New Faculty: Carly Sponarski

We are pleased to welcome 18 new faculty to its community this fall. Each brings with them a plethora of experience and expertise that will enrich our university. The College plans to feature a new faculty member every Monday and Wednesday to help our community get acquainted with our new colleagues or teachers.

Please join us in welcoming Carly Sponarski to the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Conservation Biology.

Assistant Professor of Human Dimensions of Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation

Highest Degree
PhD in Geography at Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada

What I studied during my PhD
My dissertation research focused on the human dimensions of wildlife natural resources. These studies looked at how social science theories can be used to reduce human-wildlife conflict, by understanding society’s values, beliefs, attitudes and behavior toward wildlife. In particular, I focused on human-coyote interactions, and advanced the human dimensions of conflict by examining the role of emotional disposition within the cognitive hierarchy, and by linking cognitions and emotions. For this project, I collaborated with a National Park and provincial government. The research outcomes from my dissertation helped to guide future management decisions concerning human-coyote conflict as well as develop programming within the park.

Specialty/Research Area
I research the intersection of humans (social systems) and natural resources (ecological systems) and thus my work is interdisciplinary in nature. At this cross-road, I examine the social impacts of resource management – the community interactions, associated conflicts, and decision-making. Such research is called “human dimensions of natural resources”, and through this lens I am interested in understanding future management directives/objectives, current management strengths/weaknesses, and public opinion towards different these decisions.

When did you discover a passion for your specialty?
During my undergraduate at the University of British Columbia, I volunteered at an endangered species breeding center, where I was exposed to applied conservation practices from around the world. I realized that while conservation requires both ecological and biological knowledge to conserve species it also requires support by the local human communities. This “eureka” moment, launched me into getting my Master’s of Environmental Design, where I could do an interdisciplinary degree in both environmental science and human dimensions. While working on my master’s degree, I realized that I enjoyed the complexities of the social science component of my thesis a lot more and I saw that my personal strengths lent themselves well to this type of work and research. This realization propelled me into a PhD purely focused in human dimensions of wildlife.

Why UMaine?
During my PhD, I had the fortune of living and working in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, two Canadian provinces in the Atlantic region. I fell in love with this region of North America and upon graduating hoped for the opportunity to return. When I visited the campus during my interview, the faculty, staff and students were so welcoming. I enjoyed the sense of community, the engagement in local research, and the possibilities to develop my own research program in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology.

What is one thing you look forward to in the coming year?
I look forward to meeting new colleagues in and outside of the university community. I also look forward to laying down some roots in Maine and look finally getting to watch some good hockey with a Tim’s tea.