Susan G. Clark

Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Adjunct Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Policy Sciences

Research Overview

My primary goal is to improve natural resource conservation at professional, scientific, organizational, management, and policy levels. This requires interdisciplinary problem solving in theory, research, practice, and teaching. My interests intersect in various ways in most of my projects and activities. I currently have several major interests: applied conservation, professional and organizational behavior in the natural resources arena, and analysis and development of policies and programs for conservation of species and ecosystems. Representative activities include koala conservation and management policy in Australia, a policy study aimed at improving carnivore conservation in the Rocky Mountains of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and an analysis of ecosystem management policy in the Greater Yellowstone region. I have written about 360 pages, monographs, and books.

Theory development: Theory for interdisciplinary problem solving is well developed and grounded in practice. Central theory is abstracted in the policy sciences, which are simultaneously a comprehensive theory about the individual, society, and policy process and an analytic framework to guide research, inquiry, and problem solving. Despite the significance of this powerful theory, it is little known or used currently in ecology, natural resource policy and management, or international development. Recasting this theory in appropriate language to various audiences and applying it in diverse cases thus illustrating its utility, takes up most of my research, practice, teaching, and publishing.

Ecological and conservation research: I have investigated 30+ mammal species (marsupials, insectivores, rodents, carnivores, ungulates, primates) in ten states and three foreign countries, mostly with threatened and endangered species in recent years. I conduct fieldwork to develop reliable population estimates, habitat models, field monitoring techniques, and help design preserves and produce management plans. I work closely with theoreticians, modelers, geneticists, and others both to develop and refine theories and to introduce appropriate concepts and technical tools to actual management.

Professional and organizational behavior: I have investigated the roles and behavior of natural resource practitioners and the challenges they face. I have also produced models drawing on organizational theory that suggest new organizational arrangements and policy processes to enhance performance in the natural resources field. My general thesis is that professional norms need to be expanded to include more diverse and practical skill in organizational and policy processes as well as pragmatic problem solving.

Policy research: I am interested in natural resource policy and management. I have several ongoing projects in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Yellowstone to Yukon region of western North America aimed at developing ecosystem management policy and sustainable development. A number of case studies, mostly focusing on wildlife, are under study (e.g., grizzly bears, wolves, elk). Large carnivores are a special interest of mine. Also, I have studied implementation of the Endangered Species Act and its Victorian, Australia, equivalent, the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. I have also evaluated policies (e.g., National Forest Management Act) and programs (e.g., endangered species restoration) in the conservation field.

Teaching: I am interested in teaching and advising students at undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels to upgrade performance in the conservation arena. I also teach field courses and workshops. This requires teaching critical thinking and developing skill in interdisciplinary problem solving. My particular aim is to help students develop a policy orientation and an interdisciplinary approach to society’s natural resource problems and proficiency in the policy sciences method of inquiry and central theory. Better-qualified practitioners and researchers will, in turn, improve the functioning of their employing organizations as well as the larger social processes by which society decides how to manage itself and its resources.

Consulting: In the past ten years, I have consulted with a number of groups with the general aim of improving problem solving in the conservation of species and ecosystems. These efforts have included five one- to four-day workshops for state government agencies in Australia, a three-week field tour to consult with managers of nature reserves in Inner Mongolia, and a week-long meeting in Indonesia to plan strategies for protection of Javan rhinos. I also helped The Nature Conservancy in evaluating and planning their operations in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Other projects include evaluating koala management in Victoria, Australia, appraising grizzly bear recovery, various analytic exercises for conservation groups, and assisting Teton County, Wyoming Commissioners on various issues.

Leadership:  Leadership is needed throughout society. Leadership is about promoting and safeguarding the process of deliberation in the common interest. Leaders show good timing, responses to clear needs, and may or may not be highly visible to the public. They inspire commitment, action and lead in problem solving, encourage broad-based involvement, and sustain hope and participation. Chief among their skills is leading in problem solving by helping to clarify goals, mapping events and social interactions, and in explaining, futuring, and finding practical solutions. They have a way to understand and value demands and identities of potential followers, meeting their higher needs, and engaging them fully. In short, they raise people and themselves to a higher level of motivation and morality. They empower others and give them a new sense of value, perspective, and energy. My interests focus on helping people become skilled leaders, aware of their own psychodynamics and follower relations in both symbolic and material ways.