Broadly, my research addresses questions of social-ecological system (SES) complexity, the emergence of sociocultural and biophysical elements within SESs, and the interactive processes linking these elements, but from the unique, and often neglected, perspective of the people living within these complex systems. My expertise lies in the study of local environmental knowledge (LEK), also referred to as traditional or indigenous knowledge, and how this knowledge is used to sustain livelihoods and households in rural southern and east Africa. I am interested in how people use their LEK, grounded in multi-scalar, historic and contemporary political, economic, and cultural contexts, to respond and adapt to on-going social and ecological changes, and how their actions, in turn, change the environment. As an ecological anthropologist, I continue a tradition of innovative and interdisciplinary research that is data-grounded but ethnographic, and complementary to work done by colleagues on systems modelling, land use and resource management and conservation, and climate change resilience. Recently, my interests have expanded to think about LEK in the US context; where and how we learn LEK, differences in LEK based on personal experiences/surrounding culture/access to nature, and how we use our LEK. My research deepens our theoretical understanding of human contributions to, and maintenance of, the biodiversity and ecosystem services upon which all life depends. In the Anthropocene, this knowledge is increasingly important as we approach planetary limits of land use and freshwater scarcity, and mitigate those boundaries already crossed like biodiversity loss and global climate change. In the applied arena, my work addresses issues of household well-being, resource management and governance, species conservation, human-wildlife conflict, and adaptation to global climate change.
Dr. Shaffer is also the Faculty Advisor for ENSP Culture and Environment, for more information on the concentration please visit: https://ensp.umd.edu/concentrations/culture-environment
Selected Publications: (*indicates student advisee)
- Krüger, S, A Botha, W Bowerman, B Coverdale, ML Gore, L Van Den Heever, LJ Shaffer, H Smit-Robinson, LJ Thompson, and MA Ottinger. Old-world vultures reflect effects of environmental pollutants through human encroachment. Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry 41(7): 1586-1603. DOI:10.1002/etc.5358
- Shaffer, LJ, JG Hurst, S Johnston, T Barron, WW Bowerman, S Kruger, LJ Thompson, and MA Ottinger. Urban nesting of Black Vultures in Houston, Texas, USA. Urban Naturalist Notes 2: 1-6.
- Thompson, LJ, SC Krüger, BM Coverdale, MA Ottinger, LJ Shaffer, MA Ottinger, JP Davies, C Daboné, M Kibuule, SI Cherkaoui, RA Garbett, WL Phipps, ER Buechley, A Godino Ruiz, M Lecoq, C Carneiro, RM Harrell, ML Gore, and WW Bowerman. Assessing African vultures as avian biomonitors and umbrella species. Frontiers in Conservation Science 2: 729025. DOI:10.3389/fcosc.2021.729025
- Yee, N*, LJ Shaffer, ML Gore, W Bowerman, and RL Harrell. Expert perceptions of vulture conservationists in South Africa and Kenya: implications for overcoming ethical decision-making dilemmas. Journal of Raptor Research 55(3): 359-373. DOI:10.3356/JRR-20-39.
- Ottinger, MA, A Botha, R Buij, B Coverdale, ML Gore, RM Harrell, J Hassell, S Krüger, CJW McClure, J Mullinax, LJ Shaffer, H Smit-Robinson, LJ Thompson, L van den Heever, and WW Bowerman. A strategy for conserving Old World vulture populations in the framework of One Health. Journal of Raptor Research 55(3): 374-387. DOI:10.3356/JRR-20-98
- Michaelis, AK*, WC Walton, DW Webster, and LJ Shaffer. Cultural ecosystem services enabled through work with shellfish. Marine Policy 132:104689. DOI:10.1016/j.marpol.2021.104689
- Michaelis, AK*, DW Webster, and LJ Shaffer. The practice of everyday oystering: aquaculture as resistance? Journal of Political Ecology 28(1): 309-335. DOI:10.2458/jpe.2845
- Poor, EE, MA Imron, R Novalina, LJ Shaffer, and JM Mullinax. Increasing diversity to save biodiversity: Rising to the challenge and supporting Indonesian women in conservation. Conservation Science & Practice, 3(6), e395. DOI:10.1111/csp2.395
- Van Den Heever, L, LJ Thompson, W Bowerman, H Smit-Robinson, LJ Shaffer, R Harrell, and MA Ottinger. Reviewing the role of vultures at the human-wildlife-livestock disease interface: an African perspective. Journal of Raptor Research, 55(3): 311-327. DOI:10.3356/JRR-20-22
- Michaelis, AK*, WC Walton, DW Webster, and LJ Shaffer. The role of ecosystem services in the decision to grow oysters: a Maryland case study. Aquaculture 735633. DOI:10.1016/j.aquaculture.2020.735633
- Gore, ML, A Hübschle, A Botha, BM Coverdale, R Garbett, RM Harrell, S Krüger, JM Mullinax, LJ Olson, MA Ottinger, H Smit Robinson, LJ Shaffer, LJ Thompson, L van den Heever, and WW Bowerman. A conservation criminology-based desk assessment of vulture poisoning in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area. Global Ecology and Conservation e01076. DOI:10.1016/j.gecco.2020.e01076
- Shaffer, LJ, KK Khadka, J Van Den Hoek, and KJ Naithani Human-elephant conflict: a review of current management strategies and future directions. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 6:235. DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2018.00235
- Shaffer, L.J. Rain Rituals as a Barometer of Vulnerability in an Uncertain Climate. Journal of Ecological Anthropology 19(1). DOI: 10.5038/2162-45126.96.36.1998
- Shaffer, L.J. An anthropological perspective on the climate change and violence relationship. Current Climate Change Reports (): 1-11. DOI:10.1007/s40641-017-0076-8
- Shaffer, L.J. Making sense of local climate change in rural Tanzania through knowledge co-production. Journal of Ethnobiology 34(3): 315-334.
- Tschakert, P., K. Dietrich, K. Tamminga, E. Prins, J. Shaffer, E. Liwenga, and A. Asiedu. Learning and envisioning under climatic uncertainty: an African experience. Environment and Planning A 46: 1049-1068.
- Tschakert, P., & L. J. Shaffer. Ingredients for Social-Ecological Resilience, Poverty Traps, and Adaptive Social Protection in Semi-Arid Africa. In Social-Ecological Systems in Transition (pp. 139-156). Springer Japan.
In the news:
- UMD-led Study Suggests that Supporting Indonesian Women in Conservation Science Can Help Save Local Biodiversity (3/30/21)
- UMD's SESYNC International Vulture Collaboration Addresses Vulture Poisoning in Southern Africa, a Localized Issue with Global Implications for Disease Control and Biodiversity Conservation (7/15/2020)
- Writing for a Time of Need (4/20/2020)
- Early Adapters: Columbia’s First Residents Discuss Their Choices for an Oral History Project. (March/April 2017)
- People or Parks: The Human Factor in Protecting Wildlife (11/7/13)
- Jerry Jacka from UT San Antonio interviews Jen Shaffer from the UMD (5/26/13)
Areas of Interest
- Ethnoecology/Local Environmental Knowledge; Social-Ecological Systems; Conservation; Climate Change; Rural Livelihoods; Food and Water Security; Adaptation to Environmental Change; Resilience; Vulnerability; Historical Ecology
- Social Network Analysis; Citizen Science; Savanna & Coastal Communities; Southern & Eastern Africa incl. Mozambique, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania
Degree TypePhDDegree DetailsAnthropology (Ecological & Environmental Anthropology), 2009 – University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Degree TypeMSDegree DetailsEnvironmental Studies (Biology; Geography; Planning, Public Policy & Management), 1999 – University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Degree TypeBSDegree DetailsBiology (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology) cum laude, 1994 – Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Bassett, MaeveSan Antonio Botanical Gardens