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James A. Parkhurst

350 Latham Hall

Associate Professor

B.S., Univ. of Massachusetts (1974)
M.S., Univ. of Rhode Island (1977)
Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State Univ. (1989)


My research, teaching, and extension activities all are geared toward the study of the relationships and interactions between wildlife and human populations. Specifically, I use knowledge and experience gained from such study to develop practical applications to maintain or enhance wildlife populations while, at the same time, finding ways that wildlife and humans can coexist in relative harmony. Obviously, these goals present interesting challenges: how does one maintain, increase or diversify wildlife populations when confronted with an evergrowing human population and the concurrent array of complaints about human-wildlife conflicts? Certainly, these are challenges that must be met and issues our students must be prepared to deal with. Additionally, a large component of my recent work has been focused on helping natural resource management agencies identify, understand, and engage the stakeholders who form their new constituency; incorporating public involvement into resource use and management planning decision making processes poses new and potentially controversial challenges for these agencies.

  • Advanced Vertebrate Pest Management (FIW 5454G)
  • Advanced Wetland Ecology and Management (FIW 5534G)
  • Vertebrate Pest Management (FIW 4454) 
  • Ecology and Management of Wetland Systems (FIW 4534)

Cultural Carrying Capacity of White-Tailed Deer in Virginia; Post-doc student — Amy Carrozzino-Lyon. (Sponsor: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 2011-2014)

In this project, we conducted a statewide survey to assess citizens’ attitudes about deer and their desires for future deer population levels.  In addition, we examined an exhaustive suite of human demographic and deer population parameters as means to identify metrics that potentially could be used in developing an effective, adaptive model that would predict, in advance, when and where the threshold of stakeholder acceptance of deer would be exceeded and thus allow the agency to implement corrective measures proactively before deer-human conflicts erupt.

Management Planning and Habitat Modeling for Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) in Virginia (with Dr. Steve McMullin); MS student — Holly Morris.  (Sponsor: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 2011-2013).

This project identified stakeholders associated with the management of wild turkeys in Virginia, assessed their attitudes and opinions regarding turkey management, and incorporated that knowledge into development of a statewide management plan for wild turkeys in Virginia.  During this public involvement process, we also assessed how involvement in a management planning process affects both the stakeholders and agency personnel.  Finally, a 2-step comprehensive habitat assessment tool to evaluate habitat for wild turkeys in Virginia was developed; the first step uses GIS applications to examine and evaluate habitat at the landscape-level; the second step applies a rapid habitat appraisal tool that uses aerial imagery and data collected from on-site inspection to assess habitats of <1,000 acres.

Identification and Investigation of Wildlife Hazards at the Punta Cana International Airport (with Scott Klopfer, Conservation Management Institute);  Sponsor: Grupo Punta Cana-Dominican Republic, and Virginia Tech Foundation, 2011-2012.

On-site surveillance and monitoring of wildlife hazards to commercial aviation were conducted during 3 week-long systematic field observation periods over the course of a year at the international airport in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  Field observations documented a suite of existing and potential future hazards caused by wildlife, each of which were addressed in a hazard mitigation report developed to help airport managers attain compliance with international aviation standards (e.g., International Committee on Aviation Operations, Annex 14).  Recommendations on suggested adjustments to operations and/or facilities and grounds maintenance were drafted as means to reduce hazards.

Characterization and communicative analysis of wildlife managers and recreational users of Virginia’s wildlife management areas (with Dr. Steve McMullin); Ph.D student—Amy Carrozzino-Lyon. (Sponsor: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 2008-2011). 

We estimated total recreational use of 10 wildlife management areas (WMAs) owned by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) over the course of a full year and also assessed user opinions of land use management practices designed to enhance wildlife habitat.  We compared opinions of users and VDGIF professionals using co-orientation theory and determined that even though the two groups often agreed on use of management practices, they frequently thought they disagreed.  Recognition of this potential miscommunication could be valuable in improving communication between agency professionals and their stakeholders.  The land use management plan we helped to develop will guide management of WMAs in Virginia over the next 10 years.

Knowledge, attitudes, and opinions about human-wildlife conflicts held by community leaders in Virginia; M.S. student — Regina Elsner.  (Sponsor: Virginia Cooperative Extension Graduate Education Partnership, Virginia Association of Counties, Virginia Municipal League; 2006-2008).

A survey of representatives of local government (elected officials, administrative officials, animal control officers, Cooperative Extension county agents) about their understanding of human-wildlife conflicts occurring within their communities revealed significant differences of opinion and perceptions of risk.  Further, opinions diverged on perceived benefits derived from and one’s willingness to participate in co-management partnerships with regulatory agencies as means to resolve human-wildlife conflicts.  Animal control officers and Extension personnel displayed greater knowledge about wildlife, expressed greater concern about potential risks, and assigned higher priority to resolving human-wildlife conflicts in their community than did elected officials and administrative personnel.  Respondents acknowledged that wildlife complaints increasingly were being received from constituents, but questions over who was responsible for managing these conflicts delayed or prevented action from being taken.  Most respondents indicated a willingness to become involved in conflict resolution, but indicated less willingness for local government to take on a leadership role.  Respondents could identify potential partners valuable to resolving human-wildlife conflicts, but demonstrated uncertainty about the specific roles and responsibilities of these outside agencies (e.g., Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries).  Respondents identified important potential impediments (i.e., financial and personnel resources, the need to provide additional training or equipment) that could preclude or reduce their ability to become involved in conflict resolution.  Most respondents viewed community-based co-management approaches as realistic (74%) and attractive (63%) options for local governments to exercise in managing human-wildlife conflicts and many (74%) believed that co-management offered local governments a direct way to be involved in managing their own conflicts.  However, respondents believed that staffing and budget shortages would be significant impediments that would limit participation of local governments in co-management agreements.

Opinions of North Carolina hunters regarding hunting on Sunday and satisfactions with, motivations for, and constraints to hunting participation (with Dr. Steve McMullin); M.S. student—Melissa Hooper. (Responsive Management and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, 2004-2006)

In collaboration with Responsive Management, we conducted surveys and focus groups of North Carolina residents and hunters to determine their attitudes toward hunting on Sunday, which was not legal, but being considered, at the time of the study.  North Carolinians were extremely polarized over the issue, with approximately equal numbers strongly approving or strongly disapproving of hunting on Sunday.  We found that if hunting on Sunday were permitted, it likely would have increased hunting participation by an average of 7 days per year per hunter, but we were unable to determine if Sunday hunting would affect hunter recruitment.