Featured Researcher: Dr. Jesse Abrams

November 18, 2021

Jesse Abrams is an Assistant Professor of Natural Resource Policy and Sustainability in a joint appointment between the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. Jesse joined the UGA faculty in 2018 after five years with the Ecosystem Workforce Program at the University of Oregon and two years as a visiting assistant professor at Whitman College. Jesse’s MS and PhD degrees are in Forest Resources from Oregon State University and he completed his undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies at New College of Florida. In between completing degrees, he worked for the National Park Service, Northern Arizona University’s Ecological Restoration Institute, and the Missouri Department of Conservation, among other positions. Jesse is currently a member of UGA’s Lilly Teaching Fellows Program.

Jesse researches the drivers and outcomes of natural resource governance, looking across scales and across natural and social spheres to explore complex system dynamics. In the United States, forest and rangeland systems are under increasing stress from multiple factors: conversion to residential uses, invasive insects and pathogens, and native disturbance agents such as wildfires and native insect species whose impacts have been magnified as a result of complex drivers that include climate change and past fire exclusion practices. Jesse’s research asks how communities, governmental agencies, and non-governmental organizations respond to signals of environmental change and how policymaking, policy implementation and multilevel governance processes figure into those responses. His recent work in this vein includes: examining how emergent governance networks in different geographies responded to a native Mountain Pine Beetle outbreak of unprecedented scale and scope; analyzing the design and performance of volunteer wildland fire crews organized by ranchers in remote rangeland landscapes; investigating the adoption and operationalization of national forest policies promoting “resilient landscapes”; and using a land system science approach that combines spatial analysis with qualitative narrative data to interpret policy implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan. He is a Co-PI on a current project examining the nationwide implementation of the U.S. Forest Service’s Shared Stewardship strategy, which attempts to plan and manage across traditional property and jurisdictional boundaries to achieve landscape-scale forest restoration and stewardship.

Another theme in Jesse’s research is the interface between state-led and non-state models of environmental governance. His recent work comparing certification adoption in Argentina and the U.S. found that governments are often more closely involved in driving and shaping the certification process than is generally assumed, and that governmental interests in certification are more complex than simply a desire to achieve improved social and environmental outcomes. He has also investigated rural community experiences with oil palm cultivation in Brazil and Mexico and is mentoring graduate students on topics that include working forest conservation in Georgia’s Flint River watershed, gopher tortoise management on varied forest ownerships across the state, and implementation of the National Environmental Research Park program on Department of Energy sites nationwide. His recent work has been published in Sustainability ScienceEnvironmental Research LettersForest Policy and EconomicsGlobal Environmental Politics, and other forums.

Jesse was part of a research team examining the social and ecological implications of oil palm expansion. Here he delivers results back to a community-run palm oil production cooperative in the state of Tabasco, Mexico.