Financing Conservation and Capacity Building
As a postdoctoral scholar, my research focuses on conservation and development policy. My first project focuses on how funding for biodiversity conservation can have long-term impacts globally. I use an interdisciplinary approach to develop and evaluate a theory of change for how capacity development interventions and different funding mechanisms can have sustained impact. With support from the MacArthur Foundation, I am evaluating their portfolio of 2,500 projects and conducting case studies in Madagascar, Peru, and Bhutan. I use a variety of methods such as process tracing, network analysis, natural language processing, and linear models. The goal of this work is to build theory and provide information to the donor community on how to most efficiently invest in biodiversity conservation.
Forests and Poverty Alleviation
In addition, I am also serving on the Expert Panel on Forests and Poverty 2020 for the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO). Our goal is to provide reliable and synthesized scientific information on the role of forests and trees in poverty alleviation. This work will provide information to policy makers so that they can evaluate optimal tradeoffs between poverty reduction and forest restoration as well as sustainable management and forest conservation. Video released for World Environment Day.
Food Security in Rainfed Regions of India
India shares a quarter of the global hunger burden, with nearly 195 million undernourished people. Given the multitude of ways women can influence food security like their influence over decision-making, the time they spend tending to their children, the money they earn, and the crops they grow, they have been characterized as the “key to food security.” As women increasingly become the cornerstone of food and nutrition interventions, it is paramount to understand the multiple, and sometimes conflicting, roles that they play in securing food and nutrition for their families. Her dissertation analyzes the many ways that women can influence their families’ food security and highlights how “economic empowerment” that hinges on women working more is not the most efficient way to increase food security. Instead, interventions should focus on building the capacity of women to have more decision-making influence within their household.
She raised over $120,000 to hire over 40 people, working in over eight languages, to collect nearly 15,000 household surveys in order to better understand the seasonal dynamics in rainfed regions of India. The large sample size and high temporal dataset provided a rich description of rural life and advances theory in the field of livelihood adaptation by capturing seasonal variation and a gendered perspective. In addition to the intellectual merit, this dissertation aims to have broad impact by reporting back results to the Revitalizing Rainfed Agriculture Network, a group of NGOs dedicated to changing policies to enhance quality of life for some of India’s most vulnerable. By engaging with NGOs throughout the entire research process, her results will more easily translate to on-the-ground impact for rural households in our study sites.
As a consultant for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Jennifer was hired to train eight field staff in Malawi to employ Ethnographic Decision Tree Modeling with nearly 2,000 respondents. The goal of the randomized control trail was to better understand how incentives shape the adoption of conservation agriculture, a trinity of management practices that limit erosion. We employed interview and machine learning techniques to create decision trees. We determined that peer effects, even more than financial incentives, were the biggest predictor in whether or not people adopted conservation agriculture. We were able to share findings with local stakeholders and host a two-day workshop to discuss how these findings could shape local policy. The results of this paper were published in Water.
During her Fulbright Fellowship in Chile, she collaborated with Facultad de Ciencias Forestales y Recursos Naturales, Universidad Austral de Chile. Her main project was to develop a watershed management plan that balanced the dual needs to conserve old-growth forest while recognizing the local community’s economic dependence on harvesting trees to make charcoal. She interviewed 30 community members, managers, and scientists to better understand the local context and develop mutually beneficial solutions. This research contributed a local management plan and to a publication in Landscape Ecology. She also collaborated on a project that used panel data to evaluate the socio-ecological impacts of tree plantations in Chile, which was published in Environmental Management. They found that large-scale tree plantations, which were associated with increased pollution and degradation of ecosystem services, led to an out-migration and ultimately more poverty for those that remained. She also conducted an evaluation of Chile’s Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research (LTSER) Network and provided recommendations to enhance future collaboration and establishing future sites, which was published in Spanish in Bosque, a Chilean publication.
Jennifer completed her Master’s of Science in Wildlife, Aquatic, and Wildland Science Management at Texas Tech University in 2012. She was honored as a “Student of Integrated Scholarship at Texas Tech” in 2013. Her thesis evaluated whether management strategies, herbicide and rotational grazing, restored shinnery oak grass prairie, which is home to the federally threatened lesser prairie chicken (ympanuchus pallidicinctus). Results from the 15-year experimental design were published in Southwestern Naturalist. After graduation, she conducted an extensive literature review on lesser prairie chicken habitat, which led to a 550-page document that was used to inform a seven-state management plan. She also published two book chapters in Ecology and Conservation of Lesser Prairie Chickens, which was awarded scientific publication of the year in 2016 from the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society.