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Kayla Cranston, PhD

Antioch University New England

As Public Service Faculty and Director of Conservation Psychology Strategy and Integration at Antioch University New England, Dr. Cranston is working with a broad network of psychologist and conservation practitioners to integrate current human behavior research into their urgent work towards biodiversity conservation. Before joining the Antioch team, Kayla was Conservation Education Researcher at Saint Louis Zoo where she designed and conducted studies to measure the psychological impact of the Zoo’s conservation education programs on participants. Prior to this appointment, Kayla completed her postdoctoral research in the Human Dimensions Laboratory in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University where she studied and created tools to evaluate motivation for long-term action toward environmental goals from a psychological perspective. She earned her doctorate degree in Conservation Psychology from Antioch University New England, her master of arts degree in Community-based Social Marketing from Prescott College, and her bachelor of science degree in Behavioral and Social Psychology from Arizona State University. Kayla has shared her expertise in conservation psychology by teaching the topic to graduate and undergraduate students at Antioch University New England, Keene State College, University of California in San Diego, and Oregon State University. She has facilitated and evaluated trainings to build capacity for conservation in Burundi, Tanzania, and the USA. She is a member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Capacity Development Working Group on Evaluation and has worked with organizations like the American Museum of Natural History, Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration, Regional Network for Conservation Educators in the Albertine Rift, EcoLogic, and Tropical Biology Association to apply the psychology-based tools to strengthen and evaluate engagement in their international environmental programs. In her free time, Kayla enjoys rock climbing, yoga, cycling, cross country skiing, and wrangling goats with her herding dog Goose.

Educational History

  • Postdoctoral Studies in Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Management, Oregon State University
  • PhD in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Conservation Psychology, Antioch University New England
  • MA in Community-based Social Marketing, Prescott College
  • BS in Social and Behavioral Psychology

Peterman, Cranston, Pryor & Kermish-Allen. (2015). Measuring Primary Students’ Graph Interpretation Skills Via a Performance Assessment: A case study in instrument development. International Journal of Science Education, DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2015.1105399. Available Online:

Cranston, K. (2016). Building & Measuring Psychological Capacity for Biodiversity Conservation. (Electronic Dissertation). Available at:

Cranston, Kayla Ann. (2009). Theory in action: A sustainable community development framework from a psychological perspective. M.A. dissertation, Prescott College, United States — Arizona. Retrieved May 27, 2009, from Dissertations & Theses @ Prescott College database. (Publication No. AAT 1462237).

Mazur, Zoloto, Cranston & Sanabria. (2012). Environmental Discounting: using the ERBI to estimate the likelihood of engaging in environment-responsible behavior. Journal of Environmental Psychology.

Cranston, Kayla A, Saunders, C.D, DeYoung, R. (in development). Willing & able: Fostering psychological capacity for biodiversity conservation.

Cranston, Kayla A, Trevelyan, R. Saunders, C.D, Kaplin, B. (in development). Psychological willingness as an indicator of long-term capacity for biodiversity conservation.

Cranston, Kayla A, Delie, J., Beidenweg, K. (in development). The impact of social data on coastal manager mental models and decision-making.

Invited Presentations

  • August 2019
    Conservation Psychology Institute, Saint Louis Zoo
    St. Louis, MO
    Presentation: Community-based Social Marketing
  • June 2019
    Black Jack Town Hall
    St. Louis, MO
    Presentation: Participatory Asset Mapping and the Saint Louis Zoo
  • April 2019
    Ferguson Youth Initiative (FYI)
    Ferguson, MO
    Presentation: Participatory Asset Mapping, Ferguson, and the Saint Louis Zoo
  • August 2018
    Psi Chi Missouri Chapter, Lindenwood University
    St. Louis, MO
    Presentation: What is Conservation Psychology?
  • January 2017
    Women in Science Group, Oregon State University
    Corvallis, OR
    Presentation: Long-term engagement in environmental decision-making
  • June 2015
    Conference of Environment & Human Well-being Claremont Graduate University
    Claremont, CA
    Presentation: Building & Evaluating Capacity for Biodiversity Conservation
  • October 2007
    ECOSA Institute of Sustainable Design
    Prescott, AZ
    Lecture: The Importance of Life Principles in Biomimicry-Based Ecological Design

Academic Presentations

  • June 2016
    Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation
    53rd Annual Meeting: Tropical ecology and society: Reconciling conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity
    Montpellier, France
    Presentation: Psychological willingness as an indicator of long-term capacity for biodiversity conservation
  • August 2015
    27th International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB)
    Montpellier, France
    Presentation: Fostering & Evaluating Durable Motivation in Capacity Building Programs
  • July 2012
    Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation
    49th Annual Meeting: Ecology, Evolution, and Sustainable Use of Tropical Biology
    Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil
    Presentation: The Role of Empowerment & Meaningful Action In Effective Biodiversity Conservation
  • June 2011
    Antioch University New England, Keene, NH
    10th Annual Environmental Studies Student Research Symposium
    Presentation: Capacity Building for Biodiversity Conservation in Eastern Africa
  • May 2008
    Prescott College, Prescott, AZ
    Thesis Presentation: Less Talk More Action: Creating a Theory-Based Community Action Plan to Foster a Sustainable Future
  • January 2008
    Highlands Center for Natural History, Prescott, AZ
    Lecture Series: Sustainability Theory and Applications

Research Activities

Empathy and Moral Reasoning for Animals and Other Children in Nature Preschool Students
PI, Saint Louis Zoo, St. Louis, MO
Observational methods were designed and interviews conducted to determine the impact of the Saint Louis Zoo’s Nature Preschool on preschoolers’ empathy and moral reasoning for animals and other children.

Fear of and Empathy for Animals, Sense of Place in Urban 2nd Graders
PI, Saint Louis Zoo, St. Louis, MO
Interview methods were designed to determine the impact of the Saint Louis Zoo’s 2nd Grade programming on participating students from Biome Elementary School in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Cognitive Structure of Shoreline Manager Priorities on the Olympic Peninsula
First author, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Analyzing quantitative and qualitative data from a study that explored how shoreline managers’ mental models and priorities changed after an intervention that showed them social data about their constituents. Findings indicate that there is a slight correlation between the shift in shoreline managers’ mental models and priorities after the intervention. This study provides a baseline of metrics and methods to use in future studies of how social information affects managers’ decision-making process.

Learning Interventions for Private Landowners to Restore Watershed Ecosystems
Co-author, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Interpreting data and co-writing discussion about this study, which used semi-structured interviews with private landowners to investigate determinants of support among riparian landowners to cooperate in restoration efforts. Findings indicate different learning interventions influence support for restoration. First, peer-to-peer interactions and relationships can influence land-use decision making. Also, ecological monitoring data and information that increases awareness of the condition of watershed ecosystems can influence support for restoration projects on private property. This study provides insight into how watershed restoration organizations can more effectively work with private landowners through understanding and incorporating these distinctions in landowner outreach and engagement.

Local Engagement in Coastal Management Decision-Making in Oregon
Co-PI, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Using interviews, focus groups, and literature review to identify the psychological, socio-economic, and governance-focused wellbeing and motivation metrics related to environmental decision-making across community team members along the coast of Oregon. Working collaboratively with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Sea Grant to identify community groups. Working directly with community teams on the Oregon coast to co-create metrics that will help monitor their wellbeing and motivation as it relates to future environmental decision-making.

Psychological Determinants of Capacity for Conservation in Practitioners
PI, Antioch University New England, Keene, NH
Comparative study using interviews and surveys to identify universal and population-specific metrics to determine long-term action toward environmental goals in North American and East African practitioners. Exploratory Factor Analysis was used to analyze the results. Findings indicate that meaningful ownership, effective autonomy, community need, group efficacy, and understanding all play an important part in the development of long-term capacity in practitioners while meaningful ownership, effective autonomy, and community need are predictive of 35% of variance in long-term capacity behavior. Interesting differences were found across populations. This study provided insight into the psychological underpinnings of capacity building across North American and East African practitioners and highlighted the importance of considering population-specific differences in these dimensions in future cross-cultural capacity-building efforts.


Environmental Studies


Conservation Psychology Strategy & Integration


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