Lab Director

Dr. Rebecca (Becky) Niemiec (pronounced “Knee-Mick”) is an Assistant Professor in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department at Colorado State University and the director of the Conservation Action Lab. She has a PhD from the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, Stanford University, and a B.A. in Ecology and Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College. Becky’s research focuses on understanding the drivers and outcomes of community action related to conservation and animal protection. She is particularly interested in applying social psychology theory and methods to design and evaluate community outreach and engagement programs. She has examined the human dimensions of a diversity of issues including: invasive species management in New Zealand and Hawaii, wolf restoration in Colorado, and wildscaping on residential properties. You can view Dr. Niemiec’s CV here.

Current Postdoctoral Scholars and Research Scientists

Dr. Benjamin (Ben) Ghasemi completed his PhD in the Rangeland, Wildlife, and Fisheries Management Department at Texas A&M University in August 2021. As a conservation social scientist, he uses survey and experimental methods and quantitative statistical techniques to understand and influence different stakeholders’ attitudes and behaviors with regard to biodiversity conservation. He obtained graduate certificates in Advanced Social Science Methods and Applied Biodiversity Sciences at Texas A&M University. Through his PhD he investigated how different concepts of identity affect stakeholders’ support for ecosystem and biodiversity conservation. With his field experience in large carnivore conservation in Iran and South Africa, Ben applies social and moral psychology theories to large carnivore conservation. As a postdoctoral scholar in the Conservation Action lab and Center for Human-Carnivore Coexistence, he investigates behavioral barriers and motivations for fostering human-carnivore coexistence. Moreover, Ben teaches research methods courses at the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department at CSU.

Current Graduate Students

Cassiopeia (Cassi) Camara is a PhD student in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department. Colorado is the 17th place Cassiopeia (Cassi) has lived. Her background includes volunteer work on the red wolf reintroduction program, communications for non-profits, and the development and delivery of large carnivore education programs. Her PhD work focuses on media portrayal of wolf reintroduction in Colorado and evaluating education programs about human-carnivore coexistence.

Veronica Champine is a PhD student in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department who completed her Master’s degree in the Conservation Leadership Through Learning program in 2019. She is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area and studied psychology and education at University of California, Santa Barbara. Veronica is interested in how social psychology influences pro-environmental behaviors in urban conservation and education contexts. She has worked with Professor Niemiec on a review paper that analyzes how norms affect different types of pro-environmental behaviors. As a PhD student in the Conservation Action lab, she is currently working on an NSF-funded project focused on wildscaping in the Front Range.

Taylor Heid is a PhD student in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department who previously completed her Master’s degree in Conservation Leadership at CSU. Originally from Minnesota, she earned her B.S. in biology with an emphasis on zoology from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Taylor is a conservation social scientist with a research background in human-environment relationships and is interested in the human-wildlife interface. Taylor’s research aims to explore the demand of the wildlife trade and motivations for exotic pet ownership. She has experience working with a variety of animal species in her previous work and has a special interest in endangered species. Her passion lies in scientific communication, as she strives to inform the public and influence policy with her research.

Mireille Gonzalez, Ray for short, is a social and behavioral scientist with a research background in environmental anthropology and conservation psychology. She is currently a PhD student in the HDNR department, and received her B.A. in Anthropology from U.C. Berkeley and her MSc. in Primate Behavior and Ecology from Central Washington University. She has experience working with a variety of cultural groups and animal species, and a special interest in keystone species, predators, and the human-wildlife interface. Her research aims are to explore environmental attitudes and perceptions in order to enhance community engagement in conservation and to foster a more environmentally conscious society. During her time in the Conservation Action lab, she has focused her efforts on studying wolf reintroduction in Colorado state.

Kaiya Tamlyn is a Master’s student in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department. Originally from the Adirondack Mountains in New York, Kaiya received a B.A. in Psychology from Eckerd College, with minors in Environmental Studies and Human Development. Kaiya has worked with The Dolphin Communication Project helping to research behavior and communication in wild bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins off the coast of Bimini, The Bahamas. She spent time working in environmental education before being hired to SeaWorld Orlando’s Rescue Team where she rescued and rehabilitated injured, sick, or orphaned manatees, sea turtles, dolphins, and a wide variety of bird species. Her research interests stem from her time spent with these animals as she hopes to understand how to create behavior change in humans to better protect wildlife and the places they call home.  

Erin Weingarten (she/her) is a PhD student in the Graduate Degree Program of Ecology. Erin received her B.S. from Duke University in 2018 in Biology, Evolutionary Anthropology, and Marine Science. She has worked in Panama, Turkey, South Africa, Swaziland, Kenya, Sumatra, and Hawaii. Her research interests center around human/wildlife coexistence, behavioral ecology and spatial ecology. She is also passionate about technology in conservation and engaging with people through a lens of action oriented, community led, ethical research. Erin is currently working on a project in Botswana to use AI for real time monitoring of African elephants. She is also partaking in efforts with human/wolf coexistence in Colorado as well as human/African wild dog conflicts in Zimbabwe.

Lab Alum and Affiliates

Martha Bierut completed her MSc in Conservation Leadership in 2019 and is now a PhD student in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology in Dr. Salerno and Dr. Solomon’s labs in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources department. A New York native with over 2 years of experience in the East Africa region, Martha is currently researching human-elephant conflict issues in western Uganda. With the Conservation Action lab, Martha was a research assistant on a study investigating environmental stewardship volunteer retention throughout the United States.

Dr. Richard E.W. Berl is a computational social scientist with a background in evolutionary theory, behavior, and cultural change, and a passion for conserving biocultural diversity and improving social good and sustainability. He has B.A.s in Biological Sciences and Anthropology from the University of Delaware, a M.S. in Zoology from Washington State University, and recently completed his Ph.D. in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources at Colorado State University. His previous work has focused on cultural evolution, specifically how culture is learned and transmitted in human and animal groups and how cognitive biases in cultural transmission drive broader dynamics of culture change. His postdoctoral work from 2019-2021 with the Conservation Action lab group pursued a greater understanding of the influence of cultural factors on values, attitudes, and behavior related to wildlife, specifically those surrounding the proposed wolf reintroduction to Colorado and coexistence with wolves and other carnivores. Access his personal webpage here.

Matt Collins is interested in the values, practices, and tools that enable coexistence with large carnivores in the American West. His backgrounds in large-landscape conservation, carnivore-coexistence, and ranching inspire his line of research. His current work focuses on understanding what cultural, interpersonal, and incentive based factors influence ranchers to employ preventative and non-lethal predator control methods. Matt served as a research and outreach associate in the Conservation Action Lab and the Center for Human Carnivore Coexistence from 2019-2020. Prior to CSU, Matt worked for People and Carnivores and the Center for Large Landscape Conservation on projects ranging from climate adaptation planning to carnivore coexistence research.  

Dr. Megan S. Jones is a conservation social scientist who studies processes of behavior change and leadership in environmental conservation. She was a Research Scientist in the Conservation Action Lab from 2019-2021. Her research focuses on understanding and supporting the actions individuals take to make the systems they are embedded in more sustainable and just. Dr. Jones co-leads an NSF-funded project exploring the power of relational organizing to help people effectively encourage others in their social networks to eat more sustainable diets. She also works with Dr. Niemiec, Veronica Champine and other students to study how to motivate adoption of social diffusion behaviors in the context of native plant gardening, and with collaborators at nonprofits and other universities on several projects assessing the impacts of women’s leadership and cultural change interventions. Dr. Jones has an MS in Conservation Leadership and a PhD in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources from Colorado State University. You can learn more about her work at her website:

Dr. Stacy Lischka is a quantitative social psychologist and human dimensions researcher.  Stacy’s research focuses on understanding conservation-relevant human behavior and evaluating efforts to encourage behaviors that support conservation objectives.  She has worked for over 15 years in state and federal wildlife management agencies in the midwest and western U.S., which has given her a keen sense of how to collect and communicate science in a way that addresses applied conservation and policy needs.  Her work addresses topics as diverse as human-wildlife conflict, recreational use of public lands, natural resource decision-making, private land conservation, and environmental education.  She eagerly embraces the challenges and opportunities that arise from integrating understanding of social and ecological processes, and applying that knowledge to real-world problems.  She holds a M.S. from Michigan State University, and a Ph.D. from Colorado State University. Stacy worked with others in the Conservation Action lab as a consultant to execute and evaluate the outcomes of an experiment to encourage native gardening in residential neighborhoods in Fort Collins, Colorado.  She is affiliate faculty in the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources.

Jeffrey Rodriguez completed his M.S. in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources department at Colorado State University in 2020. His research interests include collaborative conservation, science education, and the connection between social justice and conservation. Before starting graduate school, he was an outreach practitioner for multiple government agencies at the state and federal levels (i.e. National Park Service, United States Geological Survey, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife). He also has worked in the private sector as an environmental educator and a consultant. For his master’s, he worked with Dr. Niemiec and the Conservation Action Lab on a project studying how messaging can affect the public’s perception of wildlife management initiatives. 

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Kayla Redd, Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Major, Research Assistant, Sustainable food systems study, 2021

Addie Sedoff, Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Major, Research Assistant, NSF wildscaping study, 2020

Jenna Wyatt, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Major, Global Environmental Sustainability minor, Research Assistant, Meta-analysis of normative influences study, 2019