My research focuses on the political dimensions
of socio-ecological transformations.

I examine how socio-ecological change is directed and governed and who benefits and who loses in the process. I have conducted over three years of academic fieldwork in Brazil, Indonesia, Bolivia, and Ecuador, as well as at organizational headquarters and international negotiations in the US and Europe. I have also worked as a consultant on tropical forest issues in Central Africa. I am fluent in French, Portuguese, and Spanish, and I have advanced proficiency in Bahasa Indonesia.

I am currently working on two major research programs:

Governance and Change in
Tropical Agro-Forest Landscapes

Tropical deforestation is central to global processes of climate change, biodiversity loss, and the extinction or transformation of human cultures and livelihoods. Carbon emissions from deforestation account for roughly 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and deforested land is primarily converted to agriculture. Can existing forest governance models succeed in Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) at the global level? Is it possible to decouple agricultural productivity from forest clearing to ‘feed the world’ without felling the forest? What kinds of social and ecological relations emerge at the intersection of agricultural and environmental politics? The answers to these questions have profound implications for understanding the political economy of natural resources and development and the conditions for responding effectively to global climate change.

These questions are examined in my book, “Saving a Rainforest and Losing the World: Conservation and Displacement in the Global Tropics,” forthcoming from Yale University Press. The book expands on my dissertation, which received the American Political Science Association’s Virginia M. Walsh Award for the Best Dissertation in Science, Technology, and Environmental Politics. I have also published sole or co-authored articles on these topics in Comparative PoliticsWorld DevelopmentAnnals of the American Association of Geographers, and The Journal of Peasant Studies.

Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations in Global Environmental Governance

The increasing number and importance of non-governmental organizations has been a central feature of international politics since the 1980s. The growing literature on environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) indicates that these organizations have substantial impacts on people and their environments, both on the ground through the implementation of projects and through influence on policy from the local to international levels. Despite the centrality of ENGOs in environmental politics, we have lacked both a comprehensive empirical overview of the global ENGO sector and detailed attention to the small group of transnational ENGOs that exercise substantial power over environmental governance. This research program aims to address both these gaps.

With two colleagues, I have compiled an original dataset of 679 ENGOs, and our first paper analyzing this dataset was published in PLOS ONE. The paper presents a statistical overview of the ENGO sector and a typology of global environmental discourse based on quantitative content analysis of ENGO mission statements. A follow-up paper in Environment and Planning E, co-authored with a University of Georgia student, uses critical discourse analysis to deepen and challenge our quantitative discourse typology.

Turning to the transnational ENGOs that play a central role in global governance, my second book project, “Tropical Oak: Forests, The Nature Conservancy, and the Rise of Transnational Conservation,” centers on an organizational ethnography of The Nature Conservancy, one of the largest environmental nonprofits. A related article in Geoforum focuses on organizational ethnography as a methodology for studying global environmental governance.

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