Welcome to the Human Dimensions Lab at Purdue University!

Zhao Ma
Zhao Ma


As a natural resource social scientist, the overarching goal of my research program is to create knowledge that improves individual and organizational capacity to make natural resource decisions to adapt to social-ecological change at various scales. Specifically, my research lies at the intersection of social psychology and political ecology, and examines natural resource decision making processes of two types of actors, individuals and organizations. I ask questions about (1) how individuals and organizations perceive social-ecological change and the associated natural resource challenges at various scales, (2) how individuals and organizations respond to social-ecological change and address the associated natural resource challenges, and (3) how various ecological, social, economic, political, and cultural factors influence decision making by individuals or within organizations. In addition, I ask questions about what information, assistance, and incentives may contribute to sustainable natural resource decisions by individuals, and how individual attitudes and behaviors across the landscape and over time cumulatively affect sustainable natural resource decisions by organizations.

My research relies on both quantitative and qualitative research methods, including conducting surveys, focus groups, and interviews, conducting document analysis and policy inventory, and using econometric models to understand individual decision making processes.

I am generally interested in topics within forest ecosystems and farming systems. However, I have work with livestock producers in the past and am currently explore research opportunities in other coupled natural-human systems.



I currently teach two undergraduate courses:

FNR 37500 Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Management

POL 22300 / FNR 22310 Introduction to Environmental Policy

I also teach one graduate course every other fall:

FNR 58000 Research Methods for Natural Resource Social Sciences