Do you think that a parent’s leisure activities could affect their children’s as well? For me, I would say, “Definitely yes, and even affect my choice of future research field.” My father enjoyed going hiking, and I grew to love walking along trails in the mountain and natural areas. This was my first step that got my foot into the door of natural resource conservation and management.
My research interests in protected area conservation have grown from a project that I participated in while working on my master’s degree in Environmental and Ecological Planning within the discipline of Landscape Architecture at Seoul National University. As part of the project, I spent two years surveying the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and Civilian Control Line Area (CCA), especially the Donghae line and Gyeongui line, with the joint ecological survey team for reconnecting inter-Korean railways and building parallel roads. To suggest effective ecological assessment criteria and management guidelines for the area, I conducted a conservation values assessment of the DMZ and CCA on the Donghae line and delineated the area by established criteria.
After finishing my Master’s degree, I worked at the Korea Environment Institute as a researcher for roughly 5 years where I conducted various projects related to environmental planning and conservation of protected areas and wildlife. Even though I developed new standards and proposed national environmental policies and guidelines, I could not convince myself whether those works were effective or had a linkage to the public. I felt that something was still missing from my research about natural resource conservation and management.
Through my professional experience, I have become increasingly aware of the need to understand public perceptions related to issues of environmental concern. The success or failures of conservation planning initiatives are largely dependent on building social consensus and enhancing public awareness. Therefore, I am here in the Applied Biodiversity Science (ABS) NSF-IGERT program and the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Laboratory at Texas A&M University to purse a doctoral degree focusing on protected area conservation within socio-ecological systems.
Through interactions with ABS students and faculty I hope to gain a broad understanding of many scientific approaches to conservation; including biological, social, economic and political. Integrating aspects of these disciplines through coursework and scholarship will help me in achieving meaningful conservation in my future work with parks and protected areas.
My research interests are primarily in the area of human dimensions of natural resource conservation and management in the context of parks and protected areas. For my dissertation, I will focus on congruence between agency and public conservation objectives for protected areas within South Korea and the United States. Through this study, I will identify factors underlying public perception of conservation priorities, and these data will help managing agencies identify drivers of public priority.