My research interests reflect my background in ecological anthropology, institutions, environmental change and agricultural sustainability. My research plan is motivated by a theoretically informed commitment to ecological anthropology as a foundation for studies in the coupled human-ecological system, particularly the human dimensions of land-use and land-cover change (LULCC). Among land change scientists, there is a growing recognition of the need for an integrative, multiscalar approach to study the impact of agricultural land-use strategies on LULCC. Compared to the primary area of transition (i.e., conversion of forests), agricultural “modification activities” of LULCC are, however, too subtle and dynamic to be detected from remote sensing models alone. Anthropologists and geographers trained in both human ecology and GIS/remote sensing are particularly well equipped to address this need.
While I draw on the methods and insights of both cultural anthropology and human ecology to reveal the processes of social change, I use ecological theories and remote sensing for the spatial and temporal analysis of the human-environmental trajectories. Remote sensing applications, when combined with GIS, can provide a powerful “means of matching” by enabling the analysis and visualization of complex environmental change patterns. I rely on anthropological knowledge and methods to to know "micro-level" perspectives thhistorical, humanistic narratives, but I support the use of spatial knowledge and techniques as "means of matching" to strengthen empirical evidence.
I have collaborated with several scholars, both Nepali and foreign, in the past to study mountain communities in Nepal and have had funding to support my research from the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA), Ford Foundation, World Bank and USAID.
Some of my research projects are:
Dissertation research (Smallholders, Mountain Agriculture and Land Change)
my dissertation entitled Smallholders, Mountain Agriculture and Land Change in Lamjung District, Nepal integrates ethnographic and spatially-explicit survey data with remote sensing and GIS applications to study: (a) the household conditions and community contexts under which mountain smallholders change their agricultural land-use strategies, and (b) how their land-use strategies are linked to the district scale land-cover change patterns identified from multi-temporal (1976, 1984, 1990, 1994, 1999 and 2003) Landsat images. While my dissertation targets a particular culture and place, my ultimate interest lies in establishing general relationships underlying subsistence behavior of mountain smallholders, their dependence on land and forest resources, and the extent to which their behaviors are historically and spatially influenced by changing demography, expanding market economy, social change, and resource allocation rules.
Social exclusion and vulnerability in Nepal
I conducted this study prior to my doctoral training in anthropology; nevertheless, it is based on the extensive fieldwork conducted in 25 different villages in five different districts dispersed across Nepal. It explores the complex relationships between land stress, forest resource degradation, food deficit and vulnerability and also analyzes the coping and adaptation strategies of these group to offset the adverse impact. In this study I first characterize the systemic nature of social exclusion and its empirical evidence in the context of land and natural resource management in Nepal. Secondly, I contextualize the notion of social exclusion to explain why the impact of land stress and forest resources degradation are experienced differently by social excluded groups, particularly why some groups manage to respond to land stress and forest degradation better than others.
Community-based conservation and development: Action research programs
Earlier in my career, I worked at the Institute of Integrated Development Studies (IIDS)--a leading research organization--in Nepal. Policy research is its main focus, but IIDS also implements action research programs, which are based on the concept “self-reliant development of the poor by the poor” to support the grass-roots level institutions of marginal and socially excluded groups. Depending on the needs and priorities identified by these institutions, the programs implement a wide range of participatory activities to support livelihoods, including community forestry, savings, micro-credit lending, food security, agroforestry, and so forth. These action research programs provided me with great opportunities to learn about rural livelihoods and institutions, which I believe also got me interested in anthropology.
I envision to expand my future research in two directions: (1) I will continue to study LULCC in other parts of the Himalayan region, mainly to relate the finding of Lamjung with other sub-regions, and examine the impact of LULCC, such as vulnerability or resilience and agricultural sustainability (2) Analyze the impact of climate change in the mountains, mainly the issues of melting glaciers, glacial lakes, mountain crops, migration, and so forth.
Data Sources for GIS/Remote Sensing