Date of Award

Summer 8-18-2023

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Ecology and Environmental Sciences


Sandra De Urioste-Stone

Second Committee Member

Parinaz Rahimzadeh-Bajgiran

Third Committee Member

Jessica Jansujwicz

Additional Committee Members

Karla Eitel

Matthew Brownlee


Conservation inherently involves intertwined ecological systems and human societies. In Maine, USA conservation decision-making brings together many viewpoints, values, motivations, and experiences to balance diverse goals. Socio-cultural, experiential, financial, and ecological factors can all influence an individual’s ability to make or support a decision. This dissertation aimed to broadly explore how people perceive their role in conservation decision-making in Maine. In doing so, we articulate a diverse set of perspectives, experiences, and values. We used a mixed methods approach which enabled an in-depth understanding of the complexity of conservation decision-making while providing the opportunity for different voices to be heard. Specifically, we focused on the experiences and perspectives of conservation practitioners, students and partners engaged in collaborative natural resource management, and those who are affected by and/or affect conservation decisions. We first conducted a qualitative interview study of practitioner experiences and values, which informed a quantitative survey study of public values and preferences, as well as a case study of a university-community conservation partnership. In Chapter 2, we describe the diverse values, goals, and motivations for conservation based on interviews with conservation practitioners. In Chapter 3, we further explore a particular subset of values from Chapter 2 related to practitioner perspectives around involving people in conservation based on the interviews. Chapter 4 introduces a case study to understand the role of place-based education within a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) college-level course. In doing so, we describe a specific application of engagement in a local context while also exploring student perceptions of engaging with conservation practitioners. In Chapter 5, we surveyed diverse individuals to understand their perceptions of moose and moose management in Maine. The survey results highlight hunter, recreationist, and landowner perspectives around environmental change. Together, this dissertation describes a diverse set of values, motivations, and experiences, which illuminate the following in the context of Maine: (1) whom or what is conserved, (2) how it is conserved, (3) who benefits from its conservation, and (4) how is power shared within decision-making or collaboration. Additionally, we share implications for conservation participation and engagement, communication, and education.