HELLO AND WELCOME. This is the website for Dr. Pamela McElwee, Professor in the Department of Human Ecology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. I am an interdisciplinary environmental scientist, with a joint Ph.D. in forestry and anthropology, with additional training in geography & ecology.

MY INTERESTS are in the local socio-ecological impacts of global environmental problems, with my particular expertise in biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. I have conducted extensive fieldwork in Southeast Asia and use methods ranging from quantitative household surveys to qualitative interviews to forest mensuration and botanical sampling to study ecologically critical regions, such as tropical forests and coastal estuaries.  Most of my work integrates household-level analysis of decision-making regarding resource use with an examination of global institutional practices and norms that influence environmental management.

ON THIS SITE you will find links to my publications, syllabi from courses I have taught at Rutgers and Arizona State, and additional information about my work. If you have any questions, or would like to learn more about opportunities to study with me at Rutgers, please send me an email.

MY RESEARCH aims to identify why people conduct certain resource use practices in different ecosystems, particularly in the context of rapid environmental change, and the ways in which these global environmental changes may in turn render some communities more vulnerable or impoverished. I am also interested in what the distributional and welfare consequences of environmental policies are: do some policies make poorer people more impoverished, or conflict with cultural norms, while others achieve more equitable balances? I accomplish this research through intensive fieldwork to collect fine-grained data that helps identify social and physical trends. You can read more about my current research projects here.

I was awarded an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship for work on a book tentatively titled Rivers of Blood, Mountains of Bone: An Environmental History of the Vietnam War and am planning on being on sabbatical in Asia in calendar year 2022. My first book Forests are Gold: Trees, People, and Environmental Rule in Vietnam was honored by the European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (EUROSEAS) as the best book on Southeast Asia in the social sciences, as well as shortlisted for the best book on Asia in the social sciences division by the International Convention of Asian Scholars. My other publications can be found on ResearchGate.

MY MAJOR AREAS of research and teaching interests include: ecosystem services measurement, valuation and financing; forest conservation in the tropics, including REDD+; adaptation to climate change and natural hazards; policies and financing for climate change mitigation and adaptation; socio-economics and governance of biodiversity conservation; globalization and natural resource use; gender and the environment; protected areas management; participation and decentralization in natural resources management; Indigenous and local knowledge; the poverty, environment and development nexus; and environmental security and environmental impacts of war and conflict. I have served as an editor at several journals, including PLOS Climate and Conservation Letters.

MY SCIENCE-POLICY WORK has increased considerably in recent years. Currently I am serving as chapter lead for ecosystems for the US Fifth National Climate Assessment. I will be co-chairing the upcoming thematic assessment of the interlinkages among biodiversity, water, food and health (the “nexus assessment”) for the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) over the next few years, alongside Paula Harrison of the UK and David Obura of Kenya. I also served as a lead author for chapter 6 on governance of biodiversity for the IPBES Global Assessment, and as a lead author for chapter 6 on integrated response options in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on Climate Change and Land. I served as one of 50 expert authors for the joint IPCC/IPBES Workshop Report on Climate Change and Biodiversity released in June 2021.

I am the Group Lead for the Cultural Practices and Ecosystem Management Thematic Group of the IUCN’s Commission on Ecosystem Management and served on the scientific development committee for the IUCN Global Standard for Nature-based Solutions. I am also on the IUCN Advisory Board for the Nature-based Recovery Initiative.

 Media quotes about my work can be found on my media page. The best way to contact me for interviews is email.