My research focuses on the causes and consequences of environmental conflict and collaboration. I am particularly interested in how emotions, environmental risk perceptions, and communication drive socio-political conflict and policy resistance. I use an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on theory from the fields of psychology, communication, and political science. My research is guided by three theoretical questions examining a) how contextual and psychological factors (e.g., emotion, values, risk perceptions, trust and power) influence group communication, conflict, and collaboration, b) how decision support tools, simulations, and role-playing games can be used to build consensus and inspire prosocial behavior, and c) how to promote effective communication, decision making, and collaborative governance over land, wildlife, and water.
I completed my PhD in December 2012 in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida, I was advised by Dr. Susan Jacobson. In my dissertation, entitled Understanding Stakeholder Conflict: An analysis of public values, risk perceptions and attitudes toward outdoor cat management, I explored how environmental risk perceptions, beliefs, and values, combined with framing, influenced conflict over the management of a global invasive species (Wald & Jacobson 2013a, 2013b, Wald et al. 2013). Like many other resource conflicts (e.g., land, wildlife, and water), controversy over cat management featured entrenched interest groups on both sides of a heated debate driven by differences in perceptions, attitudes, and values. My research identified the critical, and previously ignored, role of perceived environmental risks and benefits as drivers of management conflict in Florida (Wald & Jacobson 2014). For my dissertation, I developed, distributed, and analyzed thousands of surveys using a range of quantitative tools, including structural equation and mediation models.
I am currently teaching a graduate-level seminar on Environmental Policy and Management in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University. I am also conducting a series of in-class presentations and experiments for WaterSim: A Decisional Game (a joint project of the Center for Policy Informatics and the Decision Center for a Desert City).