Who We Are

Faculty, Staff, and Graduate Student members

William Stewart, Professor
“America's rural communities are changing. It's important to understand these changes from people who live in them.”

Carena van Riper, Assistant Professor
“I grew up on a ranch in the southwestern US and have appreciated the opportunity to reconnect with my rural roots through this project. I also enjoy learning the reasons why people develop connections with protected areas.”

Amy Ando, Associate Professor
"I like working to understand the values people place on agricultural and natural amenities in their communities, and am excited to learn what role bison restoration has been able to play in rural economic development."
Lorraine Stamberger, M.S. student
"I enjoy Jasper County because of the friendly Iowans and the rolling agricultural fields!"

Nathan Shipley, Ph.D. student
"I like to work with rural communities."

Paul Gobster, Research Landscape Architect
“This study provides an opportunity to understand the broad context of ecological restoration efforts and their social and economic impacts.”

Liqing Li, Ph.D. student
“I’m interested in studying the impacts of bison re-introduction on local economic health.”

John Strauser, M.S. student
“I like understanding the effects people have on their landscapes."
Sophia Winkler-Schor, M.S. student
"I am eager to gain a better understanding of the values and needs of rural residents in the Midwest in hopes of furthering efforts of agriculture and prairie restoration to come together." 

Zhiyi Zhang, Undergraduate Research Assistant
“I care about communities because I live and work in one.”

Jena Johnson, Undergraduate Research Assistant
“I enjoy uncovering how acts of restoration can positively impact economies and communities in both predictable and unpredictable ways.”
Nikki Evans, Ph.D. student
“I like working on this project because I believe research that links human wellbeing and conservation can have a real and lasting positive impact on the world, and, of course, because the research team is awesome.”
Nora Grasse, Undergraduate Research Assistant

We are a collection of researchers in several departments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We foster interdisciplinary collaborations to understand connections between people, their environments, and communities in ways that influence conservation of parks and protected areas. The impact of our research advances theory while providing agencies and professional organizations with information to promote behaviors leading to sustainable development of communities and a high quality of life.


collage of 12 lab members, male and female, students and professors