Bennett Grooms is a Ph.D student in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation working in Dr. Ashley Dayer’s human dimensions lab. He started at Virginia Tech in Fall of 2017 and is researching the human dimensions of wildlife recreationists in Virginia.
Specifically, he is working with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to understand how social concepts, such as trust, motivations, and perceptions, influence the behaviors of wildlife recreationists. His research will culminate in the creation of a wildlife recreation management plan for Virginia to better promote participation in wildlife recreation and conservation.
Bennett earned his B.S. in Wildlife Sciences with minors in Captive Wild Animal Management and Biology from the University of Missouri in 2014, graduating with Magna Cum Laude honors. During his undergraduate training, he worked with captive wildlife husbandry and carnivore behavior in South Africa and served as a carnivore keeper and trainer at several zoos. Bennett then developed an interest in field research after working for the Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project, where he researched the nesting behaviors of neotropical bird species and the response of insect communities to human-induced edge habitats.
After becoming interested in field research, Bennett went on to earn his M.S. at Arkansas Tech University (2016) under the advisement of Dr. Rachael Urbanek. During his M.S. program, he studied citizen science and the effects of recreationists on avian, mesocarnivore, and woody vegetation communities in state parks. While earning his M.S., he also developed a passion for teaching and interdisciplinary work. He taught labs in Introduction to Zoology for 2 years and served as the vice-president of the first Arkansas Tech University Graduate Student Council.
As global issues like habitat loss and invasive species worsen, it is imperative to educate the public about conservation and involve multiple stakeholders in habitat management. Through the Interfaces of Global Change IGEP, Bennett hopes to gain a holistic understanding of human behavior and how global changes will alter flora and fauna, so that he can help bridge together formal science with participation in natural resource conservation.