Dr. Ashley Dayer (she/her)

Associate Professor

Dr. Dayer is an Associate Professor of Human Dimensions in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech. She teaches an undergraduate/graduate level course in Human Dimensions of Fish and Wildlife Conservation and is a Global Change Center affiliated faculty member. Her research program focuses on social science applied to wildlife, particularly bird, conservation. She is interested in how and why people impact wildlife and their conservation and, in turn, how wildlife impact human emotions and well-being.

Dr. Dayer is actively engaged in bird conservation, serving on Road to Recovery of North America’s Birds leadership team. Additionally, her Lab is home to the National Bird Conservation Social Science Coordinator  –  a partner-sponsored position to serve the bird conservation community in meaningful integration of social science. Dayer also sits on the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative  Human Activities committee. She is also an Elective Member of the American Ornithological Society.

Dayer is also a leader in conservation social science. She was President of the Board of Directors of the Society for Conservation Biology Social Science Working Group in 2017 and 2018. She was an Associate Editor of two human dimensions journals: Human Dimensions of Wildlife and Society and Natural Resources and was the first social science Associate Editor for Ornithological Applications. In 2022 she also co-hosted the Pathways Human Dimensions Conference in Fort Collins.

She is frequently called on for expertise in human dimensions to inform agency policy and programs. During her research leave in 2022-2023 she served as the first Social Science Advisor for National Audubon Society and conducted a social science opportunities assessment for the organization.  She was an invited member of two National Park Service Science Advisory panels related to beach-nesting wildlife and invasive species. She regularly advises migratory bird joint ventures on how to integrate social science in their bird conservation efforts.

Dr. Dayer’s educational background includes a BA with Honors in Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard University (2001) and an MS in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources from Colorado State University (2006), studying the wildlife values of the Western public. She additionally received a certificate in Nonprofit Management (2008) from Southern Oregon University. Dr. Dayer completed her PhD at Cornell University (2013).

Committed to conservation, Dr. Dayer’s work experience in wildlife conservation is extensive. During and after college she worked in marine and wildlife biology positions on both coasts of the United States and Canada. Her environmental education and human dimensions interests developed from observing unaddressed conservation challenges for the wildlife that she studied. After completing her MS, Ashley served as the Education and Outreach Director for Klamath Bird Observatory. While working on her PhD and following it, Dayer worked at Cornell Lab of Ornithology as a Conservation Social Scientist. On the side, she ran her own strategic conservation consulting firm, aiding clients (six bird habitat joint ventures, NGOs, and academic institutions) interested in engaging people for conservation outcomes. She also served for three years as a Visiting Assistant Professor at SUNY – Environmental Science and Forestry before leaving the Finger Lakes of New York for her current position in Virginia.

Dr. Dayer lives with her kids and dogs in the Appalachian Mountains. They enjoy gardening, hiking, paddleboarding, watching and learning about wildlife, and camping.

Learn more about Dr. Dayer’s story of being a conservation social scientist here: (Fralin Explorer: Coffee with a Scientist)