DDRIG:A transdisciplinary, comparative analysis of links between individual and household decision-making, negotiation of livelihood risk, & natural resource management conflicts

Project: Research project

Project Details


Understanding socioeconomic and livelihood challenges for communities near endangered wildlife habitat is a priority for global biodiversity conservation because poverty and resource scarcity can be linked to environmental degradation, unsustainable natural resource use, and conflict. Research is needed to better understand decision-making in the face of unique economic, environmental, and social risk factors near protected areas that inhibit household resilience, thereby exacerbating natural resource management conflicts. The need for such understanding is particularly urgent in lesser developed regions of the tropics, where communities near protected areas often face extreme poverty. To address this need, this research in Sub-Saharan Africa investigates how the ability to recover from economic, environmental, or climate change-related shocks can be influenced by individual and household decision-making around livelihoods strategies, and the resource management implications of decisions to take on or mitigate risks.

Linking behavioral economics, human behavioral ecology, and resilience studies, this research is guided by the following overarching question: How do individual and household decisions made in negotiation of risks influence livelihoods outcomes? More specific research questions and hypothesis tests assess the following: 1) how households in park-adjacent communities define and evaluate desirable resilience from their own perspective; 2) the relationship between socioeconomic status, risk preferences, and subjective resilience for households in park-adjacent communities; and 3) how integrated conservation-development interventions can be targeted to improve household outcomes like subjective resilience. The transdisciplinary, mixed-methods data collection and analysis plan is qualitative, quantitative, and spatial in nature. This research tests competing explanations of risky decision-making, such as prospect theory and risk-sensitive optimal foraging theory, in a novel setting of natural resource conflict, multidimensional poverty, and proximity to protected areas. The study also advances resilience theory through the application of its subjective measure. Finally, this research addresses a literature gap in explaining mechanisms through which risk preferences influence household livelihood decisions, and by proxy, environmental conservation outcomes. This work thus illustrates how livelihood decisions and negotiation of risk influence household resilience, yielding broader impacts for conservation and development scholars, practitioners, and policymakers who are involved in designing initiatives that simultaneously advance economic development, community wellbeing, and natural resource management. The resulting behavioral model linking risk preferences, multidimensional poverty status, and decision-making to subjective resilience will be relevant to research undertaken in poor and park-adjacent communities around the globe.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date2/1/241/31/25


  • National Science Foundation: $29,960.00


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