Dr. Zhao Ma
I am a Professor of Natural Resource Social Science. As a natural resource social scientist, the overarching goal of my research is to contribute to 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 political ecology and social psychology, 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 changes and the associated natural resource challenges at various scales, (2) how individuals and organizations respond to social-ecological changes and address the associated natural resource challenges, (3) how various ecological, climatic, social, economic, political, and cultural factors influence decision making by individuals and within organizations, and (4) what intended and unintended impacts may result from individual and organizational natural resource decisions. Broadly speaking, my research provides insights into what information, assistance, and incentives may be helpful for promoting sustainable natural resource decisions by individuals, and how individual attitudes and behaviors across the landscape and over time cumulatively affect the effectiveness of various natural resource policies and programs.
I have been at Purdue since 2013, and was previously on faculty at Utah State University. I was a post-doctoral fellow in the Family Forest Research Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I obtained my Ph.D. in Natural Resource Science and Management from the University of Minnesota, M.A. in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University, and BS in Material Physics from the University of Science and Technology Beijing. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunities to work with so many great scholars, students and practitioners, who have greatly shaped my thinking about the social-ecological world we all live in and my pursuit of natural resource social science research.
Post-doctoral research associates
Dr. Becca Nixon
Current graduate students
Rebekah Dickens Ohara
|Nathan is pursuing a PhD in Natural Resource Social Science.
Project description: Forthcoming.
|Mary is pursuing a PhD in Natural Resource Social Science as part of the Interdisciplinary Ecological Sciences & Engineering Graduate Program.
Project description: Mary’s project determines the barriers to and opportunities for conservation-oriented adaptations and pro-environmental behaviors for coastal communities in Rhode Island. This research is in collaboration with the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and it will be used to highlight areas within coastal community resilience education and outreach programs that can be improved to facilitate higher levels of participation.
Undergraduate research assistants
Visiting scholars and students
Former Lab Members
Graduate students, Post-doctoral research associates, and Visiting scholars
Dr. Anna Erwin
|Dr. Erwin was a postdoctoral researcher in the Human Dimensions Lab working with the Nexus Institute, a collaboration between Purdue University and the Universidad Nacional de San Agustin de Arequipa (UNSA). Dr. Erwin now serves as Assistant Professor at University of Texas- Rio Grande Valley.
Project Description: The Nexus Institute project investigates how communities across the rural-to-urban gradient in the Arequipa Region perceive water availability and quality in the context of climate change to identify potential strategies for facilitating the co-existence of agriculture, mining, and regional development in an equitable way.
|Meagan was a PhD student in Natural Resource Social Science as part of the Interdisciplinary Ecological Sciences & Engineering Graduate Program.
Project description: Meagan’s research determined the environmental and social equity impacts of conditionality in a Payment for Ecosystem Services program in Bolivia.
|Kimberly graduated in 2020 with an MS in Natural Resource Social Science.
Project description: Kimberly’s research examined the psychological distance of invasive plants with a focus on family forest owners in the Central Hardwood Region of the U.S.
Education: B.S. in Wildlife, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN (2017)
Dr. Ruxandra (Rux) Popovici
Dr. Landon Young
Dr. Becky Barak
Dr. Mysha Clarke
2017 and prior
Dr. Diana Steele-Jones
Diana was a post-doctoral research associate from 2016 to 2017. She obtained her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Purdue University in 2015. Diana is currently an independent consultant and her website is: https://dianasteele.squarespace.com/
Keri was a M.S. in Natural Resource Social Science from 2015 to 2017, and her thesis was about small-scale farming in Indiana with a focus on farmer identity and community and how those interact with sustainability of the farming operations. Keri is currently a natural resource specialist in the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.
Dr. Morey Burnham
Morey was a Ph.D. student in the lab from 2010 to 2014, and his dissertation was about climate change perception and adaptation among smallholder farmers in China. Morey is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Criminology at Idaho State University.
Jamie was a M.S. student in the lab from 2012 to 2014, and her thesis was about forest management and policy strategies adopted by the USDA Forest Service in response to climate change in the Intermountain West. Jamie is currently the Conservation and Outreach Coordinator for the Henry’s Fork Foundation in Idaho.
Dr. Dingming An
Dr. Dingming An was a visiting scholar in the lab from December 2014 to December 2015. His research focused on issues related to environmental migration in the Sanjiangyuan region of China. He is currently an associate professor in the School of Finance and Economics at Qinghai University in China.
Daniela Alvarado Rincon
Daniela was an exchange undergraduate student from the National University of Colombia. She visited the lab from June to December 2015. Her research focused on the framing and policy discourse related to the use and management of “wasteland” (Baldíos) in Colombia.
Colleen was a full-time research assistant in the lab from March to December 2014. She was part of the research team at Purdue working with the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife on updating and revising Indiana’s State Wildlife Action Plan. She is currently pursuing a MS degree at Ohio State University.
Seth was a M.S. student in the lab from 2010 to 2012, and his thesis was about the human dimensions of carbon sequestration on private rangelands in Utah. Seth is currently the Director of Land Conservation for the Pee Dee Land Trust in South Carolina.
Undergraduate research assistants
Isabella Cerchiaro Sanchez
|Isabella Cerchiaro Sanchez is a Mining and Metallurgical Engineering student from Universidad Nacional de Colombia (expected graduation: September 2022). She studied at Purdue University as a visiting undergraduate research student through the 2021 Undergraduate Research Experience Purdue-Columbia (UREP-C) program.
Research interests and career goals: My interests as a student are to learn about the main factors that affect sustainability in small communities that grow around artisanal mining and to know how to approach small communities to learn about the social reality that is lived there, in order to improve the quality of life of the people who are part of them in the future. In the future I would like to continue my studies focusing on sustainable development and social work with communities.
|Angela completed a B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Science with a concentration in Environmental Policy and a minor in English.
Research interests and career goals: Angela is interested in studying human impacts on the natural environment and the implications for climate change. Angela assists with several research projects in the Human Dimensions lab to learn more about data collection methods along with thesocial and collaborative aspects of the research process. Upon graduation, Angela will further her education by attending a graduate program in Environmental Policy.
|Mya is pursuing a B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Science with an emphasis in Land Resources, and a minor in Spanish for the Professions (expected graduation: May 2021).
Research interests and career goals: Mya is interested in ecological restoration and aims to use her time as a research assistant in the Human Dimensions lab to gain a more comprehensive knowledge about how and why groups and individuals make environmental decisions, and the impacts of those decisions on the environment. She is also interested in how culture influences environmental choices. Upon graduation, Mya hopes to find a position that implements and analyzes environmental sustainability, natural resource, management, and/or mitigation, ideally one that combines time in the office with time spent in the field.
Kasha Halbleib graduated with her B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Science with a concentration in policy in 2019. She wsa involved in environmental organizations around campus as well as intramural sports. Kasha worked on the Improved Seed Technology research for the lab, and planned to attend law school after graduation to become an environmental justice or energy lawyer.
Austin graduated in 2018 with a B.S. in Natural Resource & Environmental Science. He was involved in the Purdue Student Government (PSG), and served as the PSG Executive Director of Sustainability. Austin’s general interest is in using quantitative methods to prescribe environmental policies, and his particular area of interest is sustainable development, especially as it concerns deforestation and poaching. Austin is currently pursuing a Master’s degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Priyanka graduated in 2018 with degree in Sustainable Biomaterials Process and Product Designing and Industrial Engineering Technology.
Morgan graduated in 2018 with a B.S. in Wildlife Biology. She currently works in the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Purdue.