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Dr. Willandia Chaves

FACULTY AFFILIATE   |   Global Change Center

Fish and Wildlife Conservation

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Dr. Chaves is a conservation scientist working with the human dimensions of fish and wildlife conservation, using tools and methods from different fields, including Conservation Psychology, Economics, Human Geography, and Environmental Education, among others.  Her research aims to understand how people make decisions about their use of natural resources and, in turn, use this understanding to foster more sustainable behaviors and influence policy.

Having joined Virginia Tech as an Assistant Professor of Fish and Wildlife Conservation in August 2020, Dr. Chaves aims to focus her research on three primary topics:

  1. how urbanization affects people and biodiversity, addressing questions such as:
    • what levels of access and connection to nature do urban residents have, especially minority groups?,
    • how can urban residents’engagement with nature-related activities be increased?, and
    • what are the levels of demand for wildlife and natural resources in urban communities?
  2. drivers of wildlife trade, both demand and supply
  3. testing and evaluating cutting-edge approaches to collecting sensitive information of natural resource use (e.g. illegal wildlife trade) to improve data accuracy

For her postdoc with the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, Dr. Chaves studied how urbanization, rural-urban migration, and generational change affected the illegal trade of wildlife in the Brazilian Amazon. She worked to assess the magnitude of wildlife trade across urban areas and the socioeconomic factors influencing the trade, with the goal of identifying priority actions and areas for wildlife conservation in the region.

Dr. Chaves completed her PhD and master’s degrees in Interdisciplinary Ecology at the University of Florida, and bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences at the Federal University of Acre (Brazil). For her PhD, Dr. Chaves assessed the factors influencing consumption of wild meat (i.e., meat from wild animals) and implemented a social marketing campaign that successfully reduced wild meat consumption by urban residents in the central Amazon. For her master’s, she assessed the effects of reduced impact logging on bird communities in the western Brazilian Amazon.