This research will advance an integrated socio-environmental framework to examine the emergent challenges of overabundant wildlife, determine how social and environmental processes shape human-wildlife interactions, and guide the design of improved wildlife management strategies in suburban and urban environments. As wildlife populations in urban and suburban areas grow, people interact with animals in new ways. Individuals and communities must then decide if and how to manage these populations. The acceptance, feasibility, and success of different management approaches will be influenced by the social and environmental conditions within these communities. Decisions about management will in turn shape the social and ecological impacts of wildlife populations. This project will analyze the socio-environmental dynamics that shape deer populations and deer management strategies in urban and suburban areas of the northeastern United States. The research will generate new knowledge regarding the success of various deer management strategies in different socio-environmental contexts and support the development of decision-making tools to inform suburban and urban deer management. More broadly, this research will inform new theory about why human behavior and policy changes in response to some environmental challenges but not others. In addition, the project will create interdisciplinary research and training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students and support the development of course materials that use a case study of suburban deer management to understand the integrated socio-environmental dynamics of wildlife.
Concern over the cascading impacts of increasing populations of certain species has raised questions about the social and ecological impacts and management of overabundant wildlife in urban and suburban areas. This research will advance an integrated socio-environmental framework to examine the emergent challenges surrounding the growth of white-tailed deer populations in suburban and urban areas of Massachusetts and New York. This research addresses three linked questions about the coupled dynamics of deer populations, landscape characteristics, and deer management strategies: 1) How do changes in deer management institutions, hunter behaviors, and landscape characteristics shape deer populations? 2) How and why do particular social and environmental processes trigger changes in deer management strategies in some circumstances but not others? 3) How does collaboration (or a lack of collaboration) among land and wildlife managers at multiple scales influence the human and environmental outcomes of deer management programs? The investigators will undertake an integrated mixed methods analysis combining aerial surveys of deer populations, vegetation sampling, community surveys, in-depth interviews of key actors, and agent-based models.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.