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William (Will) Stovall

PhD Candidate

BioWill Stovall

Will Stovall is a PhD candidate co-supervised through the University of Otago Department of Tourism and Centre for Sustainability. He is originally from the Midwest United States (Missouri), and has lived in Dunedin since June 2013. Through his experiences in his home region, he has developed an interest in the influences of identity and community on belief systems, especially surrounding objective and quantifiable phenomena. Will is also interested in heritage tourism, and the interpretations of structures seen to have cultural significance. His PhD research and current position as a research assistant on the QuakeCoRE Oamaru Heritage Tourism Project (Supervised by Dr. Caroline Orchiston) are both relevant to this field of study.

His academic background is in biological sciences with a focus on marine environmental conservation, and he holds Masters and Bachelors degrees in this field. In 2018 he published a novel method for the discovery and statistical validation of sex-specific molecular markers in wild animal populations.

Phone (NZ): +64 (027) 964-2526
Phone (US): +1 (417) 830-6021


Professor James Higham (Tourism)

Dr Janet Stephenson (Centre for Sustainability)

Project Title

“Faces of Stone”: Perceptions of anthropogenic climate change (ACC) and colonial environmental alteration in the Dakotas Region, USA

Doctoral Research Abstract

Anthropogenic climate change (ACC) is arguably the greatest environmental, infrastructural, and social challenge of the 21st century. Belief and perception of the natural environment shape social norms, material culture, and entrenched practices, and these, in turn, influence individual and collective ACC-mitigation behavior. The Cultures Framework (Stephenson et al. 2015), which outlines this relationship in detail, has much potential to be applied within the United States of America (USA), where recent climate-related events have underlined the need for community-level resilience and acknowledgement of future risk.

Will Stovall - Study Sites - Dakotas
Within the Dakotas Region of the United States of America, perceptions of ACC and the natural environment as a whole are particularly polarised on geographic and cultural grounds, and the recent protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation brought this divide to the forefront of international awareness. However, the DAPL was but one among many environmental and cultural impacts throughout the region’s colonial past, and perhaps nowhere is this history more apparent than at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills.

Will Stovall’s doctoral dissertation focuses on how widespread public perspectives on ACC and the natural environment shape social norms, and how these factors influence individual behaviour and notions of responsibility. Through a series of semi-structured interviews in May-October of 2018, he will investigate public sentiments surrounding ACC, the DAPL, and Mount Rushmore, and what parallels exist between these three anthropogenic environmental alterations. He will engage with residents and stakeholders of the Pine Ridge, Standing Rock, and Cheyenne River Sioux Reservations, with residents (Native and non-Native) of Rapid City and Bismarck, and with visitors to Mount Rushmore from the Dakotas and from further afield.
Ultimately, Will aims to explore insights on ACC belief and receptivity to mitigation in the region through an examination of cultural environmental philosophies within the Cultures Framework, and apply his conclusions to the development of community-specific outreach strategies.



Stovall, W., Taylor, H. R., Black, M., Grosser, S., Rutherford, K., & Gemmell, N. J. (2018). Genetic sex assignment in wild populations using GBS data: a statistical threshold approach. Molecular ecology resources, 18(2).