Conservation Social Science
Political Ecology research focuses on the institutional drivers that act on landscapes and produce the context for management. Landscapes are complex and dynamic social formations that hold within them the political histories that have built their current condition. Local institutions and governments develop policy and make decisions that affect this condition, as well as the people that live within the landscape. Disparities and marginalization of populations can emerge over time, when institutions fall short of implementing equitable management or fail to accurately assess the condition of the environment and its complex history. Conversely, biodiversity, forest cover, and ecosystem health can be lost if institutions facilitate unsustainable development or marginalize certain populations. In Mexico, for example, forested landscapes have experienced vast differences in vegetation cover over the course of colonialism and revolution. Certification and payment for ecosystem service (PES) schemes are challenged to develop baselines for measuring progress and deforestation within this context. Conflict has frequently arisen as well, particularly when reserves were inhabited prior to protection by indigenous groups who traditionally used forest resources. I am interested in researching the unique institutional contexts–which have produced complex landscapes–to improve conservation and PES programs while working to maintain traditional rural livelihoods.