Broadly, my research focuses on the relationships between environmental change, rural livelihoods, and human health and well-being. For example, I investigate the links between climate change, health, and education; the socioeconomic impacts of dam building on displaced communities; and the social and environmental drivers of migration. Read more about some of my projects below:
My most recent project examines links between climate change, food security, and child health and nutrition. Undernutrition during early childhood is known to have long-term negative impacts on health and human capital, including poorer cognitive development, lower educational attainment, shorter adult height, and reduced wages. Climate change has the potential to exacerbate undernutrition through its effects on agricultural production, birth outcomes, household income and assets, and food prices. To understand this relationship, I link data from the Demographic and Health Survey Program (DHS) to climate data. The first paper, in collaboration with Clark Gray at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Kathryn Grace at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, looks at the effects of temperature and precipitation on child stunting in Ethiopia. The second paper, in collaboration with Amir Sapkota at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, examines the effects of monsoon rainfall and earthquake exposure on household food security as well as child nutrition in Nepal.
This project, recently funded through an NSF IRES grant and led by Olaf Jensen at Rutgers, examines the socio-ecological impacts of hydropower development in the Selenge River Watershed (SRW) in northern Mongolia. The rivers of northern Mongolia represent an ideal laboratory for examining the impacts of hydropower development as they start from a nearly pristine baseline. Land use in the northern Mongolian portion of the SRW has changed relatively little in the past two centuries, with most land still forested or pasture. The project involves training three cohorts of graduate and undergraduate students in socio-ecological theory, research methods, and science communication through a semester-long seminar as well as a 6-week field research project. Social science projects will focus on understanding the effects of displacement by dams in the context of longer term impacts brought about by climate change and the transition to a democratic and free-market society. In addition, socio-ecological synthesis projects, designed by all of the students, will cut across disciplinary
boundaries to understand important dynamics of the coupled human and natural systems.
This project, in collaboration with Clark Gray at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, examines the effects of climate variability on schooling outcomes among households in tropical countries. Investments in education serve as an important pathway out of poverty, yet reduced agricultural productivity due to climate shocks or environmental degradation may affect school enrollment if children experience poorer health or nutrition in early childhood, are required to participate in household income generation, or if households can no longer pay for school-related expenses. We link household-level socioeconomic, demographic, and schooling data to high-resolution gridded climate data in order to understand how climate variability impacts school enrollment, grade completion, and child labor. This research offers new insights into the social impacts of global environmental change in the global tropics, which can inform policies that address education, socioeconomic development, and poverty reduction in the face of increasing environmental variability.
The goal of my dissertation was to study forced migration due to the Belo Monte Dam, which is currently under construction in the Brazilian Amazon. I employed a mixed-methods approach, collecting pre- and post-migration household survey and semi-structured interview data in order to better understand the roles of structure and agency in the forced migration process; the impacts of displacement and compensation on wealth and subjective well-being; and the effects of displacement and compensation on productive investments and income diversification. I found that many migrants mobilized resources such as social networks, financial capital, skills, and knowledge in order to move to locations that met their migration objectives. In addition, wealth and subjective well-being improved for the majority of the study population and socioeconomic inequality decreased, as poorer households experienced greater improvements in housing conditions, assets, and property ownership. While the program’s implementation had a number of shortcomings, I argue that the Belo Monte Dam’s rural compensation program should be viewed as a successful model for population resettlement.
HYDROPOWER AND THE DYNAMICS OF DISPLACEMENT:
FORCED MIGRATION & AGRICULTURAL LIVELIHOODS IN THE BRAZILIAN AMAZON
CLIMATE VARIABILITY AND SCHOOLING:
ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE & EDUCATIONAL INVESTMENTS IN THE GLOBAL TROPICS