Current Projects

A human-centered approach to the design of conservation incentive programs. Biodiversity conservation incentive programs that provide direct payments to natural resource users strive to enhance the value of imperiled biodiversity, leading to increased stewardship behaviors. However, programs designed with an emphasis on the price effect rather than program delivery can lead to low participation rates and hidden costs that may subvert a user’s internal motivation to conserve biodiversity. A human-centered approach to biodiversity conservation emphasizes empathy for the natural resource user and recognizes that the participation in programs is not simply a function of financial payments, but a function of the overall structure and administration of the program. A human-centered approach focuses on identifying the needs of users and then using participatory processes to incorporate the needs of the conservation target and to co-create a program that is complementary with the internal motivations of the target users.

Relevant Publications

Santo, A.R., Donlan, C.J., Hagen, C.A., Luque, G.M. and Sorice, M.G., 2020. Characteristics and motivations of participants and nonparticipants in an at-risk species conservation program. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 26(3):293-301. link

Sorice, M.G., C.J. Donlan, A.R. Santo*, G.M. Luque, C.A. Hagen. 2021. Exploring pathways to participation in an at-risk species conservation program. Conservation Science and Practice, e489. link

Sorice M.G., C. J. Donlan, K. J. Boyle, W. Xu, and S. Gelcich. 2018. Scaling participation in payments for ecosystem services programs. PLoS ONE 13(3): e0192211.

Ramsdell, P. R., M. G. Sorice, A. Dwyer. 2016. Using financial incentives to motivate conservation of an at-risk species on private lands. Environmental Conservation. 43(1): 34-44.

Santo, A., Sorice, M.G., Donlan, C.J., Franck, C.T., Anderson, C.A. 2015. A human-centered approach to designing invasive species eradication programs on human- inhabited islands. Global Environmental Change 35: 289-298.

Sorice, M. G. and C. J. Donlan. 2015. A human-centered framework for innovation in conservation incentive programs. Ambio. 44(8):788-792.

Sorice, M. G., and T. Abel. 2015. Participation in Pre-compliance Incentive J. Donlan and T. Gartner, editors. Markets, Mitigation, and the Endangered Species Act: Solutions For Incentivizing Proactive Species Conservation. University of California, Berkeley, CA.

Sorice, M. G., T. Gartner, M. Snieckus, R. Johnson, and C. J. Donlan. 2013. Increasing participation in incentive programs for biodiversity conservation. Ecological Applications  23(5):1146-1155.

Sorice, M. G. 2012. Retooling the traditional approach to studying the belief–attitude relationship: Explaining landowner buy-in to incentive programs. Society & Natural Resources 25(5): 499-512.

Sorice, M. G., J. R. Conner, U. P. Kreuter, and R. Neal Wilkins. 2012. Centrality of the ranching/farming lifestyle and attitudes toward a voluntary incentive program to protect endangered species. Rangeland Ecology & Management. 65(2): 144-152.

Sorice, M. G., W. Haider, J. R. Conner, and R. B. Ditton. 2011. Incentive structure and private landowner participation in an endangered species conservation program.  Conservation Biology 25: 587-596:

Sorice, M. G. and J. R. Conner. 2010. Predicting landowner intentions to enroll in an incentive program to protect endangered species.  Human Dimensions of Wildlife 15(2):77-89.

Understanding the role of volunteer associations in adaptive management. This research focuses on lake associations, which are volunteer groups focused on the environmental quality of lakes and their catchments. We are using three case studies to examine the effectiveness of the associations.

Relevant Publications

Fitchett, L.L., Sorice, M.G., Cobourn, K.M., Boyle, K.J., Klug, J.L. and Weathers, K.C., 2020. Pathways to enhanced lake integrity: A Framework to assess the effectiveness of local lake associations. Lakes & Reservoirs: Research & Management, 25(2), pp.258-268.

Henson, V.R.; Cobourn, K.M.; Weathers, K.C.; Carey, C.C.; Farrell, K.J.; Klug, J.L.; Sorice, M.G.; Ward, N.K.; Weng, W. A 2020. Practical Guide for Managing Interdisciplinary Teams: Lessons Learned from Coupled Natural and Human Systems Research. Social Sciences, 9, 119.

Ward, N.K., *L. Fitchett, J.A. Hart, L. Shu, J. Stachelek, W. Weng, Y. Zhang et al., 2019. Integrating fast and slow processes is essential for simulating human–freshwater interactions. Ambio, 48(10), pp.1169-1182.

Cobourn, K. M. et al. 2018. From concept to practice to policy: modeling coupled natural and human systems in lake catchments. Ecosphere 9(5): e02209.

Managing rangelands for ecosystem services. This research characterizes relationships between human activities and natural processes in a rangeland ecosystem, as a basis for developing management practices that will enhance the sustainability of agricultural profitability while at the same time improving the flow of ecosystem services from rangeland systems. My research examines:

  • the social forces that historically and currently drive land-use decisions affecting rangeland condition,
  • factors that influence the use of conservation practices on private lands with a focus on the role of voluntary incentive programs, and
  • implications of demographic shifts in land ownership on the adoption of conservation practices and subsequent ecosystems services.

Relevant Publications

Barnes, J.C., M. Sketch, A.R. Gramza, M.G. Sorice, R. Iovanna, A.A..Dayer, 2020. Land use decisions after the Conservation Reserve Program: Re‐enrollment, reversion, and persistence in the southern Great Plains. Conservation Science & Practice.

Rajala, K., M.G. Sorice, D. Toledo. 2021. Gatekeepers of transformation: private landowners evaluate invasives based on impacts to ecosystem services. Ecosphere, 12:e03652.

Rajala, K., Sorice, M.G. and Thomas, V.A., 2020. The meaning (s) of place: Identifying the structure of sense of place across a social–ecological landscape. People and Nature, 2(3).

Sorice, M.G., K. Rajala, and U.P. Kreuter. 2018. Understanding management decisions of absentee landowners: More than just presence-absence. Rangeland Ecology & Management, 71(2): 159-162.

Hurst, K., C. P. Ramsdell, and Sorice, M. G. 2017. A life course approach to understanding social drivers of rangeland conversion. Ecology & Society. 22(1):19. Open Access

Sorice, M. G., U. P. Kreuter, B. P. Wilcox, and W. E. Fox III. 2014. Changing landowners, changing ecosystem? Land-ownership motivations as drivers of land management practices. Journal of Environmental Management 133: 144-152.

Toledo, D., U. P. Kreuter, M. G. Sorice, and C. A. Taylor Jr. 2014. The role of prescribed burn associations in the application of prescribed fires in rangeland ecosystems. Journal of Environmental Management 132: 323-328.

Toledo, D., M. G. Sorice, U. P. Kreuter. 2013. Social and ecological factors influencing attitudes towards the application of high intensity prescribed burns to restore fire adapted grassland ecosystems. Ecology & Society 18(4):9.

Sorice, M. G., U. P. Kreuter, B. P. Wilcox, and W. E. Fox III. 2012. Classifying land-ownership motivations in central, Texas, USA: A first step in understanding drivers of large-scale land cover change. Journal of Arid Environments 80: 56-64.

Wilcox, B. P., M. G. Sorice, and M. Young. 2011. Dryland ecohydrology in the anthropocene. Geography Compass 5(3): 112-127.

Linking Human Perceptions and Socio-Ecological Thresholds for Ecosystem Restoration
The North American beaver (Castor canadensis) was introduced into southern South America’s Tierra del Fuego Archipelago in 1943. Subsequently, it expanded its range and has become the cause of the largest landscape-level alterations to these southern Patagonian forests since the retreat of the last glaciation. This research assesses the social and ecological thresholds and feedbacks that influence stakeholder participation in environmental management programs related to invasive North American beaver control and subsequent riparian forest restoration in Tierra del Fuego. (Eco-Link website)

Santo, A., K. Guillozet*, M.G. Sorice, T.D. Baird, S.A. Gray, C.J. Donlan and C.B. Anderson. 2017. Examining private landowners’ knowledge systems of invasive species. Human Ecology.

Santo, A., Sorice, M.G., Donlan, C.J., Franck, C.T., Anderson, C.A. 2015. A human-centered approach to designing invasive species eradication programs on human- inhabited islands. Global Environmental Change 35: 289-298.

Understanding Outdoor Recreation Use in Virginia’s State Forests
As Virginia’s population continues to grow areas of Virginia that were once considered rural have become more urbanized. Increasingly, people in these urbanizing areas seek outdoor recreation opportunities. This increased demand places new pressures on natural areas that have primarily been managed for uses other than outdoor recreation. This is currently the case with Virginia’s State Forests. The purpose of this proposed research is to assist the Virginia State Forest System with recreation planning by assessing baseline conditions of recreational use of state forests. Survey research of state forest permit holders and intercepts of hikers, walkers and boaters will provide this information.

Balancing recreational use and conservation of natural resources. This research addresses the paradox of maintaining or increasing recreation/tourism benefits while protecting the target resource. Increased use leads to increased revenues that can be reinvested in management; but, it also leads to an increase in social and biophysical impacts.

Relevant Publications

Oh, C. O., Sutton, S. G., and Sorice, M. G. 2013. Assessing the role of recreation specialization in fishing site substitution. Leisure Sciences 35(3): 256-272.

Oh, C., M. G. Sorice, and R. B. Ditton. 2010. Exploring Progression along the Recreation Specialization Continuum Using a Latent Growth Approach. Leisure Sciences 33(1): 15-31.

Lai, P., M. G. Sorice, S. K. Nepal, & C. Cheng. 2009. Integrating social marketing into sustainable resource management at Padre Island National Seashore: An attitude-based segmentation approach. Environmental Management 43(6):985-998.

Sorice, M. G., C. Oh, R. B. Ditton. 2009. Applying a self-classification measure of recreation specialization to examine scuba diver preferences for marine protected area management. Leisure Sciences 31(2):107-123.

Sorice, M. G., C. Oh, R. B. Ditton. 2007. Managing scuba divers to meet ecological goals for coral reef conservation. Ambio 36(4):316-322.

Sorice, M. G., R. O. Flamm, and S. L. McDonald. 2007. Factors influencing behavior in a boating speed zone. Coastal Management 35(2-3):357-374.

Sorice, M. G., C. S. Shafer, and R. B. Ditton. 2006. Managing endangered species within the use-preservation paradox: The Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) as a tourism attraction. Environmental Management 37(1):69-83.