Dr. Jessica Barnes

National Bird Conservation Social Science Coordinator

Jessica Barnes was a Research Scientist and the National Bird Conservation Social Science Coordinator in the Dayer Lab from 2018-2022. She conducted research, shared resources, and built relationships in order to increase capacity within the bird conservation community to understand and address the human dimensions of bird and habitat conservation. She is now a National-level Social Scientist with the Ecosystem Management Coordination Staff of the US Forest Service. In that role, she provides guidance and training on the use of social science in the governance of the lands and resources of the National Forest System. Whether for birds or forests, Jessica’s work has focused on conducting engaged social science research with direct application to conservation practice and supporting the integration of social science theories and approaches into decision-making about natural resources.

    Ashley Gramza

    National Bird Conservation Social Science Coordinator

    Ashley Gramza was the National Bird Conservation Social Science Coordinator and Research Associate in the Dayer Lab from 2017-2018. After working in the Dayer Lab, she was Human Dimensions Specialist in the Research, Evaluation, and Compliance Division of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in Little Rock. She is now a Social Scientist for Playa Lakes Joint Venture.

      Bennett Grooms

      Ph.D. Student

      Bennett Grooms was a Ph.D. student in the Dayer Lab from 2017-2021. Bennett researched the perceptions, conservation behaviors, and interactions of wildlife recreationists relative to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR). During his time at VT, Bennett was a fellow in the Interfaces of Global Change Interdisciplinary Graduate Experience Program, earned a certificate of Future Professoriate and Professional Development, and served as a board member of the Center for Communicating Science. The social science skills Bennett gained in the Dayer lab have broadened his world view on wildlife conservation, and he aspires to continue connecting people of all backgrounds to wildlife through his work.

        Carolyn Comber

        M.S. Student

        Carolyn Comber was a Master’s student in the Dayer Lab from 2018-2021. Carolyn studied human disturbances to shorebirds with a focus on behavior change interventions such as community-based social marketing. During her time at VT, Carolyn participated in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Directorate Fellows Program (DFP). Now Carolyn works as a biological science technician at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. The social science skills that Carolyn gained through her Master’s program have helped her to approach conservation challenges with a fresh perspective and will help her to thrive as a conservation scientist.


          Seth Lutter

          M.S. Student

          Seth Lutter was a Masters student in the Dayer Lab from 2016-2018. While at Virginia Tech he studied the human dimensions of early successional habitat conservation on private lands. He published research on landowner participation in conservation incentive programs, and the effects of outreach on landowners. Seth now works for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, where he provides expertise on the human dimensions of private lands conservation. His social science research experience is instrumental to his current work.

            Lara Mengak

            M.S. Student

            Lara Mengak was a Master’s student in the Dayer Lab from 2016-2018. While at Virginia Tech, she studied human disturbance and shorebird conservation with a focus on drafting management solutions for mitigating or reducing disturbance. After completing her M.S., she worked for The Ohio State University for a year as a research associate where she studied the human dimensions of public lands and protected areas management. Now employed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in their Division of Subsistence, she works with subsistence and Alaska Native communities on bird harvest management and emerging bird conservation issues. 

              Mary Sketch

              M.S. Student

              Mary Sketch was a Masters student in the Dayer Lab from 2017 to 2019. While at Virginia Tech she studied the human dimensions of habitat conservation on western agricultural lands. After graduating, Mary worked with the Center for Rural Strategies where she works as a program associate, collaborating with rural leaders across the country on rural development and outreach. In 2021 she returned to Virginia Tech to become the Coordinator of the Virginia Soil Health Coalition. 



                Ali Davis

                Undergraduate Research Assistant

                Ali Davis was an Undergraduate Research Assistant in the Dayer Lab in 2017-2018. While at Virginia Tech she double-majored in Wildlife Conservation and Forest Resource Management. Ali is now the state’s Nuisance Bear Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. Her human dimensions skills come in handy when talking to landowners about nuisance bears.

                  Julianna Duran

                  Undergraduate Research Assistant

                  In Spring 2020 Julianna was an undergraduate research assistant in the Dayer Lab. She conducted a Twitter Social Media Analysis of killer whale calf death that occurred a few years ago off of the Pacific Coast. The purpose of this project was to explore the connection between wildlife value orientations, anthropomorphism, and sad emotions in the public’s response to the event. Currently, Juliana is searching for graduate programs to continue studying conservation social science – specifically to benefit and support minorities in natural resources. Her career aspiration is to become a human dimensions professor to teach students the importance of this field and continue her own research.


                    Jillian Everly

                    Human Dimensions Technician

                    Jillian Everly worked as a technician in the Dayer Lab from January 2020- March 2021. Her work focused on shorebird disturbance. With the mentoring of both Dr. Dayer and Carolyn comber, Jillian interviewed managers and biologists and wrote a report on shorebird disturbance related to dogs on beaches. The experiences she gained while working in the Dayer Lab were instrumental in her acceptance at Idaho State University, where she is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Conservation Anthropology. Her research is focused on interviewing biologists in Idaho about fisheries management and in Chile about the effects globalization of fisheries has had on the livelihoods of women. 


                      Seth Finkel

                      Seth Finkel completed an independent study with the Dayer Lab in 2019 on the human dimensions of no net loss conservation policy and their implications for grasslands conservation in the U.S. He is now a Master’s student at Michigan Technological University, where he researches using drones for wild turkey and ruffed grouse surveys. Seth’s time with the Dayer Lab was instrumental in developing his academic writing skills in preparation for graduate school.

                        Hannah Obershaw

                        Undergraduate Research Assistant

                         Hannah was an undergraduate research assistant in 2020, working as part of a team assessing the extent and types of private lands research in conservation science publications..


                          Connor Rosenblatt

                          Human Dimensions Technician

                          Connor Rosenblatt was a Human Dimensions Technician in the Dayer Lab in 2018.  He worked on a research project examining the coupled human-natural system of birdfeeding. He is now a Masters student in Environmental Science at The Ohio State University.

                            Elizabeth Tsang

                            Human Dimensions Technician

                            In summer 2019 Elizabeth Tsang was a human dimensions technician in the Dayer Lab through a Dept of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Undergraduate Diversity Fellowship. She conducted a stakeholder assessment of wildlife viewing stakeholders in Virginia using their websites. Currently, she is working as a Natural Resource Specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alamosa, Colorado. The writing skills and deeper understanding of the importance of social sciences in conservation she learned from her time in the Dayer Lab have been integral in her work with partners, the public, and policy related projects. 

                              Jonathan Rutter

                              Human Dimensions Technician

                              Jonathan was a research technician in the Dayer Lab from 2018-2021. His research examined ethno-racial patterns in birdwatching and drivers of conservation behavior in wetlands. He has brought this human dimensions experience to his studies at the University of Oxford, where he is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Biodiversity, Conservation, and Management.

                                Caitlin Watford

                                Undergraduate Research Assistant

                                In Spring 2020, Caitlin Watford was a human dimension undergrad research assistant in the Dayer Lab. She conducted a social media analysis on Southern Resident Killer Whales where she studied the relationship between anthropomorphism and wildlife value orientations. Currently, she is working as an undergrad research assistant in the Hopkins lab where she is performing video analysis of hellbender reproductive behavior. Caitlin hopes to use her research experience from the Dayer Lab to continue to pursue her passion for conservation by understanding how people’s knowledge, values, and behaviors influence wildlife management and policy-making.