Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Rahelle K. Gould

Second Advisor

Cheryl E. Morse


The reasons and ways that nature matters underlie every part of environmental decision-making. Yet, there are disparities in how different kinds of benefits from and values about nature are represented in policy and practice. This dissertation explores how decision-makers and community members value nature broadly and also in the context of a specific human-wildlife interaction in Vermont, United States.

In my first chapter, I conduct semi-structured interviews with environmental sector practitioners in Vermont to learn about their awareness of non-material values from nature. I find that practitioners talk readily about both material and non-material ecosystem services as well as multiple types of values, and that they use stories to communicate about both. Based on these insights, I develop a community science project to gather a narrative dataset about a specific human-wildlife interaction that has gained public and policy attention in Vermont: coexisting with Eastern coyotes (Canis latrans var). In my second chapter, I analyze the ecosystem service categories evident in a community science sample of 150 stories about human-coyote encounters from around Vermont. My results reveal a wider range of benefits associated with coyotes than existing research or media coverage generally documents, but also highlight persistent negative impacts from certain kinds of coyote encounters. In my third chapter, I analyze the underlying values in the same 150 coyote story sample. I find that multiple types of values—instrumental, intrinsic, and relational—can co-occur not only within the same sample, but within individual interviewees’ stories of specific coyote encounters. In my last chapter, I reflect on the community science process that yielded the coyote story sample. Although narrative data shows great promise for environmental valuation, I document considerable barriers to engaging community scientists from already-marginalized backgrounds in gathering stories for research. I conclude with recommendations for future community social science projects.

Together, these studies make a powerful case for narrative as an important new tool in environmental valuation research. They also contribute to wider conversations on the plural values of nature, human-wildlife coexistence, and community social science. Most importantly, these studies reaffirm the need to capture and communicate the full diversity of reasons people care about nature for durable and equitable environmental decision-making.



Number of Pages

286 p.