About Me

I am a social-ecological researcher who seeks to link creative ideas with on-the-ground, socially ethical solutions to conservation challenges.

Currently, I am based in Myanmar, where I work for IUCN as the International Advisor for the Gulf of Mottama Project. Through this work, I partner with Point B Design + Training, an organization based at Mawlamyine University in Myanmar; they train local youth, university faculty and students, and various agencies in Design Thinking.  Together, we are exploring exciting ideas about strengthening local research capacity and conservation in ways that ensure the rights and well-being of human communities as well as effective outcomes for biodiversity.  Additionally, I am a consultant on various projects that link coastal communities to marine conservation in the tropics.

This position with IUCN is my first foray into applied work, moving from academia. For my Ph.D. and postdoctoral fellowship, both at the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (CMBC) at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I studied the interface between conservation and small-scale fisheries. From my background in behavioral ecology of mammals and birds, I transitioned to social-ecological research on coastal communities through my dissertation research on bycatch, or the accidental capture, of marine mammals in small-scale fisheries. In my postdoctoral research as an NSF SEES Fellow and Conservation Assessment Scholar at CMBC, I further explored the social aspects of small-scale fisheries, learning more about the concept of stewardship and how it might be developed or supported in different contexts. This work was linked to Too Big To Ignore‘s Small-Scale Fisheries & Stewardship research cluster.

Research highlights include:

  • Development of the Conservationscape framework, an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the ecological as well as the social and governance context of marine mammal bycatch (manuscript accepted, stay tuned for the paper!).
  • Applying the Conservationscape to study Irrawaddy dolphin bycatch in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia, with fantastic collaborators
  • Evaluation of the social aspects of vaquita conservation, where I partnered with San Diego Zoo Global to interview diverse stakeholders
  • Investigating social aspects of small-scale fisheries in Myanmar, including fisher experiences in the market chain and social potential for mud crab co-management.

Other research-related endeavors and interests include: founding the Small-scale & Artisanal Fisheries Research Network at CMBC, promoting consideration of social attributes in conservation (especially marine mammal conservation, particularly in Southeast Asia), and seeking insights and approaches from other fields and sectors to inform more thoughtful, practical, and sustained conservation.

Note: Opinions expressed on this website are my own, and do not necessarily represent those of IUCN or any other entity with which I am or have been affiliated.

A morning with the “lampasut” (Irrawaddy dolphin) in Malampaya Sound, Palawan, Philippines

Brief Bio

I grew up in Poway, California, and then braved the east coast to earn my B.A. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, with a certificate in Environmental Studies, from Princeton University in 2005.  I spent the next two years working as a field assistant  in Thailand, Kansas, and Texas (and as a vitamin clerk at Henry’s Market to tide me through low-money times…). Starting in college, I’ve been fortunate enough to study, assist in fieldwork, or conduct my own research in California, Texas, Kansas, Hawaii, Panama, Kenya, Thailand, Peru, Mexico, the Philippines, Madagascar, Indonesia, and Myanmar. I’ve also traveled to numerous other countries for meetings and even just for fun.  Each of these forays has gotten me more and more addicted to fieldwork and travels.  I’ve seen some incredible flora & fauna, met and befriended amazing people, experienced fascinating cultures, and enjoyed many adventures.

These experiences have inspired me to contribute to our understanding of conservation needs and solutions in a way that will help people, animals, and ecosystems in these places that I’ve come to love.  This motivates my wider research interest in interdisciplinary approaches to conservation science.  I’m working to build my skill set, experience, and perspectives from diverse field sites, projects, disciplines, and sectors. I also seek to understand and improve how the conservation community communicates and collaborates, so that recommendations resulting from research can better be linked to concrete, effective action. I see this as a quest for what I elegantly call “no bullshit conservation.”

I currently am based in the quiet riverside city of Mawlamyine, Myanmar, but remain a San Diegan at heart. Interests include playing in the ocean (swimming, surfing, SUP, diving), writing, taking photos, vegetarian food, and traveling, and spending quality time with friends and family (including canines) whenever our paths cross.