Research

Some of my current research projects are described below. In addition to these projects check out the People page to see what my graduate students are working on.

A number of watershed partnerships in Colorado and the Intermountain West are investing in wildfire risk mitigation, but lack scientific information on the impact of their investments or a planning tool to prioritize efforts. Our interdisciplinary team is developing a decision support tool that optimizes the location of wildfire risk mitigation activities to avoid sediment delivery and maximize return on financial investments. Faculty and staff across three departments at CSU – Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, and Forest and Rangeland Stewardship – and professionals at The Nature Conservancy-Colorado and Colorado Forest Restoration Institute are involved in this work. See our recent publication in Journal of Environmental Management to learn more. We were awarded the Office of Vice President for Research’s Interdisciplinary Team Scholarship Award in 2017.

There are few rigorous evaluations of the impact of protected areas on avoided deforestation and even fewer that link governance processes to these impacts. In this project we are using quasi-experimental impact evaluation methods and key informant interviews to analyze how protected areas in three countries – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – have impacted changes in greenness. We are linking indicators of protected area capacity and decision-making processes to these impacts to understand how governance influences effectiveness. Preliminary findings suggest that transboundary designation has had a positive impact on greenness, with variation in effectiveness due to the capacity and level of decentralization within a protected area. This research was funded through a NASA Land-Cover/Land-Use Change grant.

This interdisciplinary research project is funded by NSF’s Coupled Natural-Human Systems program and involves scientists from CSU, MI Technological University, University of New Hampshire, SUNY-ESF, U.S. Forest Service, National Autonomous University of Mexico, and the Ecological Institute of Mexico. Our team is evaluating the net effects of payments for watershed services (PWS) by integrating data across the physical, ecological, economic and social sciences to assess the impacts, feedbacks and tradeoffs in Veracruz State, Mexico. We are measuring carbon stocks, hydrological flows, water quality, and plant diversity to quantify ecosystem services; mapping and classifying eight land cover types across twenty years to determine land cover changes; and conducting more than 15 institutional interviews, 60 household interviews, and 250 household surveys to determine the impacts of the PWS program on land use, household income, conservation knowledge and practices, and perceptions of equity. These data will be used to develop scenario models for the region. Our conceptual framework describing this approach was published in Bioscience (Asbjornsen et al. 2015).

In Ecuador, I am working with a team of social scientists to assess how land tenure and financial incentive programs have affected forest conservation. Recent papers combine rigorous impact evaluation methods with focus group interviews to assess the effects of land titling and economic incentives around a protected area in the Amazon (Holland et al. 2017; Jones et al. 2016). We are currently evaluating the impact of indigenous areas with and without the forest conservation incentives program on avoided deforestation.

A number of community based natural resources management (CBNRM) projects are being implemented around the buffer zone of protected areas in Ethiopia with the goals of alleviating pressure on resources and sustaining local livelihoods. Our project is working with local partners to assess how these CBNRM approaches are affecting social outcomes and conservation attitudes around Bale Mountains National Park. We are especially interested in how devolution of power and benefit sharing mechanisms are impacting local communities and natural resources management outcomes.