Doctoral Dissertation Research: The Impact of Illegal Crop Cultivation on Agrobiodiversity Change, Social Vulnerability, and Resilience

Project: Research project

Project Details


This doctoral dissertation research improvement project investigates how cultivation of illegal crops (e.g. drugs) transforms agricultural biodiversity–also known as agrobiodiversity. Illegal-crop cultivation among agriculturalists is found throughout the world. Such activities transform landscapes, impacting the environment, security and human wellbeing. The project draws on and will further develop theories of social and ecological vulnerability and resilience regarding small farmer agrobiodiversity interactions. Results will be widely disseminated to researchers, local partners, and the public. As part of this research, a Pennsylvania State University undergraduate student will participate as a research assistant, receiving valuable training in geographic research. As a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement award, this project will provide support to enable a promising student to establish an independent research career.

The project will contribute to the geographic analysis of agrobiodiversity loss (a growing global problem) and agrobiodiversity conservation with innovative theoretical and methodological insights on the interactions between agrobiodiversity and shocks and stressors that impact both nature and society. The main research questions are: 1) How do small farmers perceive and manage the risks and opportunities of growing illegal crops as part of their livelihood strategies? 2) How does the cultivation of illegal crops transform the land use and land cover of small farmers, and consequent agrobiodiversity? and 3) What are the social and environmental impacts of illegal crop cultivation on small farmer vulnerability and resilience? To answer these questions, the research project will triangulate three different methods for data generation: semi-structured interviews with agriculturalists, secondary social, demographic, and agricultural data, and remote sensing with satellite imagery. The results will contribute to a framework and methodology for studying cross-scalar relationships between illegal crop cultivation, agrobiodiversity, and social vulnerability.

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 date4/1/2011/30/21


  • National Science Foundation: $17,998.00


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