Dr. Ashley Dayer (she/her)

Associate Professor 

Dr. Dayer is an Associate Professor of Human Dimensions in the Department of Fish and Wildlifer 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 {more info}. 


Katie Krafte Holland, PhD (she/her)

Research Scientist

Dr. Katie Krafte Holland is a conservation social scientist and Research Scientist at Virginia Tech. Katie joined the Dayer Lab after spending 4 years as a faculty member at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in the Environmental Science department. As a researcher, Katie focuses on human dimensions of conservation including protected area management, community engagement in conservation, human-wildlife interactions, and strategic conservation planning. Prior to her time at UNCW, Katie completed her PhD in Parks and Conservation Area Management at Clemson University where she focused on human-wildlife interactions, wildlife tourism and community involvement in conservation efforts {more info}.

Justin Beall (he/him)

Postdoctoral Associate

Justin’s interest in the human dimensions of natural resource use began while he was pursuing a B.A. in Environmental Science at The University of Florida, where much of his coursework focused on the intersection of society and the environment. Continuing to explore these interests, he completed an M.S. in Forest Resources at the University of Georgia. There, he studied the reasons why travelers choose sustainable tourism products (e.g., ecotourism) over other options. His interests began to broaden as he progressed through a PhD in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University, where his dissertation focused on designing and testing conservation communication strategies with audience characteristics in mind {more info}.

Kelley Langhans (she/her)

Postdoctoral Associate

Kelley is an interdisciplinary conservation scientist, with a focus on urban ecology, ornithology, access to nature, justice, and human dimensions. She obtained her PhD from Stanford’s Department of Biology, where she studied conservation in human-impacted landscapes and how preserving ecosystems can benefit both people and biodiversity. Kelley has engaged with government, NGOs, and communities to solve environmental problems, from reforestation policy in Costa Rica to access to nature in community gardens in San Francisco, CA. Her work centers research that has a concrete practical outcome, and considers people and issues of equity as an integral part of conservation {more info}.

Nathan Thayer (he/him)

Postdoctoral Associate

Nathan Thayer is a Human Geographer and a postdoctoral associate in the Dayer Human Dimensions lab in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech. Nathan earned a Ph.D. in Geography at the University of Delaware in 2023. Nathan’s research focuses on the diverse ways caring relations and ethics are entangled with contemporary antiracist struggles in the United States. His dissertation research focused on care in three arenas. First, at the national scale thinking through the ways that care, taken often as a normative good, plays a role in the ongoing production of white supremacy in the United States. Second, looking at the way caring and uncaring relations are woven into the initiatives and work aimed at producing more diverse, equitable, and inclusive institutions in higher education {more info}.

Freya McGregor (she/her)

Research Associate

Freya McGregor, OTR/L, CIG is an occupational therapist and the owner of the consulting and training business Access Birding. With a clinical background in blindness and low vision services, her own experiences as a disabled birder, and her passion for social justice, she works to create a more accessible and inclusive birding community and the outdoors, particularly for disabled birders. She co-founded the nonprofit Birdability, and led the organization as its sole employee for the first 18 months of its existence. In the Dayer Lab, she is involved in projects related to disability, birding, access, inclusion and using birding as a therapeutic tool. She has written on these topics for Audubon, Birding and Legacy magazines and the LA Times, and is currently working on the first travel guidebook for disabled birders in the US (to be published by Princeton University Press in 2026).  {more info}.

Becca O’Brien (she/her)

Ph.D. Student

Becca joined the Dayer lab in the summer of 2018 as a PhD student studying the social and ecological aspects of hellbender conservation. Her interest in research began as an undergraduate at Colorado College where she studied environmental science and completed two independent research projects. The first looked at niche partitioning between native and invasive bee species in rural Paraguay, while the second addressed the population dynamics of ants and aphids in desert yucca communities {more info}.

Christy Pototsky (she/her)

Ph.D. Student

Christy Pototsky is a PhD student in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation supervised by Dr. Ashley Dayer. Christy graduated with a BSc in Ecology and Conservation from the University of St. Andrews in 2019. Between her undergraduate and Master’s degrees, she worked in practical conservation, including surveys for the Maryland-DC Breeding Bird Atlas, which ignited her passions for participatory science and ornithology. This experience inspired her Master’s research on the scientific and conservation planning impacts of citizen science ornithological atlases {more info}. 

Emily Sinkular (she/her)

Ph.D. Student

Emily joined the Dayer Human Dimensions Lab in the Spring of 2021 in Fish and Wildlife Conservation. Her research in the Dayer Lab focuses on a multi-state study of wildlife viewers. Emily spent much of her childhood in Germany, where she finished high school in 2016. She was inspired by some of Germany’s and the European Union’s progressive environmental policies and sought an education that would allow her to learn more about governance and the intersection of humans and the environment {more info}.

Picture of Kelsey Jennings

Kelsey Jennings (she/they)

M.S. Student

Kelsey is a master’s student in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation in the Dayer Human Dimensions Lab. Kelsey’s research interests encompass all things human dimensions and the outdoors. They focus on how historically underrepresented ethnoracial groups are engaging in wildlife viewing, the mechanisms of support for donation-based state agencies, and how community science has the potential to bridge the gap between agencies and their broader constituents. She will be surveying communities across the United States, but more thoroughly in her home state of Minnesota, to help agencies understand how to best serve the shifting dynamics of their usership base {more info}.

Sami Livingston (she/her)

M.S. Student

Sami is a master’s student in the Dayer Human Dimensions Lab and pursuing a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences. She is working on a collaborative project to prevent human disturbance of shorebirds along the Atlantic Flyway. She is supporting staff from Audubon, Manomet, and USFWS to implement community-based social marketing campaigns across the Flyway {more info}.