Research projects


My research focuses on the transformation of African pastoral systems. I have examined how pastoralists adapt to changing ecological, political and institutional conditions that affect their lives and livelihoods. I have been conducting research with pastoralists in the Far North Region of Cameroon since 1993. The long-term research has allowed me to develop several interdisciplinary research projects with colleagues at the Ohio State University and Maroua University in Cameroon. All my current research projects examine pastoral systems within the analytical framework of coupled human and natural systems using a regional approach that situates the Far North Region within the historical context of the greater Chad Basin. I am currently involved in several transdisciplinary research projects, most of which are funded by the National Science Foundation. Below are descriptions of some of these ongoing research projects.

Property Regimes as Complex Adaptive Systems


In 2008 I started an interdisciplinary study of complex social-ecological systems that is funded by the National Geographic Society and a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the Cultural Anthropology and the Geography and Regional Science Programs at the National Science Foundation. Specifically, the study examines how mobile pastoralists in the Logone floodplain in the Far North Region of Cameroon coordinate their movements to avoid conflict and overgrazing in a land tenure system that is commonly described as open access ... read more 

Ecology of Infectious Diseases


I am a founding co-organizer of the Disease Ecology and Computer Modeling Laboratory (DECML) with Rebecca Garabed (Preventive Veterinary Medicine), Ningchuan Xiao (Geography), and Song Liang (Environmental Health Sciences). We have started a project that examines the epidemiology of infectious diseases in the ecological context of networks of host movements. The goal is to understand the transmission and maintenance of Foot and Mouth Disease ... read more 

Water Management and Human Health

We have recently started a new interdisciplinary group consisting of faculty from Public Health (Jiyoung Lee, Grzegorz Rempala), Veterinary Preventive Medicine (Rebecca Garabed), and Anthropology (Barbara Piperata, Mark Moritz). Our group uses a holistic approach to study the complex disease ecology of human and animal health. We have called our group CANARI, which is not an acronym but simply refers to the French names for the clay water storage containers that can be found all across West Africa. ... read more

Regime Shifts in African Floodplains


Together with colleagues at OSU we designed a research project that aims to understand regime shifts in African floodplains. African floodplains are excellent examples of coupled human-natural systems (CHANS), but they have not been modeled as coupled systems. Instead studies have focused either on the hydrological, ecological, or social system and have taken the couplings as a constant rather than as a dynamic system ... read more

Modeling Herd and Household Dynamics

Cow and calf 2.

Population models show that livestock populations have the potential to grow exponentially in pastoral societies, but the empirical evidence shows that population sizes are relatively stable. Until now the explanation has been that droughts, diseases and other disasters keep livestock populations in check. This project proposes an alternative explanation ... read more  


Pastoral production systems in anthropogenic floodplains

The goal of this project is to understand why pastoral production is so low in anthropogenic floodplains in sub-Saharan Africa. In recent decades there has been a decrease in high quality grazing areas in natural floodplains due to the construction of dams in Africa’s rivers resulting in reduced livestock production. Although the dams create anthropogenic floodplains, pastoralists have noted that production is lower than in natural floodplains ... read more 

Modeling Pastoral Mobility


In 2008 we started to use a combination of surveys and GPS technology to track mobile pastoralists at different spatiotemporal scales, ranging from the annual transhumance to daily grazing movements. We are also using semi-structured interviews and GPS technology to map what I call “the invisible infrastructure” of mobile pastoralists ... read more 

Environmental Security: Herder-Farmer Conflicts


The goal of my research on environmental security is to come to a better understanding of when, how, and why some disputes between individual herders and farmers escalate into widespread violent violence between communities, while most others are peacefully resolved.This research was funded by a Mershon Grant (2008-2010) and builds on my earlier ethnographic and theoretical work on herder-farmer conflicts in West Africa ... read more