Dr. Karen Allen is a recent graduate in Integrative Conservation and Anthropology from the University of Georgia. Her core Ph.D. training is in cultural anthropology, and she has integrative training across disciplines relevant to conservation and sustainability science, in particular, ecological economics and landscape ecology. She focuses her research on the sustainability of social-ecological systems, and in her teaching and mentoring she seeks to provide experiences for students to critically analyze the feasibility of environmental policy within the complexity of human-environment interactions. Her publications focus on the landscape-level impacts of land-use decisions, and the complex value systems that inform and shape human behavior. She has received funding from the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for her research.

Dr. Allen believes that the goal of education is to promote curiosity and critical thinking, skills that she believes create successful, responsible citizens that may contribute to a more just society. In this respect, her courses aim to foster critical thinking through hands-on engagement with the material, and analysis of diverse perspectives on a particular subject.

Name Title Description


Environmental Science

Study of human transformation of Earth as a trade-off for growth of the human enterprise. Topics include changes in population, land cover (agriculture, deforestation, urbanization), climate, nitrogen and phosphorous cycles, biodiversity; limits of water, soil, energy and mineral resources; and links between population and consumption patterns.


Sustainability Science

Introduction to the concepts of sustainability science and the complex problems associated with sustainability. In particular students will examine the challenge of supporting nine billion people without destroying the planetary resource base, social cohesion, and integrity of the individual. Labs will cover introduction to methods in sustainability.


Consumption & Culture

Exploring the ways in which culture drives material consumption beyond basic human needs, and the relationship between culture, consumption, and our capitalist system.


Conservation & Communities

Focusing specifically on political ecology, an environmental anthropology approach to understanding the relationship between conservation initiatives and local communities that depend on natural resource extraction for sustenance. Includes an exploration of themes involving governance, power, and inequality as we trace the social implications of conservation policy from the past to present.


Ecological Economics

Introduction to the critical approach of the new transdisciplinary field of ecological economics, and use this approach to assess the problem of perpetual economic growth within limited planetary boundaries. We will analyze and challenge the viability of our current global economic paradigm, including market-based approaches to environmental policy.


Sustainability Science Seminar


Dr. Allen is an anthropologist who studies the sustainability of social-ecological systems. In particular, she is interested in how environmental policies engage with complex human value systems to influence behavior. She has carried out research in the Bellbird Biological Corridor of Costa Rica, where she examined how Payments for Environmental Services (PES) and nature tourism impact land-use decisions at the parcel level, and the implications for landscape sustainability. She has also researched public preferences for stream ecosystem services in Macon County, NC, and she hopes to build on this research to compare landowner value systems in Southern Appalachia with her results from Costa Rica. She is currently working with a team of faculty and students at Furman to analyze preferences for sustainable farming practices and local food sources in Greenville, SC.

  • Allen, Karen and Rebecca Moore. 2016. Moving beyond the exchange value in the nonmarket valuation of ecosystem services. Ecosystem Services 18:78-86
  • Allen, Karen. 2015. Trade-offs in nature tourism: Contrasting parcel-level decisions with landscape conservation planning. Ecology and Society 20(1):21
  • Vercoe, Richard, Meredith Welch-Devine, Dean Hardy, Jennifer A. Demoss, Shannon N. Bonney, Karen Allen, Peter Brosius, David Charles, Brian Crawford, Sara Heisel, Nik Heynen, Rebeca G. de Jesús-Crespo, Nathan Nibbelink, Lowery Parker, Catherine Pringle, Alana Shaw, Levi Van Sant. 2014. Acknowledging trade-offs and understanding complexity: Exurbanization issues in Macon County, North Carolina. Ecology and Society 19(1):23.
University of Georgia
Williams College

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