Date of Completion


Embargo Period



conservation; planning; land use; protected lands; decision making; multi-objective; socioeconomic

Major Advisor

Chadwick D. Rittenhouse

Associate Advisor

Jason C. Vokoun

Associate Advisor

Christopher S. Elphick

Associate Advisor

Morgan W. Tingley

Associate Advisor

Robert T. Fahey

Field of Study

Natural Resources: Land, Water, and Air


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The challenges of achieving conservation goals increase as more people and competing land-uses are present on landscapes. In these landscapes, tradeoffs are inevitable, and people and nature cannot be considered independently. Instead, conservation planning needs to accommodate the complexities, challenges, and synergies within social-ecological systems. Therefore, the overall goal of my research was to develop and apply planning frameworks and tools to improve conservation decision making and bridge implementation gaps in multi-objective landscapes. To achieve this goal, multiple avenues of research were pursued including 1) outlining a conservation framework that considered suites of spatially- and implementation-specific objectives; 2) exploring protected land expansions that achieved social, economic, and ecological objectives; 3) investigating if subdivision improved strategic achievement of conservation goals, and 4) identifying key sources of decision-making uncertainty for a threatened species in the Northeast US.

The Northeast US was an ideal landscape to study because the region has an intensive human footprint, even by global standards, but also a strong interest in maintaining its natural resources. To advance conservation efforts in this region, I focused on using methods that were systematic, transparent, and could move us from “knowing what to do” to actual implementation. Using multi-criteria decision methods, I illustrated how expanding the definition of conservation opportunity to include a suite of popular actions that were spatially explicit improved the effectiveness of planning efforts. I used genetic algorithms to iteratively generate and evaluate outcomes for protected land expansions that could navigated tradeoffs between social, economic, and ecological objectives. I applied a broad-scale, systematic subdivision process and demonstrated that socio-economically defined planning units could achieve conservation outcomes and reduce tradeoffs. I also used a value-of-information analysis to identify demographic and management uncertainties with the greatest impact on management and monitoring decisions for the threatened New England cottontail.

Achieving contemporary conservation goals requires operating in human modified landscapes and ongoing implementation gaps highlight limitations in our current conservation planning approaches. My research identified frameworks and tools that accommodated landscape complexities and challenges and offered ways to navigate tradeoffs to achieve conservation outcomes.

Available for download on Monday, November 27, 2023