Prospective Graduate Students

Are you interested in a quantitative research career that supports the conservation of natural ecosystems?


I am always on the lookout for sharp, motivated, and hard-working students that are a) passionate about conservation, b) inquisitively curious about how the world works, and c) ready to learn and apply advanced methods that help us shed new light on difficult questions.

Committing to a PhD is a major life decision. Finding the right fit between your interests and abilities, and those of your advisor is key to a delightful experience. Here are a few thoughts that will help you examine whether working with me will help you advance your career goals.

My work

If you have read some of my work, you will notice my interest in rigorous research that helps us understand how conservation works and what difference it makes, anywhere on the planet. This inquiry is:

  1. inherently interdisciplinary: conservation seeks to affect (“protect”) the natural world, but it always does so by influencing human behavior;
  2. mostly quantitative: because new data and methods are helping us to generate findings at new and exciting scales and detail; and
  3. usually applied: I meet decision makers, find out what questions they are curious about, and then help them answer these using the data, methods, and analytical independence that they might otherwise not have access to.

Your interests and abilities

If you have a passion for conservation, some background in remote sensing, economics and/or quantitative social science, and advanced mathematical, statistical or computational skills (or the capacity and desire to develop these), we might have a great time working together.

Two options will make your request stand out above the crowd:

Option 1: You have an idea

The best starting point for any inquiry is your own curiosity. If you already have a research topic that you want to tackle over the course of your graduate career, you have a great head start. Write up a short pitch (one page or less) that covers the essentials: why is your topic important? What is new about it? Why do you want to know? Who else wants to know? How would you like to tackle it? What data, skills, and contacts do you have? Which ones do you need? Of course, your pitch does not need to be perfect (that’s what your graduate program is for), but it should convey enthusiasm and capacity. I will honor your effort by responding in very short time. If your idea is promising, I’m sure we’ll find a way to fund it.

Option 2: You have advanced skills

If you already have advanced skills in economics, mathematics, statistics, computer science, or a related field from your previous degree, we can collaborate around my current research projects on the allocation and impact of land acquisition for conservation in the U.S., Chile, and Colombia. I am very excited about this work, with interesting data coming together and waiting to be analyzed. Extra points if you have prior experience with big data, mathematical / computational optimization, or machine learning.

Your opportunity

The Department of Earth & Environment at Boston University offers a PhD in Earth & Environment with a five-year funding guarantee. Applications are due mid-December.

Please get in touch with me ( well before the application deadline with:

  1. a short summary of your research experience and interests
    (let me know how working with me will help you advance in your career)
  2. your curriculum vitae (which explicitly mentions statistical, computational, and linguistic skills),
  3. copies of transcripts (unofficial is fine) and GRE scores (if available)
  4. a writing sample (send me the paper you are most proud of)

I look forward to hearing from you!