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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


Human-bird interactions 

Sustaining a diversity of plant and animal species requires local stewardship shaped by the multiple values of nature that are expressed through narratives of engagement with wildlife. However, environmental management decisions often fail to integrate these diverse forms of knowledge to support urban conservation initiatives. Our objective is to remedy this lack of integration between the social and natural science through an investigation of human-bird interactions in the Midwestern US. Taking a two-pronged approach, we first engage stakeholders in discussions about the values derived from interacting with birds alongside the perceived threats facing bird communities. We then conduct in situ ecological monitoring to generate diversity indices of avifauna. Finally, we integrate these social-ecological data to better understand the biotic milieu that influences stakeholder narratives, and in turn, generates stewardship outcomes. This new line of research will provide insight into drivers of stewardship that transform urban ecosystems into more sustainable states.

Collaborators: Mark Hauber, Henry Pollock, Riley AndradeSusannah Lerman



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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