Jie Dai (Student PI), Li An (Advisor)
We will evaluate the interactions and feedbacks in coupled human and natural systems (CHANS), and how these interactions and feedbacks will affect the invasion of an exotic plant species in the community forests (CFs). Our study is set in the Chitwan Valley, Nepal, neighboring the Chitwan National Park and the CFs in the park buffer zone. Our specific objectives are to: 1) map Mikania micrantha invasion in Chitwan CFs based on field and remotely sensed data, and 2) analyze and model the coupled human and nature dynamics in Chitwan Valley in the face of M. micrantha invasion. We will use a combination of field sampling and remotely sensed imagery to map the M. micrantha distribution in the CFs, a survey of households and an analysis of regional socio-economic data to examine interactions among different agents, and a CHANS framework to guide our integrated analysis and modeling of relationships and trends in these data. The doctoral applicant is advised by committee members with expertise in ecology, geography, remote sensing, spatial analysis and modeling, and agent-based simulations. In addition to ready access to the necessary field data and sites, we will leverage research facilities and resources from local institutions. The proposed study will enhance our understanding of the dynamics of the CHANS in the face of rapid exotic plant species invasion in this region; equally importantly, it will contribute to the more general understanding of the interactions and processes in the CHANS when encountering the catastrophic effects of exogenous changes.