Research interests and expertise
Sierra is an interdisciplinary political ecologist* with a PhD in Environmental Sciences, Studies, and Policy from the University of Oregon, USA. She has published peer-reviewed work in both the natural and social sciences. Her interests include inter- and transdisciplinary research and problem-solving, conservation and biodiversity, globalization and development, social inequality and intersectionality, environmental justice, indigenous issues, social movements, sustainable communities, marine biology, marine resource management, and wildlife policy and law.
Sierra’s academic expertise is additionally informed by her work with humanitarian and environmental justice NGOs and as an offshore Protected Species Observer, as well as with her observations from extensive international travel in North, South, and Central America, Asia, Africa, the South Pacific, and Europe. Her research broadly focuses on shared root causes of social and environmental problems and their solutions, with an emphasis on decolonial methodologies and philosophies. For much of her career, she has used social theory to explain the causes and processes of ruptures in socioecological (human-nature and human-human) relations at various scales. By empirically studying specific cases, she shows how global trends, particularly neoliberalization, take shape in particular contexts. She has thus shown how neoliberalization in an Irrawaddy dolphin conservation project in Cambodia altered socioecological relations and led to significant negative consequences, while another project in Myanmar did not. She has also shown how Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s particular form of anti-environmentalism is related to his authoritarian neoliberalism, and how this creates socioecological ruptures at the national level.
Sierra is thrilled to join the inter- and transdisciplinary SNS team at UZH. She plans to continue to draw on data from her previous fieldwork in Southeast Asia and Brazil to contribute to a greater understanding of socioecological problems and their causes, while co-developing research projects on practical solutions.
Education: PhD in Environmental Sciences, Studies, and Policy (University of Oregon); MA in Sociology (University of Oregon); Graduate Certificate in Marine Resources Management (Oregon State University); MS in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences (Texas A&M University); BS in Marine Biology and Zoology with a minor in Women’s Studies (Humboldt State University).
* Political ecology is a growing field of scholars from various disciplines who understand socioenvironmental problems as inherently political and thus cannot be addressed without attending to power dynamics and issues of justice.