Lara Mengak

M.S. Student

Lara joined the Dayer lab in the Fall of 2016. Her research interests include human-wildlife interactions and coexistence, conservation behavior decision-making, integrating social and ecological data, and more generally, bird conservation. Lara earned a BS in Ecology with minors in Anthropology and Comparative Literature from the University of Georgia in 2014. During her undergraduate work, she worked in Dr. Nathan Nibbelink’s Spatial Ecology Lab researching species vulnerability to sea level rise. Her undergraduate thesis focused on American alligator habitat occupancy and potential range shifts with sea level rise. Lara has always been interested in wildlife ecology and behavior, but her various fieldwork experiences, beginning with small mammals, showed her the importance of understanding the intersection between human and natural systems. After graduating, she worked for Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) as a human dimensions technician studying black bear-human interactions. This experience allowed her to explore the field of human dimensions and the intricate, complicated relationships people have with wildlife. From this internship, she worked for various state agencies and universities on both human dimensions and ecology/conservation projects. She has worked on these projects both in the U.S. and internationally in Costa Rica, Botswana, and most recently, Panama. Through these varied work experiences, Lara has developed a specific interest in birds and bird conservation. In the Dayer lab, she is working on a project examining human disturbance and shorebird conservation with a focus on drafting potential management solutions to mitigating or reducing disturbance. She is excited to work on a project that integrates social science research with biological science data. She believes working with managers and stakeholders on conservation issues will create practical, useful solutions and that understanding people’s relationships with wildlife is essential to the future of conservation.