My Students

I wanted to show where a great deal of my time and effort go in my work.  And clearly, the results are far better than could be expected.  These are my current students – a bit about them as people and the important work that they are doing!

Doctoral Students

Jaishri Shrinavasan


Bio: I have a Bachelors in Environmental Engineering from Thailand, a Masters in Renewable Energy from Murdoch University in Australia, and another Masters in Climate Change from University of Leeds in the UK. I am currently a PhD candidate with the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe.

My career and research focus has previously encompassed energy security in both generation and consumption sectors as well as climate change adaptation strategies in the agricultural sector. The focus of my doctoral research is on new institutions governing river stewardship and restoration with a particular focus on the Colorado and Brazos Rivers in the United States Southwest. I analyze institutional factors such as diversity – how and to what extent they contribute to the resilience and longevity of these critical institutions. I am also looking into whether these institutions are efficacious in achieving river health and preserving the ecological integrity of the rivers.

My research aims to contribute to the evolving paradigms of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) through analyzing innovative institutional arrangements and identifying key areas to promote greater social-ecological resilience. I aim to pursue further research in bringing whole systems approaches to tackling critical issues in the food-energy-water nexus with a focus on justice and indigenous rights as well.

About My Research: 

As pressures on the use of water resources increase, the demand for innovative institutional arrangements, which address the overuse of water, and under-provision of ecosystem health, is rising. In the United States, new institutions specifically for river restoration and stewardship have been created over the past couple of decades.  My research focuses on three examples of such institutions with the goal of analyzing specific factors that might contribute to making them long-sustaining and resilient to changing socio-political and ecological conditions. I explore diversity within institutions and the effect it has on consensus in decision-making and the role that plays in fostering adaptive management. I use qualitative methods to explore more contextual and nuanced analysis of demographic and attitudinal diversity and its implications on organizational consensus and adaptive capacity. Furthermore, I use the technique of sentiment analysis through machine learning to assess the drivers of institutional diversity. Finally, I analyze the ecological resilience through looking at trophic species co-occurrence patterns in environments of extreme low and high flows and implications for river health and stewardship governance.

Miranda Bernard


Bio:  I have always been interested in the environment and conservation, spending lots of time outside where I grew up in Maryland. From a young age I have been passionate about mathematics and sciences, which led me to study Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University. After studying abroad and conducting research in Kenya, I realized the importance and numerous opportunities of conservation-related work. I also became more intrigued by the importance of human relationships and behavior in sustaining resources. This led me to the interdisciplinary, Environmental Life Sciences program at Arizona State University. Prior to coming to Arizona, I lived most of my life in the Mid-Atlantic region, so I have spent the past four years getting to know the desert landscape. I spend most of my free time finding new coffee shops in the Phoenix area, hiking, and enjoying beautiful weather and snowless winters.

About My Research:

Through my dissertation, I aim to better understand the role communities and individuals play in marine conservation and marine protected areas. As the need to protect our ecosystems increases, individuals and communities must play a greater role in the sustainable uses of resources. My goal is to see whether and how community engagement has influenced marine and coastal conservation in the Caribbean primarily through one of the most commonly implemented marine conservation interventions: marine protected areas. To explore these dynamics, I am conducting a systematic literature review, interviews with decision makers and local officials, and interviews with residents in the small coastal community of Charlotteville, Trinidad and Tobago. Ultimately, this will provide insight into the ways marine protected areas can be implemented and managed in an optimal way for both people and the environment.

Katie Surrey

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Bio:  My interest is the intersection between animal behavior and conservation. Specifically my goal is to use data and knowledge collected about species’ behaviors to identify areas of potential human-wildlife conflict, and ultimately to craft more efficient and less-invasive policies that best protect the interests of both groups. The current project I am working on is in collaboration with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), and I am assessing the stress impacts of whale-watching on the humpback whale population in Panama in hopes of encouraging more strict enforcement of existing regulations by the government, which at this time is severely lacking.

Prior to ASU, I attended Connecticut College in New London, CT and obtained my B.A. in Environmental Studies. I have worked at institutions such as the Franklin Park Zoo (Boston), Marine Biological Laboratories (Cape Cod) and California Wildlife (Calabasas), and served for three years as the Adoption Supervisor at the Animal Rescue League of Boston

Menelisi Falayi

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Bio:  Menelisi is a PhD candidate in the Department of Environmental Science at Rhodes University in South Africa. Menelisi’s interest lies in the interactions between social and ecological linkages and their impacts on issues pertaining to transformative spaces, environmental governance and management, bio-energy, rural livelihoods; community adaptation to climate change and concomitant risks to human well-being. Driven by his interest and passion in sustainability, Menelisi considers as an emerging Sustainability Scientist.

His PhD studies are funded by the GEF5 Sustainable Land Management (SLM) Project in the Eastern Cape, South Africa for the period August 2018-August 2021. In this project, he works as the Environmental Governance Lead Researcher, supporting the collaborative strategic design, planning and implementation of transformative approaches for environmental governance initiatives in Machubeni, South Africa. Menelisi is currently under the supervision of Prof. James Gambiza (Rhodes University) and Prof. Michael Schoon of Arizona State University.

About My Research:

Over the past millennium, there has been a growing realisation that environmental resources play a pivotal role in sustaining life on earth. Given the importance of these environmental resources to human well-being, land degradation remains a key challenge for most rural communities, thus affecting the coping capacity of human ingenuity. Avoiding and reducing land degradation is necessary in order to achieve the majority of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). However, environmental governance continues to be a challenge in the management and conservation of environmental resources in degraded landscapes. Therefore I seek to add knowledge on some of the conceptual, theoretical and empirical gaps in the literature of polycentric governance. This will, therefore, inform our understanding on the a) current debates around environmental governance in Southern Africa; b) effectiveness of environmental governance; c) analytical models that quantitatively link collaborative process, learning activities and sustainability outcomes and; d) new environmental configurations under a myriad of institutional externalities. The study will make use of a systematic literature review, socio-metric surveys, Participatory Learning and Action workshops (PLA), semi-structured interviews and transformative scenario planning and development processes to assess the dynamics of polycentric environmental governance. The ultimate goal of this PhD is to help create governance frameworks that will help mainstream Sustainable Land Management in South African under the GEF5 project.

Vanessa Lueck


Bio:  Vanessa Lueck is a PhD candidate at the School of Sustainability.  She studies sustainable climate change adaptation, adaptation governance and complex adaptive systems, focusing on coastal communities and the role of insurance in adaptation to sea level rise.  She also works for the integration of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion into climate change adaptation.  Vanessa holds a JD from University of Minnesota Law School and a BA in Political Science from the University of Chicago.

About My Research:

Internationally, insurance is promoted as an instrument to enable and even force climate adaptation, especially for the most climate vulnerable.  The purpose of my dissertation is to gain insight into how insurance governs adaptation choices, what the implications of this governance are, and how and where insurance redistributes risk.

Skaidra Smith-Heisters


Bio:  Skaidra Smith-Heisters is a doctoral candidate in Environmental Social Science at Arizona State University. Inspired by political economist Elinor Ostrom and colleagues at the Center for Behavior, Institutions, and the Environment, Smith-Heisters studies interactions between voluntary institutions and natural resource policies. Her doctoral research investigates operational decision making in large-scale irrigation infrastructure systems with an aim toward evaluating decision making autonomy, self-governance, and other principles of polycentricity, and assessing the impacts of formal policy interventions on norms- and rules-based adaptive behaviors in complex governance systems. She is currently working on qualitative case studies in the desert southwestern United States to propose and refine diagnostic measures of polycentric water governance.

About My Research:

Skaidra works on water governance issues in the Southwest, focusing on theories of polycentricity in practice.

Ryan Davila


Bio:  Originally from San Antonio, Texas, I attended the University of Notre Dame where I received bachelors degrees in Biology and Political Science. During my time at Notre Dame, I discovered my love for research and the opportunity it provided to work towards developing a better understanding of the natural world and how we relate to and impact it. Wanting to combine my natural and social science background, I chose to attend Arizona State University and become a PhD student in the interdisciplinary Biology and Society program within the School of Life Sciences. When I’m not working on school or research related things, you can most likely find me hiking and exploring the Southwest, watching sports, or volunteering at Phoenix Children’s Hospital! 

About My Research:

Broadly speaking, my dissertation assesses the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of ecotourism across geographic scales, with case studies in Costa Rica and Kenya. More specifically, I aim to determine how ecotourism certification programs, the most popular ecotourism assessment tool used worldwide, impact ecotourism operators. The ultimate goal of my research is to evaluate if certification truly helps ecotourism maintain its promises of reducing negative impacts and benefiting communities and the environment, or, if it does not, I hope to provide research-driven recommendations that can be utilized to improve ecotourism certification programs worldwide. 

Tiffany Lewis


Bio:  One of my earliest memories is wanting to swim with Jaws. I loved visiting the ocean and SeaWorld. If there was a body of water near me, I was probably in it. I was one of those kids that said they wanted to be a marine biologist, and I meant it. After a non-traditional high school experience (I sent myself to live-in military school where I earned a GED; I do not have a high school diploma), I attended community college and then transferred to Arizona State University where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Conservation Biology. During my undergrad, I was working in two labs; 1) researching California Sea Lion demographics in the Gulf of California and 2) tissue culturing and caring for plants being used as vaccine vectors. During this time, I became an active SCUBA instructor and was subsequently able to apply my diving skills to researching coral reefs in Key Largo, FL and various islands throughout the Bahamas while earning a Marine Biology master’s degree from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where I studied the effects of zoanthid symbioses on particular species of coral reef sponges. Spending so much time underwater elucidated the impacts that human waste has on coastal and marine habitats. After graduation, I attended the University of California Davis, where my interest in environmental pollution was solidified. I earned a master’s degree in Integrative Ecology with an emphasis in Ecotoxicology. Coming back to ASU as a PhD student is where I have been able to pull my background and my goals together. I realize that environmental pollution and degradation caused by humans, must also include those humans to help find effective solutions. My current research goals are to identify problems and needs, to educate and empower key players, and to work with community members to identify and implement positive environmental and human health outcomes.

About My Research:

The majority of my research is currently focused in American Samoa (AS), a remote US island territory in the South Pacific, located roughly between Hawaii and New Zealand. AS is comprised of 7 islands and atolls, the largest island (95% of the total population (~55,000) is slightly larger in area than Tempe. It is tropical and beautiful, and also quite polluted. Macro debris and trash is wide-spread. My work focuses on the largest lagoon on island, where food packaging accumulates along the shore and at river mouths, fabric is tangled through mangrove roots, and metal debris is buried deep in the sediments. We have identified toxic chemicals, including illegal pesticides, in the water and sediments. For our initial study, we were planning to purchase or collect commonly consumed clams found in the lagoon, but quickly found out that they weren’t so common anymore. We were told that people sell them along the road by the lagoon. In two years working there we didn’t find even one. Local authority and community members expressed surprise too. This change seemed to go largely unnoticed. I am interested in finding out what is happening here. Are people not eating clams because they aren’t there? Or are there other reasons, such as clam quality or general shifts in food consumption patterns? Perhaps a blend of things? I am using a mixed-methods approach in the context of a Socio-Ecological Framework to address these questions.

Additionally, I have sampled commonly consumed food items (in AS) for heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (POPs). I am combining this data with consumption rates to create basic risk assessment scenarios. Overall, I am interested in how various pollutants impact environmental and human health, and how we can come together to achieve impactful goals.

Tracie Lorenzo


Bio:  Theresa Lorenzo is a PhD candidate in the Biology and Society program of Arizona State University. Her broad research interests are water management, water policy, and sustainable development in developing countries. For her dissertation, she is researching how climate change and economic development combine to affect the water security of municipalities in her home country of the Philippines. Previously, she obtained an MS in Natural Resources with a Hydrologic Sciences specialization from the University of Nebraska, and conducted water policy research in both professional consulting and academic contexts in the Philippines.

About My Research:

My current research explores the effect of climate change and economic development on water security across the Philippines, drawing on field research conducted in five municipalities. Water security is examined in terms of sustaining socio-economic development, livelihoods, and human well-being. This research is anchored in the double exposure framework of Leichenko and O’Brien[1], which examines the interactions between global environmental change and globalization. Using the double exposure framework, I argue that there is a need to examine how the combination of climate change and economic development aggravate existing inequalities related to water security among different groups of people, and also analyze how these two processes can combine to increase stakeholders’ vulnerability to water-related shocks and stresses.

[1] Leichenko, R.; O’Brien, K. Environmental Change and Globalization Double Exposures; Oxford University Press: New York, NY, USA, 2008; ISBN 9780195177312.

Julie Jo Murphree


Bio:  Julie Jo Murphree has been an instructor in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at ASU since 2009.  She teaches a variety of courses in wildlife Biology and Animal Science including Captive Animal Behavior Management, Animal Nutrition, Equine Science, and Ethical and Policy Issues in Biology.  Her most recent master’s in wildlife and Environmental Resource Management focused on foraging behavior and nutrition in ungulates and utilized controlled feeding trials in pygmy goats to evaluate the efficacy of DNA sequencing and microhistological analysis for diet determination in ruminants.  Murphree’s current research as a doctoral candidate in Biology and Society is centered around the social, ecological and economic aspects of the management of free-roaming horses on public lands in the American West, specifically the Heber Herd near the White Mountains in the Apache- Sitgreaves National Forests and the Salt River Herd roaming the lower salt river within the Tonto National Forest.  In addition, she is partnering with the Conservation Reserve Program and Oklahoma ranchers in her efforts to restore the mixed prairie grassland of her family’s fourth generation farm in the panhandle region of Oklahoma. Murphree’s master’s degree in secondary education, with teacher certification in biology, examined curriculum development and instructional methods in science. Her experience teaching middle school science contributed to the development of her thesis which analyzed the role of situational interest on motivation and student success in science.

About My Research:

The existence of increasing populations of wild (free- roaming) horses in North America regularly ranks among the most challenging of all the government’s conservation and public land problems. With increasing social conflict over wildlife issues, the success of appropriate management strategies hinges on managing agencies’ preparedness and ability to respond. Much of the scientific and emotional confusion surrounding the wild horse management debate centers on the role wild horses should play within various ecosystems on public rangelands, the designation and magnitude of suitable areas for populations of wild horses to roam, the choice of available tools to manage healthy populations on rangelands or in holding facilities and the assignment as well as degree of human involvement necessary to accomplish management goals and address animal welfare concerns. Support for agencies’ management approach revolves around the public’s unique perceptions (or value) of the wild horse as well as an understanding of the science used to manage them. Utilizing a case study approach, this research examines stakeholder concerns and analyzes the factors that have led to the disconnect between public values of wild horses and public policy for management for the federally protected free-roaming horses in the Heber Wild Horse Territory, in Arizona. An understanding of the link between the ethical-scientific issues and practical/management challenges is crucial in development of appropriate management strategies and will  not only assists in efforts to bring currently polarized interest groups (stakeholders) into a deliberative process, but will also encourage further collaboration between agencies and stakeholders.


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