POSTDOC: Pastoralist social-ecological vulnerability

We are seeking a postdoctoral researcher to work on an NSF-funded Coupled Human-Natural Systems project, examining social and ecological dimensions of vulnerability in pastoralist communities in Kenya. This is a 12-16 month position with possibility of extension, pending additional funding. The candidate will collaborate with PIs Elizabeth King (Odum School of
Ecology and Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources) and Laura German (Department of Anthropology) at University of Georgia, and will be affiliated with UGA’s Center for Integrative Conservation Research (


The project evaluates emerging patterns of social-ecological vulnerability in pastoralist communities in Kenya which have begun to diversify into maize agriculture alongside their struggling livestock-based livelihood system. Livelihood challenges prior to the adoption of
agriculture resulted from restricted grazing ranges as surrounding lands have become privatized, coincidence of grazing ranges with a major wildlife corridor (and a strong conservation agenda carried out on private lands), and feedbacks with the ecological system (affecting vegetation composition, ecohydrological conditions, etc.). The transition to agriculture has a host of implications, including a suite of impacts on ecological and ecohydrological dynamics, changes in levels of adherence to customary norms on grazing, a shift from communal to privatized land use in farming areas, and highly differentiated socioeconomic implications. While diversification has the potential to increase livelihood resilience through better food security, it can also exacerbate vulnerability if it increases environmental sensitivity to disturbances such as drought or predation by wildlife, if it exposes participants to heightened risk, or if participants lack the coping or adaptive capacity to manage the novel enterprise at the household or community level. Our research aims to assess these three dimensions of vulnerability – ecological sensitivity, risk exposure, and coping capacity — to understand the dynamics and potential consequences of transitions underway.


Because the project is highly interdisciplinary, we welcome applications from candidates holding a Ph.D. in any relevant field, such as: ecology, environmental engineering, geography, anthropology, etc. The candidate is expected to collaboratively develop research plans that can be integrated with other research questions, so as to better understand the interactions and feedbacks between dryland ecology, land use, human ecology, decision-making, governance, and common pool resource institutions. Grounding in resilience theory, social-ecological systems, and interdisciplinary research experience would be valuable.

The position will be primarily based in very rural Kenya. There the candidate will reside in a Laikipia Maasai community in Northern Laikipia County, where the project has a basic office/living structure with solar power. Readiness to live and work in an area with very basic amenities and a lot of elephants is essential. Ability to communicate in Swahili or Maa would be highly valued.

TO APPLY, please send the following materials to both egking AT AND lgerman AT

· Your CV, with contact info for 2-3 references

· A letter of application that describes your research interests related to the project, and your relevant experience and abilities.

Application deadline is 1 September or until the position is filled. Expected start date is October or November 2014.