Past Lab Members

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Zach Miller, PhD student

Zach received his PhD in 2017. His dissertation was “Day hikers and bear safety: An elaboration perspective on education in Yellowstone National Park.” Zach grew up in Northern California and spent his early youth exploring the wilderness and foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He has taught environmental education for a variety of audiences, lead backpacking and kayaking trips, and worked as a resource manager on ecological reserves. He earned a B.S. in Natural Resource Management and Policy from California State University, Chico. Afterwards, he decided to branch out and gain new perspectives on the human-nature relationship by moving to South Carolina where he completed a M.S. in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management from Clemson University. After living in both the Sierra Nevada and Appalachian Mountains, he decided it was time to explore the Rocky Mountains and moved to Missoula, MT. Currently, Zach is working on a project that is looking at human-wildlife interactions in Yellowstone National Park for his dissertation research. When not working, Zach enjoys hiking, backpacking, birding, and fly fishing. 

Zach Miller, PhD student

Fred Lauer, M.S. student

Fred Lauer graduated in 2017 with an M.S. degree in Systems Ecology. Fred was born in El Paso, Texas, but spent most of his life in Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison, graduating with a B.A. in Japanese and Asian Studies. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Chiba, Japan where he taught English, independently studied environmental sustainability, and met his wife. Fred’s research interests are partially the products of key events during his life abroad; volunteering to clean up tsunami-stricken homes revealed to him the fragility of human systems when they ignore natural, ecological boundaries. He found the most unstable systems were those dependent on far away sources of food, water, or energy; resilient communities had long established and lasting social ecological landscapes. These landscapes proved to be invaluable examples of how a systems approach to management can be beneficial to both biodiversity and human livelihoods. Fred came to Montana especially interested in multi-stakeholder collaborative natural resource projects that address human dimensions in relation to landscapes, forest ecosystems, and agriculture. His interests are broad and include landscape ecology, agroecology, agroforestry, and geospatial technologies. When Fred is not studying the intersect between natural and human systems, he challenges the frontiers of his experience in the great outdoors, especially with long cycling tours and multi-day hiking trips in the mountains surrounded by nature where he is happiest!

Fred Lauer, M.S. student

Lara Brenner, M.S. student

Lara Brenner came to the University of Montana in the Fall of 2015 to pursue her M.S. in Wildlife Biology. Her research interests focus on urban conservation, wildlife adaptations to anthropogenic changes, and mitigating human-wildlife conflict. Lara graduated from Carleton College in 2013 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies, an interdisciplinary program that focused on environmental policy, ethics, science and history. After graduation, Lara worked as a research assistant studying plague in prairie dogs and other rodents in the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge, became a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, and wrote policy recommendations and articles for the Sierra Club. In her spare time, she goes hiking, reads almost anything, pets other peoples dogs, writes sketches and grows tiny, inedible vegetables.

Lara Brenner, M.S. student

Reid Hensen, undergraduate research assistant

Reid was an undergraduate student studying psychology, minoring in business, and working to understand how people interact with their environments and what psychological impacts that may have. Reid has been working on his is undergraduate thesis looking at the self-efficacy and resilience of students who participate in wilderness orientation programs. Reid has also been involved in projects mapping access to natural spaces and mental health at an aggregate level. An avid backcountry skier and mountain biker, Reid loves the research world, but only when paired with getting outside and exploring. Reid is heavily involved in the honors college and is constantly looking for ways to apply knowledge gained in the lab or classroom to the real world. During the summers, Reid enjoys getting outside the classroom and working the land on ranches around the rocky mountain west. He looks forward to continuing in researching human-environment interactions after completing his undergraduate degree in the fall of 2017. 

Reid Hensen, undergraduate research assistant

Ryan Barr, undergraduate student researcher

Ryan grew up in San Diego, but hasn't called it home in a very long time. He's been traveling around the western world searching for wilderness and adventure since he could crawl. The Air Force dropped him in Montana a few years back where he worked as airborne search and rescue, but spent his weekends on foot venturing about in Glacier National Park. When his enlistment was up he moved over to Missoula to pursue a degree in Parks, Tourism and Recreation Management with a minor in Business. He came to the Human Dimensions Lab hoping to learn the skills necessary to pursue his interest in wisely blending technology and recreation, specifically how people discover new friends to pursue new adventures. In winter you can find Ryan by following his splitboard tracks through the snow up the alpine peaks. In summer you'll probably find no trace as he disappears off trail into the Montana wilderness.

Ryan Barr, undergraduate student researcher

Brian Battaglia, Spatial analysis research associate

My academic background is in Geography and I’m broadly interested in spatial technologies, human-environmental interactions, and the impacts of recreation and tourism.  During my time as a graduate research assistant at the University of Montana, I investigated bicycle mobility in Glacier National Park to help better inform park managers in their transportation planning efforts and decision making. During my free time I enjoy spending time with my wife, bicycling around Missoula, and exploring the wild spaces of Western Montana.

Brian Battaglia, Spatial analysis research associate

Devin Landry, M.S. Wildlife Biology

Devin received an M.S. in Wildlife Biology in 2016 for researching the impacts of recreational, backcountry aviation on the physiological stress response in deer and elk. In addition to the biological component of his project, Devin conducted a survey of recreational pilots in order to get a sense of their wildlife values and attitudes, as well as other aspects of their recreational experience. He is generally interested in how recreation and other human activities impact wildlife stress levels, how wildlife cope physiologically and behaviorally with human-related disturbance, and the ways in which outdoor recreation intersects with conservation both at the personal and societal level. 

Devin is a native New Yorker and received a B.A. from Skidmore College in Religion and English Literature. He still likes to pretend he has the free time to read fiction and poetry. Before starting his Master's in Wildlife Bio, Devin worked with horses and at a small animal vet clinic. While not getting flown into the magnificent backcountry airstrips of Montana and Idaho, Devin likes getting out into the hills around Missoula, horseback riding, and going to music shows around town.

Devin Landry, M.S. Wildlife Biology

Ellie Rial, M.S. Resource Conservation

Ellie moved to Montana from the Midwest in 2009 to complete a bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies. While pursuing her undergrad degree she fell in love with Montana (as does everyone who comes here!) and developed a passion for living in this incredible place. After graduating, she was hired as the Education Coordinator at the Clark Fork Coalition where she put her passion for this place to good use. For her master's thesis she examined environmental values of rural landowners with the larger goal of more efficiently navigating conservation agencies and landowner collaboration efforts. Her non-academic interests involve spending time outdoors with her husband and two dogs, and pursuing her newest hobby: duck hunting.

Ellie Rial, M.S. Resource Conservation

Jessica Brown - undergraduate student researcher

Jessica Brown grew up in Tennessee, but soon found her way out West. In spring 2015, she received a B.S. in Parks, Tourism, and Recreation Management and a B.S. in Resource Conservation with a minor in Wilderness Studies. As part of her Senior Honors Research Project, she worked with the Human Dimensions Lab to study visitor experiences and satisfaction with the BLM at the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. She is particularly interested in the relationships between humans and their environment, and how place attachment can inform management decision-making. During her time in Montana, Jessica has trekked the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness as a ranger, studied rivers as an AmeriCorps member, and assisted in policy and planning at the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. She enjoys taking her border collie, Tsuga, for hikes and learning new bird calls.

Jessica Brown - undergraduate student researcher

Ben Enseleit - undergraduate student researcher

Ben grew up in Great Falls, Montana, and spent his upbringing exploring the state’s amazing natural resources. After being drawn to the University of Montana for the pharmacy school, he soon realized the outdoors were his true passion and is now pursuing a B.S. in Recreation Management with a minor in Ecological Restoration. Ben worked on a research project for his Ecological Restoration Capstone course to assess potential recreation development on Five Valleys Land Trust’s Rock Creek Confluence property and provide a comprehensive report to help guide future decisions. He has particular interest in how restoring natural resources and developing outdoor recreation opportunities for the public can work hand-in-hand to achieve greater goals and provide benefits to both the environment and society. Ben has worked in Big Sky, Montana, as a community recreation coordinator intern and was secretary for the Montana Trails Recreation & Park Association Student Chapter.  When not hitting the books, you can find Ben in the mountains on his bike, Beyoncé, enjoying the endless trails around Missoula.

Ben Enseleit - undergraduate student researcher

Mary Sketch

Mary Sketch is a senior concentrating in Environmental Studies at Brown University with a focus in law and policy. She is particularly interested in natural resource management and policy. During the summer of 2014 she is working with the Metcalf Human Dimensions Lab on several projects including a detailed analysis of attendance data and an assessment of media coverage for the Southwestern Crown Collaborative. Mary received a Brown University LINK Award for her summer research at the University of Montana. Mary hopes to gain more environmental advocacy experience after graduating from Brown and before applying to environmental law schools. She has enjoyed spending time in Montana hiking, biking, exploring Missoula, and looking at natural resource management through a variety of lenses. 

Mary Sketch

Dr. Libby Khumalo

Dr. Libby Khumalo was a post-doctoral scholar with the Human Dimensions Lab. She is an environmental social scientist specializing in community-based natural resource management, international development, gender, empowerment, and human-wildlife interactions. Focusing on applied research, she strives to collaborate with community members, fellow researchers, non-governmental organization representatives, and state and federal agency managers to enhance conservation and sustainable development initiatives. She is passionate about engaging students in critical and sincere debate about environment and development dilemmas and she uses her research experiences from Ireland, South Africa, Namibia, and Montana to enhance learning opportunities. Prior to university-level teaching and research, she worked as an environmental educator and park ranger. Her hobbies include hiking, camping, backpacking, reading, gardening, dance, travel, sewing, and skiing.

Bridget Tinsley - M.S. Resource Conservation

In the Metcalf Human Dimensions Lab, Bridget helped to design a socio-economic monitoring survey to evaluate the Collaborative Forest Lands Restoration Program in the Southwestern Crown Collaborative. In 2010, Bridget received a B.S. from Washington State University in Botany. Months later she moved to Missoula to begin her graduate work at the University of Montana. From 2011-2013 Bridget served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia in conjunction with her graduate work for the University’s International Conservation and Development Program. While abroad she researched Afromontane bamboo and its contribution to rural livelihoods. Additionally, she was involved with youth development, tree nursery establishment and women’s income generation projects during her time in Ethiopia. When not in school, Bridget keeps herself busy mountain biking, hiking, skiing, cooking and reading to curb her insatiable wanderlust.

Bridget Tinsley - M.S. Resource Conservation

John Stegmaier - M.S. Recreation Resource Management

Originally from Michigan, I made my way to Missoula via Oregon for more education in hopes of realizing my goal of an awesome career in recreation management. My current research focus is conservation volunteerism specifically related to trails and wilderness stewardship. When not at school, you can find me on my mountain bike or skinning up the hills at Lolo Pass. If you like to ride, get in touch as I'm always looking for more riding/skiing partners! I have a wonderful wife and a pet pug named Kenny. 

John Stegmaier - M.S. Recreation Resource Management

Rebekah Rafferty, PhD

Rebekah Rafferty joined the Human Dimensions Lab in January of 2017 to pursue a PhD in Forest and Conservation Sciences. Her general research interests revolve around coupled social-ecological systems of the western United States, specifically where and when conflicts among humans and natural resources occur. Her research goals are to develop empirically grounded solutions to alleviate resource-caused risks to human communities in order to facilitate coexistence. Rebekah graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a double major in Modern Literature and Environmental Studies in 2009. She received her M.A. in Social Science from Humboldt State University in 2015. Her Master’s thesis focused on human-wolf interactions in western Montana, specifically how cow-calf producers that have experienced repeated wolf depredations are responding to the increased risk that wolves pose to their livestock. While completing her thesis, Rebekah worked full time in Montana’s remote Swan Valley for Swan Valley Connections, a non-profit organization integrating conservation and education in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem. Through an experiential learning strategy, she taught undergraduate students wildlife policy and management, field ecology of T&E species, and other courses examining the relationships between people and the landscapes that support them. At the University of Montana, Rebekah’s research focuses on applying the concept of resilience to western communities that exist among fire-prone forested ecosystems with the goal of understanding the processes that can help these communities maintain themselves in the context of large-scale fire-induced disturbance. In her free time, Rebekah enjoys anything related to natural history, is an amateur wine snob, and loves outdoor adventures with her husband and puppy. 

Rebekah Rafferty, PhD

Crystal Beckman, MPA candidate at MSU

Crystal Beckman works for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) as the Fire Prevention and Investigation Program Coordinator within the Fire and Aviation Management Bureau, Forestry Division. Crystal began work with the DNRC in March 2013. Prior to this she worked for Montana State University Extension as the Gallatin County Natural Resource Agent. Crystal is in the final stages of completing her Master's in Public Administration from Montana State University. Her research is focused on understanding how collective action dimensions of wildland fire influence private landowner decisions regarding fire prevention behaviors. Crystal is conducting this work in partnership with the Human Dimensions Lab in the University of Montana, W. A. Franke College of Forestry, specifically with Lab Director Alex Metcalf and Master's Candidate Alice Lubeck. Crystal received her Bachelor's degree from the University of Montana, College of Forestry and Conservation.

Crystal Beckman, MPA candidate at MSU