Environmental Decision-Making

Our group investigates spatial dimensions of social-ecological systems

Water and Food Security

Food Energy Water Nexus

Governance and Institutional Analysis

Environmental Decision-Making

GIS, Remote Sensing and Spatial Modeling

Zambia Landscape 1.jpg

Climate Adaptation and Agricultural Decision Making 2014-2019 (Kenya, Zambia)

This project uses high-frequency data from environmental sensors and farmers to understand how farmers respond to different types of environmental shocks (especially drought) and how those shocks shape their perceptions of climate variability. This involves coupling data from @ArableLabs pods with weekly data collected from more than 1,200 farmers via SMS. Key products include real-time monitoring system of social and environmental dynamics and an agent-based model of food security. This is a collaborative project between our group at the University of Arizona, Kelly Caylor (University of California at Santa Barbara), Lyndon Estes (Clark University), Kurt Waldman (Indiana University) and Shahzeen Attari (Indiana University)

Funding: NSF (SES-1360463)


Tradeoffs between Food, Energy and Water Security in African Dryland Agro-ecosystems 2014-2019 (Kenya, Zambia)

This project investigates how the FEWS nexus differentially impacts households, communities and regions in Zambia and Kenya. We use remote sensing methods to document distribution of forest cover and we combine this information with household-level data documenting fuelwood use in rural areas. Collaborators: Kelly Caylor (University of California at Santa Barbara), Lyndon Estes (Clark University)

Funding: NSF (Supplemental award to SES-1360463)

Drought, Food Policy and Food Trade in Sub-Saharan Africa 2014-2019 (Zambia)

A regional scale analysis of the impact of different types of environmental shocks (especially drought) on sub-national scale crop failure and the potential for food movement/trade to mitigate food shortages. This project focuses on 6 provinces in Zambia and involves data collection in markets and with smallholder agriculturalists. This is a collaborative project with Kelly Caylor (University of California at Santa Barbara), Megan Konar and Kathy Baylis (Univ. Illinois), Lyndon Estes (Clark U.) and Justin Sheffield (Southhampton U.)

Funding: NSF (BCS-1534544)

Carbon-Nutrient Dynamics in Temperate Deciduous Forests 2016-2019 (United States)

This project uses ecosystem modeling and remote sensing to investigate how below-ground dynamics affect nutrient uptake and land-atmosphere interactions in temperate deciduous forests. My role on this project is in the development of the remote sensing component. This is collaborative research with PI Josh Fisher (JPL), Rich Phillips (Indiana University-Biology) and Eddie Brzostek (West Virginia University)

Funding: Department of Energy

Incubator Projects

Vulnerability of Communities to Environmental Policies in the Midwest/Eastern US (2016-2018)

A pilot project to investigate how communities will be differentially impacted by the influence of different overlapping energy policies. This project involves expert informant interviews with key stakeholders along with focus group interviews with lower-income households. Study sites including Southern Indiana, St. Louis, Detroit West Virginia. Collaborative research with Sanya Carley and David Konisky (Indiana Univ.-SPEA).

Funding: IU Office of Vice President for Research

Tom Evans  - Professor, Department of Geography

Tom Evans - Professor, Department of Geography

Jordan Blekking   - Graduate Student, Department of Geography

Jordan Blekking - Graduate Student, Department of Geography

Paul McCord -  Graduate Student, Department of Geography

Paul McCord - Graduate Student, Department of Geography

Jacob Schumacher -  Household Data Coordinator (M.A. IU Geography 2012)

Jacob Schumacher - Household Data Coordinator (M.A. IU Geography 2012)

Kurt Waldman -  Postdoctoral Fellow   

Kurt Waldman - Postdoctoral Fellow


Sean Sweeney -  Remote Sensing/GIS Data Coordinator

Sean Sweeney - Remote Sensing/GIS Data Coordinator


Prospective Students

Current student opportunities

PhD graduate Research Assistantship Opportunities in Geography: Full research support for PhD positions at Indiana University associated with multiple NSF funded projects focused on land use, food and water security in Africa. Research assistantships are available related to research on food security and climate change in Zambia and Kenya. I also have several other projects in the "incubation" stage (internal funding) that may be general GIS applications. See my projects page for more information about.

I particularly seek students with proficiency in one or more of the following areas: GIS, remote sensing, statistical analysis of household-level survey data, and spatial modeling (especially agent-based modeling). But I primarily look for students with an interest in combining social science and environmental science in some way - so just a stated interest in GIS or remote sensing alone doesn't make for the best fit.

A brief statement

My area of research falls within the domain of human-environment relations and human dimensions of global change, and this typically defines the research assistantship opportunities on my projects. There is an emphasis on GIS and remote sensing on most of my projects, but students don't necessarily need to have a background in GIS/RS depending on the project. You can find more information about my research and projects at the Publications and Research links above. A common theme across my research projects is a strong thread of multi-disciplinarity. I collaborate with colleagues from Anthropology, Political Science, Psychology, Economics, Environmental Science (among others) and encourage students to also take advantage of the multidisciplinary culture at Indiana University in their research.

The Statement of Research Interests is a particularly critical part of the application and admission process. We use this document to identify if we are a good fit for you and you are a good fit for us. While I do apply GIS in my research, a stated interest in GIS without mentioning an application area (e.g. land use change, social aspects of vulnerability, land use policies) does not demonstrate a good match to my research. While many students I work with do have a GIS or RS background, it is important to have an interest in applying those methods to a topical area of me or other faculty in the department.

Funding is available in the form of teaching and research assistantships and our department traditionally offers all students either a research or teaching assistantship. Admitted students usually are offered a minimum of four semesters (MA or MS) or eight semesters (PhD) of teaching assistantship support, although many students enter with research assistantship support. Note international students must have a TOEFL score of 630 or higher to be eligible for teaching assistanthips.

Interested in applying?

Contact me so I can tell you about what current projects I have ( It's most helpful if you can send a CV and a statement of research interests to start off the conversation.

About UofA and Tucson

The University of Arizona has a large number of faculty and graduate students working on social-environmental systems research. Key units include the School of Geography and Development, the School of Natural Resources and Environment, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences among others. There are many cross-disciplinary initiatives both for academic programs as well as research activities. Contact me to learn more... 

Tucson, AZ is a city noted for it's progressive culture and nearby natural amenities. The city is ringed by mountains that offer a multitude of hiking/biking trails. Tucson is also a UNESCO designated city of gastronomy (i.e. there's great a great food scene here). The UofA campus and Tucson both have bike friendly designations and there is a large non-profit scene here working on everything from food systems to bike/pedestrian infrastructure to urban forestry.