Kiandra Rajala

B.S. Forestry,  University of Montana, 2013
B.S. Parks, Tourism & Recreation Management, University of Montana, 2013

As an undergraduate at the University of Montana, I completed dual degrees focused on forest and recreation resources management along with a minor in wildlife biology, and I conducted independent research on the motivations of big game poachers in Montana.  I have put my education to use spending 10 invigorating field seasons working in natural resources with the US Forest Service in Montana, Wyoming, and Alaska; the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources; and the University of Alaska in positions ranging from wildland fire, forestry, and timber management to trail work, visitor education, and wilderness recreation. My work experiences and undergraduate thesis research illuminated the integral role that people play in the use and management of natural resources and the viability of solutions to environmental issues. I am excited that my thesis research at Virginia Tech enables me to work with a multi-disciplinary team studying the social-ecological dynamics of rangelands in the Southern Great Plains. Specifically, I study how and why land ownership change relates to grassland conversion to woodlands.

Research Interests:

  • Dynamics and resilience of social-ecological systems
  • Sense of place, relational values, and traditional ecological knowledge
  • Human perspectives and outcomes of conservation and natural resource management
  • Private-public partnerships in ecosystem-based management
  • Balancing recreation use with resource protection

Current Projects:

  • Understanding heterogeneity in land ownership as a driver of land cover change in the Southern Great Plains
  • Evaluating the visitor experiences of millennials in Virginia State Parks
  • Examining factors that influence recreation users’ willingness to pay for access to Virginia State Forests

Past Projects:

  • Poaching in Montana: The Importance and Implications of Game Wardens’ Perceptions of Poachers, Undergraduate Honors Thesis, Davidson Honors College, University of Montana.