Dr. Ashley Dayer

Assistant Professor

Dr. Dayer is an Assistant 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 {more info}.

Dr. Jessica Barnes

National Bird Conservation Social Science Coordinator

Jessica grew up in a small town outside of Savannah, GA and recently relocated to Blacksburg from Raleigh, NC. She holds a Ph.D. in Forestry and Environmental Resources from North Carolina State University, as well as a master’s degree in environmental public health and bachelor’s degrees in biology and sociology. Her work broadly focuses on integrating and translating perspectives from the critical social sciences to improve the outcomes of biodiversity conservation {more info}.

Bennett Grooms

Ph.D. Student

Bennett Grooms is a Ph.D student in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation working in Dr. Ashley Dayer’s human dimensions lab. He started Fall of 2017 and is researching the human dimensions of wildlife viewers with the VDGIF to construct a Wildlife Recreation Management Plan for the state of Virginia. Specifically, he is interested in how differing outdoor recreation groups view and interact with the agency, including how the behaviors and attitudes of those groups influence their participation in conservation and wildlife viewing programs {more info}.

Becca O'Brien

Ph.D. Candidate

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}.

Rachel Green

M.S. Student

Rachael is a Master’s student in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation working in the Dayer Human Dimensions Lab. She is advised by Dr. Ashley Dayer and additionally mentored by Dr. Amy Johnson from the Smithsonian’s Virginia Working Landscapes program. Her research focuses on the human dimensions of conservation on private lands. She will be working with private landowners and citizen scientists in order to better understand the variables that drive private landowners’ perceptions of and engagement in conservation behaviors. {more info}.


Kelsey Jennings

M.S. Student

Kelsey is a master’s student in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation working in the Dayer Human Dimensions Lab. Kelsey’s research interests encompass the human dimensions of wildlife viewers and focus on how historically underrepresented groups utilize natural spaces. 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}.



Emily Sinkular

M.S. Student

Emily joined the Dayer Human Lab in the Spring of 2021 as a Master’s Student 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.

Emily graduated Magna Cum Laude from Colorado State University in 2019 with a B.S. in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources {more info}.


Jonathan Rutter

Human Dimensions Technician

Jonathan joined the Dayer Lab in October 2018 to work with a large, bi-national dataset of birdwatchers and hunters. Born in New Zealand and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, his interests lie in the intersection between ecology and society, particularly the political nature of environmental issues. Jonathan graduated from Yale University in May 2018 with a B.S. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies. He currently trains with a pro swimming group at Virginia Tech.


Mackenzi Mills

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Mackenzi Mills is an undergraduate Animal and Poultry Science major. She is pursuing an environmental education through her Biodiversity Conservation minor and joined the Dayer Lab in the Fall of 2020. Her interests include studying the importance of human dimensions in wildlife research and how those ideas impact human perceptions of nature as well as for her future career in Veterinary medicine. She is assisting Dr. Dayer in her research, consisting of data collection and conservation literature analysis to construct a manuscript. This manuscript will examine the amount of community and social science done on private lands over the past 20 years.


    Maggie Smith

    Undergraduate Research Assistant

    Maggie is an undergraduate student double majoring in Wildlife Conservation and Biology. She joined the Dayer Lab in Fall of 2020 and is excited to delve into the field of human dimensions. She works on assessing the proportion of conservation science conducted on private lands versus public lands. Broadly, her interests lie in ecology, behavior, international development, community based natural resource management, and one health initiatives. 



      Anna Klewicki

      Undergraduate Research Assistant

      Anna is an undergraduate majoring in Environmental Conservation and Society and Public Health at Virginia Tech. She joined the Dayer Lab in Fall 2020, where she is helping to examine how much biodiversity conservation science has been done on public and private lands, and creating a database of conservation research on private lands in the past twenty years. She is interested in outreach and stakeholder engagement, specifically best practices in getting people interested in and excited about conservation.