Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental and Energy Policy (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Social Sciences

Advisor 1

Kathleen E. Halvorsen

Committee Member 1

Maryann Cairns

Committee Member 2

Jessie L. Knowlton

Committee Member 3

Chelsea Schelly


Understanding the multiple drivers of environmental change is essential for devising strategies for overcoming impacts and planning for the future. Anthropogenic causes and physical impacts of such environmental changes are not fixed in space; thus, it is necessary to conduct international research to solve such problems by integrating multiple disciplinary approaches. My dissertation research examines the public perceptions of socioecological impacts of oil palm production and uncovers barriers that international, interdisciplinary teams face when studying such impacts. In one chapter, I present research that identifies challenges that interdisciplinary researchers are confronted with when working in an international setting. Findings show five major barriers to conducting interdisciplinary, international research in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico: integration; language; fieldwork logistics; personnel and relationships; and time commitment. The types of barriers and the strategies for addressing them differ from country to country and between disciplines. I recommend strategies for preventing or overcoming each barrier based on our experiences and those found in the literature. In another chapter, I present public perceptions of the social, economic and environmental impacts of oil palm development in Tabasco, Mexico. Perceived impacts of future oil palm expansion are positively associated with attitudes toward support for current oil palm plantations, attitudes toward the oil palm’s provisioning of environmental services, as well as oil palm production used to produce biofuels for export. The last chapter, in which I present research relating to political ecology of environmental change in Tabasco, Mexico, shows that past political and economic action impacts current environmental conditions and creates institutional and structural constraints in the region to which people are adapting. Rural community members’ adaptive capacity is determined by the resources communities have available to them, landscape features, as well as geographical location.