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 to protect communities and secure ecosystem services, especially watershed services. My research and interests on this topic include: (1) assessing the economic benefits and costs of wildfire mitigation for ecosystem services and values at risk; (2) measuring people’s preferences for protecting values at risk; (3) understanding motivations of watershed partners in investing and financing wildfire mitigation activities and appropriate metrics of success; and (4) improving decision support tools and science communication so practitioners can more effectively target wildfire mitigation activities.

Payments for ecosystem services (PES) approaches have gained widespread popularity as a conservation tool, particularly in the Global South. My research and interests on this topic include: (1) measuring the impact of these approaches on conservation behaviors and land cover change; (2) assessing the sustainability of these approaches in terms of tradeoffs across ecological, economic, and social outcomes; (3) advancing theory on what motivates individuals and communities to participate in PES; and (4) engaging stakeholders in deliberative processes about PES targeted at improving the design and implementation of these programs on the ground.

Protected areas remain the cornerstone of conservation governance around the world. My research on protected areas focuses on: (1) implementing more rigorous evaluation methods to analyze the impact of protected areas on land cover outcomes and (2) advancing knowledge on the causal mechanisms and moderators that lead to these outcomes. Regarding the first point, I use quasi-experimental impact evaluation methods to analyze the impact of protected areas on land cover changes. For the second point, I incorporate social science methods, including focus groups, interviews, and surveys, to understand people’s on-the-ground perspectives on what is driving these changes. I am particularly interested in how management effectiveness and governance processes (including decentralized management) affect protected area outcomes.

The relationship between land tenure-both tenure form and tenure security-and conservation outcomes remains unclear. My research on this theme explores: (1) the impact of land titling on conservation outcomes; (2) the influence of indigenous lands and community-managed lands on conservation outcomes; and (3) whether and how conservation policies influence tenure security.