I am an ecological and environmental anthropologist focused on the exploration of local indigenous knowledge to answer questions about adapting and responding to environmental risk and change, cultural knowledge and institutions shaping adaptation, vulnerability and resilience, and environmental and historical constraints on human activities. I have conducted ethnographic and ecological fieldwork in Mozambique for more than 10 years, as well as short-term projects in Tanzania, Fiji, American Samoa, coastal Oregon, and Maryland. Broadly, I am interested in the complexity of social-ecological systems (SES), the manifestation of sociocultural and biophysical elements within SESs, and the dialectical processes linking elements from the perspective of the people living within the SES.
At present, my work focuses on two main research projects:
- Building Conservation Capacity to Save Africa's Vultures - this research aims to assess, build, and strengthen the existing vulture conservation network in southern and eastern Africa, as well as identify tools and other means of assistance for public education about vultures. My work is part of the larger international, interdisciplinary SESYNC Pursuit: Saving Africa's Vultures.
- Plant Diversity in Southern Mozambique's Human-Modified Landscapes - this research investigates the relationship between plant diversity and plant use for livelihood activities. This synthesis work draws upon my previous research, as well as archival datasets.
Ongoing research and analysis includes assessing indicators of change within SES using photovoice methods, mapping the SES with network analysis techniques, analyzing agency and impacts of wildlife management, exploring traditional ecological knowledge in an African context, and evaluating the role of health and disease in an SES.
Research Website: Knowledge, Response, and Adaptation for Environmental Change (KRAC) Lab
- 2019. 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
- 2017. 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
- 2017. 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
- 2014. Shaffer, L.J. Making sense of local climate change in rural Tanzania through knowledge co-production. Journal of Ethnobiology 34(3): 315-334.
- 2014. 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.
- 2014. 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.
- 2012. Shaffer, L. J. Mobilizing knowledge to build adaptive capacity: lessons from southern Mozambique. In Climate Change and Threatened Communities: Vulnerability, Capacity, & Action. P. Castro, D. Taylor, and D. Brokensha (eds.). Pp. 69-80. Practical Action Publishers, London.
- 2011. Shaffer, L. J. and L. Naiene. Why analyze mental models of local climate change?: A case from southern Mozambique. Weather, Climate and Society 3(4): 223-237.
- 2010. Shaffer, L. J. Indigenous fire use to manage savanna landscapes in southern Mozambique. Fire Ecology 6(2): 43-59.
In the news:
- 'The Nile Project' at The Clarice works to raise awareness about the disconnect between countries in the river's area (4/24/15)
- People or Parks: The Human Factor in Protecting Wildlife (11/7/13)
- Advancing Global Sustainability: Anthropology Leading the Way (9/13)
- Jerry Jacka from UT San Antonio interviews Jen Shaffer from the UMD (5/26/13)
- University Transportation Habits Subject of Student-Led Study (5/9/13)
- A Snapshot of Climate Change in Rural Tanzania, 2010-2011 (11/29/12)
- Agriculture and Adaptation from Africa to the Andes (10/25/12)
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