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Associate Professor, Geography, Penn State

I am a broadly trained geographer whose research, teaching, and outreach focuses on livelihoods, conservation and development, environmental change, and human health. My work is centered in Southern Africa, particularly South Africa where I have conducted research since 1999. I am fascinated by the role of space in regulating populations and landscapes through demographic patterns, livelihood decision-making, and the institutions of environmental governance. While my research advances scholarship on the intersections between society and space, and human-environment interactions, I am also influencing policy interventions to improve the lives of those living in poverty while supporting the development of sustainable systems for future generations.

With support from a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grant (BCS/GSS 1056683) received in 2011, I am analyzing how social and ecological systems are being transformed by HIV/AIDS. An emerging finding from this work is the importance of food security to ensure the effectiveness and adherence of antiretroviral therapy in rural South Africa. This is a challenge because historical spatial systems of racial segregation have resulted in insecure land tenure systems and few opportunities for land ownership, thereby pushing food production to household gardens. Additionally, agrarian production is further challenged due to weather-related variability that is associated with global climate change. As a result of these findings, my current and future research is demonstrating the coupled linkages between human health, food security, and climate change.

My central research agenda is to advance the frontiers of research on health and environment. This is reflected in the publication of my book States of Disease: Political Environments and Human Health (2017: University of California Press, 256 pages). States of Disease demonstrates how spatial processes result in dynamic and inequitable health outcomes for individuals, communities, and regions. Rather than address a single disease pattern, I engage with cases of infectious and non-infectious disease to show how space shapes the ways that health is embodied, experienced, and managed.


  • –present
    Associate Professor, Geography, Pennsylvania State University