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Katie C. Surrey

PhD Candidate and Graduate Research Assistant - Arizona State University

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About Me

I am currently a PhD candidate in Biology and Society at Arizona State University, pursuing my interest in conservation and animal behavior. I study the intersection between human-wildlife interactions through the lens of animal behavior, with the aim of establishing more effective, non-invasive mitigation techniques.

I have always had a strong passion for wildlife conservation, animal behavior and ecological preservation. Prior to ASU, I attended Connecticut College in New London, CT and obtained my B.A. in Environmental Studies. I have worked at the institutions such as the Franklin Park Zoo (Boston), Marine Biological Laboratories (Cape Cod) and California Wildlife (Calabasas), and served for three years as the Adoption Supervisor at the Animal Rescue League of Boston. 

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Current Research

My current project focuses on the impacts of the tourism industry in Panama and the physiological stress impacts it has on the wildlife of the region, as well as the socioeconomic impacts for the local community. The wildlife-tourism industry has experienced increased growth and popularity in the region, although the current regulation enforcement controlling tourist behavior is severely lacking.

The revenue from the tour industry is vital to funding conservation efforts and provides benefits to communities through education opportunities and job creation. However, the benefits depend on the behavior and health of the wildlife populations, and previous studies have revealed the drastic impact of human activity on animal behavior. It has not yet been determined how changes in animal behavior impact people’s willingness to pay for wildlife tourism activities, and how this may have social and economic repercussions for the ecotourism industry and local community. To address this question, we are studying a population of humpback whales off the coast of Panama, to establish a coupled human-environmental system focused on animal behavior and marine wildlife-tourism. Additionally, through surveys of community members in the ecotourism industry, we will collect data on the social and economic impact of wildlife behavior, to hopefully provide an understanding of the behavioral, ecological and economic parameters required to develop a model of human-environment interaction in the ecotourism industry. By correlating wildlife behavior to biological stress responses, we will provide a novel approach to explicitly valuing changes in animal behavior.

In the future, the integration of behavioral ecology into conservation planning will allow for more effective regulation and compliance of policies, and help strengthen the marine Conservation Management Plan developed by the authorities of Panama, as well as other nearby whale-watching destinations, 

My work is in collaboration with ASU and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (

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Other Research

Endangered Species Compliance Framework

Through a collaboration with the Electric Power Research Initiative (EPRI) I 

explored the potential creation of a model framework that could be used by power companies to better assess the cost of compliance with the Endangered Species Act, which is currently poorly understood. The ultimate goal is to develop more standardized methods to collect and report on these data so that they can confidently be used for assessment of sector level compliance costs. These estimates would enable the private sector to plan for project budgets and to make decisions about how to best meet compliance requirements, or reduce future regulatory risk, all while meeting resource demands.

This study represented a novel attempt at a systematic analysis of the cost of private-sector compliance using data from available Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs). We used a costing framework to conceptualize how private-sector projects might incur compliance costs, and to provide consistency in how costs are categorized across the highly variable descriptions in HCPs.  By exploring the broad categories of compliance cost data included in HCPs, we assessed the potential utility of these documents for estimating overall costs of compliance with the ESA. In doing so, we identified the limitations with basing compliance cost estimates on these data and provide recommendations for how cost reporting in HCPs can be improved moving forward.

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“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem.”

A.A. Milne

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Refining the Ecosystems Services Model: Integrating Animal Behavior into Ecotourism Management

Surrey, K., Hawley, CR., Davis, ON., Clements, JL., Bernat I., Gerber LR. (2021)

As life on Earth has entered a sixth mass extinction driven by pervasive human impacts, there is a growing need for research that effectively identifies and resolves potential conflicts between wildlife and humans. While developing solutions on how to mitigate adverse interactions between humans and wildlife is of critical importance, there is notably less research on the impact of animal behavior shifts on the quality of ecosystem services that humans benefit from, such as those derived from ecotourism activities, that are fundamentally based on people's ability to witness natural animal behaviors. These human-wildlife interactions can lead to valuable contributions to conservation and economic opportunities for local communities. However, studies have revealed that drastic behavior changes occur when wildlife populations are subjected to high levels of anthropogenic disturbance. Building on the understanding that human and animal behaviors are strongly linked through complex social-ecological feedback systems and utilizing the existing ecosystem frameworks, this chapter highlights the need for better understanding of the current wildlife-based ecotourism models and how they might become better adapted into the future. The year-long COVID-19 pandemic provided a unique opportunity for the current practices to be adapted, and emerging questions about the on-going relationship between humans and wildlife need to be investigated to establish more effective ecosystem management interventions.

Contact Me

The best way to reach me is:


Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85281

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Image by Silas Baisch
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