Research

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 Latin America and Southeast Asia, 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 through the politics of REDD? 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 current book project, “Forest Governance and Global Development: The Land Sparing Fallacy in Brazil and Indonesia,” based 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 World 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 lack 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 662 ENGOs, and the first article manuscript analyzing this dataset is currently in preparation. The manuscript presents a statistical overview of the ENGO sector and a typology of global environmental discourse based on quantitative content analysis of ENGO mission statements. 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 transnational ENGOs. A related article manuscript under preparation focuses on using transnational organizational ethnography to study global environmental governance.