Welcome Catherine!

Welcome to the lab Catherine!

We would like to welcome Catherine Cummings to the lab. Catherine received a prestigious teaching assistantship fellowship to pursue her PhD at the nexus of wildlife science and policy. Her position is envisioned to strengthen the relationship between the Conservation Governance Lab and faculty in the Auburn Deer Lab, which produces some of the most important cervid science and management scholarships in the United States. 

Before coming to the Conservation Governance Lab, Catherine worked as a Graduate Research Assistant on a multi-institutional study which was funded by the Woods Hole Sea Grant, awarded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (or NOAA) in the Summer of 2020. The project was titled “Human Dimension of Rebounding Populations of Seals and White Sharks on Cape Cod, MA” and is a multi-year study seeking to understand the views and attitudes of different stakeholder groups towards seals and sharks and various management strategies. The study aims to determine the differences in attitudes between locals, commercial fishermen, and tourists. Results of this survey will serve as the foundation for policy makers, managers, and non-governmental organizations to advance management and conservation strategies. 

Catherine opening one of the first hard copy surveys back in the mail

This issue of seal and shark management on Cape Cod was interesting to Catherine as there is a high proportion of individuals who are said to believe that current policies in place are not beneficial. As an advocate for coexistence, she is interested in understanding the motivations and desires behind stopping human-wildlife conflict. Catherine had the opportunity to spearhead the commercial fishermen side of the survey where she assisted with final survey revisions, sending the survey out, and management of incoming surveys during her time there. She had numerous direct correspondences with individual fishermen who had questions about the project or those who wanted to share their opinions with her.  

To ensure that she understood all aspects of this project she participated in tourist recruitment on the Cape Cod beaches, team meetings with all collaborators, assisted with mailings and intakes of other surveys, and data entry. She is a great example of how research can be fun, saying that her time engaging tourists for surveys on the beaches of Cape Cod was, “as incredible as it sounds!” She considers herself a ‘statistics nerd’ and found data entry as well as excel calculations such as endorsement types to be quite interesting. She is excited to see how her collaborative research will turn out, with results able to be viewed here. She is also the Conservation Governance Lab’s closest thing to a movie star, as she got interviewed for an HBO documentary regarding the topic, coming in Summer 2021! 

Tourist recruitment and sign up at Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod

Wanting to understand how wildlife management styles and techniques differ across stakeholder groups is ultimately what led Catherine to pursue this PhD program. Catherine is interested in pursuing a career where she can analyze wildlife management policies at both the state and federal level. Outside of her research interests, she enjoys spending as much time outside as possible. If she’s not in the office, you can typically find her hiking, swimming, skiing, scuba diving, or on a run. Please feel free to reach out to her about anything via email here!