There are three, interconnected aspects of my research program. Broadly speaking, I am interested in:
1). examining the characteristics associated with successful biodiversity conservation programs and understanding how sustainable common pool resource management institutions emerge, evolve, and spread. This work draws explicitly on theories of collective action, new institutional economics, and evolutionary theories of cooperation. I have conducted systematic literature reviews and empirical research in Bhutan related to this interest area.
The most recent component of this work is an emerging research program that uses cultural evolutionary theory to understand sustainable social-ecological systems. See the working group I lead with Tim Waring from the University of Maine at SESYNC (National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center):
The special issue that emerged from this working group is in the journal Sustainability Science and it can be found here.
2). exploring the social, cultural, and economic dynamics that influence the adoption of pro-environmental/ conservation behaviors, environmental attitudes, and sustainable consumption, and the mechanisms by which such (often cooperative) behaviors and attitudes spread. My goal is to understand how social forces and socio-cultural dynamics facilitate or hinder the adoption of conservation behaviors and more sustainable forms of consumption and in turn how these forces are shaped by individual behaviors and perceptions. By defining “conservation” as behavior that entails short-term, individual costs for the provision of future, group benefits, I can apply similar theoretical frameworks to study resource use behaviors in Bhutan and sustainable consumption patterns in the U.S. Drawing more explicitly from social psychology, costly signaling theory, and cultural evolution, this work has explored:
- The degree to which personal economic conditions, local environmental conditions, and broader social norms affect the adoption of natural resource use and environmental attitudes in Bhutan
- How economic development and modernization affect social norms, resource use behaviors, and environmental attitudes in communities in Bhutan
- The degree to which the pursuit of status facilitates or inhibits sustainable consumption and whether this varies among social groups
3). Investigating the synergies and tradeoffs among sustainable consumption, ecological footprints and well-being. My exposure to Bhutan’s sustainable development approach (Gross National Happiness) shaped this third track of my research program. Here I have focused primarily on communities in Ohio to study which forms of more sustainable consumption enhance components of well-being and which forms may detract from well-being.