales. Our lab has an ongoing program of research in this arena that investigates topics such as: 1) the spatial dynamics of social values of ecosystem services; 2) Personal and cultural values as drivers of pro-environmental behavior; 3) relationships between values and social ecological systems; and 5) connections between values and social learning through initiatives such as the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Our primary project in this vein is directed toward building an inclusive conservation approach to engage stakeholders living near Denali National Park and Preserve. Also, with support from the National Park Service and Belmont Forum, we are part of an international comparison across protected areas in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Spain that is opening up a dialogue about how stakeholders would like to see places near protected areas change in the future.

Please visit our project website here.

Collaborators: Rose Keller, Adam Landon, Chris Raymond, Gerard Kyle, Matt BrownleeStephen SuttonAlisa Coffin, Ken BagstadBenson Sherrouse


Human dimensions of fisheries management 

Mounting evidence suggests that human behavior is a primary driver of the spread of aquatic invasive species including varieties of fish, invertebrates, plants, and mollusks. Although many people are aware that these organisms are changing the face of ecosystems and local economies, research suggests that engagement in behavior impacting the environment has continued. In this project, we are closing this so called ‘knowledge-action gap’ by providing insight on the multiple factors that shape behavior, including short-term (e.g., policy preferences) and long-term (e.g., cultural and individual values) drivers of change. Building on our preliminary qualitative and quantitative research with recreational anglers in Illinois, our current project is supported by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to predict angler behavior and examine the tradeoffs made between ecological (e.g., quality of fish habitat, impacts from invasive species) and institutional (e.g., fishing regulations, willingness to pay) factors that impede environmental sustainability. In addition to providing insight on the complexities of angler behavior, we are working closely with practitioners to generate useful information that will benefit freshwater ecosystems and stakeholders across the Great Lakes.

Please visit our project website here.

Collaborators: Cory Suski, Richard StedmanMarc Gaden, Robert Arlinghaus, Sophia Kochalski, Kenny Wallen, Matt Browning


Community resilience in protected grasslands

This project is directed at understanding changes in social and economic conditions of rural communities and adapting a framework that builds community resilience in the context of grassland protection and bison reintroduction. The orientation of this work is to enhance the capacity of rural communities to frame regional development of natural amenities, like grassland protection, as community assets that strengthen their social and economic well-being. Our objectives are to: (1) conduct a nation-wide assessment of the economic impacts of bison reintroduction on protected grasslands across the United States; (2) engage with community stakeholders at two study sites in rural Illinois and Iowa to assess a regional sense of place and capacity for change through interviews and focus groups with community leaders; (3) determine residential preferences for future growth scenarios in relation to economic and land use conditions; and (4) foster mutual learning and explore ways that stakeholders of the two study sites can adapt to change in response to the results generated in this study.

Collaborators: William Stewart, Paul Gobster, Amy Ando


Agro-Ecosystem Services in the Kaskaskia Watershed 

The sustainability of agro-ecosystems in the face of climate change depends on their ability to deliver multiple ecosystem services that include socio-cultural (e.g., recreation) and ecological (e.g., water supply, biodiversity) dimensions. However, management actions and policies that enhance some services from agricultural landscapes may have contrasting effects on others. The main objective of this study is to determine how existing and projected environmental and socio-cultural stressors influence multiple agro-ecosystem services in the Kaskaskia River Watershed. Taking a multi-pronged approach, we are engaging community stakeholders in interviews, focus groups, and participatory mapping exercises to identify existing and projected stressors that influence the provision of agro-ecosystem services. Next, we will quantify the impacts of these stressors using metrics simulated by physically-based hydrologic and environmental models. We will then measure resident’s preference for change in the agro-ecosystem context using previously identifies stressors in a choice modeling experiment. With support from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, this study not only enables decision-makers to adopt more sustainable practices but also builds the capacity of rural communities to cope with changes to the ecosystem services on which they rely.

Visit our project website here.

Collaborators: Maria ChuWilliam StewartCory Suski, Jeff Stein



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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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