Graduate Seminars

I generally teach one graduate level seminar each year often on interdisciplinary topics around land change science.

Fall 2014: Approaches to Reducing Tropical Deforestation
*taught again in Fall 2016
In this graduate seminar, we will explore a range of approaches aiming to reduce deforestation looking across the tropics and through time.  We will consider the social and environmental implications of various efforts including REDD+, payments for ecosystem services, demand-side conservation such as eco-certification and zero-deforestation agreements, and command-and-control interventions including land use zoning and protected areas.  Are they effective?  Where and under what circumstances?  What are the unintended consequences?   All major forest regions will be considered but Brazil will be a focus as we examine the dramatic fluctuations in rates of forest clearing.  This is an interdisciplinary seminar, leaning heavily on literature from “land change science”, which seeks to understand the dynamics of land cover and land use and their various consequences through an examination of coupled human-environment systems.  By the end of the class, you will be conversant in the major issues surrounding tropical deforestation, and complete an in-depth research paper or project.

Fall 2012: Emerging Market Impacts on Global Agriculture
Pressure to feed an ever-growing population, coupled with the surging demand for biofuels and meats, has prompted a sea change in global agriculture in recent years.  Trade between countries has become increasingly important, adding new pressures on forests and other natural ecosystems as well as opening new doors for conservation.  This graduate–level discussion seminar will investigate how the international market impacts land-use decisions, conservation, and food production around the world.  We will consider the international trade patterns and barriers along with national-level policies and conditions that facilitate and distort trade and agricultural production options.  In addition, we will study potential mechanisms to leverage globalization and trade to improve social and environmental conditions. We will investigate the potential of consumer-driven zero-deforestation agreements such as the cattle and soy moratoria in Brazil and emerging markets for carbon and certified goods.  We aim to map the sphere of influence for multi-national companies such as Cargill, to help uncover their role in deforestation as well as potential power for industry transformation on the ground.  Important case studies include highly traded commodities such as soy, meat, sugarcane, maize, and oil palm.  Our approach is inherently global in nature, but we will emphasize Latin America and SE Asia due to the importance of these regions for booming agricultural production and responsiveness to global market as well as China, India and the US.

Fall 2011: The Global Land Reserve
Land suitable for agricultural production is becoming an increasingly scarce resource globally as demands for food, feed and fuel grow.  This graduate–level discussion seminar will investigate the location and potential of the world’s available land bank (aka relatively unused, productive lands) to produce the needed agricultural products.  Most studies have quantified the global land reserve from a top-down perspective relying on global models and statistics that neglect spatial information and local realities such as use by local communities, degraded soils, land zoning, land tenure, conservation concerns and transportation infrastructure.  We will explore these issues using peer-reviewed manuscripts, grey literature, newspaper articles, maps, and census data, and attempt to navigate the constraints and opportunities to utilize the land reserve over the next 5-10 years.  The land reserve is concentrated in Latin America’s cerrados and grasslands, Indonesia grasslands, African savannas and abandoned / idle farmland in the US, Europe and following the collapse of the Soviet Union.