Pardee Faculty Fellow and Boston University Professor Les Kaufman was featured in two articles published this week in The New York Times and Virginia Quarterly Review. The articles, titled “Of Fish, Monsoons, and the Future” and “The Giving Flood” address the challenges of sustainable development in the Tonle Sap Lake region of Cambodia, an area currently undergoing rapid growth and a steady decline in biodiversity. (Prof. Kaufman isn’t mentioned by name in The New York Times article, but is featured in the video accompanying the article.)
The articles highlight a joint initiative by researchers from across the globe who are striving to better understand the connections between human development and natural ecosystems. In particular, the articles focus on the decline in the number and diversity of fish species found in the Tonle Sap Lake, which could pose ecologic, health and economic challenges if left unaddressed. Prof. Kaufman, who recently returned from field work in Cambodia, is currently working with an international team of researchers to learn about the connection between these developments and the health of the ecosystem, and is creating a model that may help to predict future impacts associated with growth and climate change.
The model, known as MIMES, pulls together data from ecologists, economists, and local residents to map the connections between human activity and the natural environment. While this model is unique in its approach to conservation, Pardee Faculty Fellow Suchi Gopal (who works alongside Prof. Kaufman on the project) argues that it is too complex for quick and easy use by policy-makers. To address this issue, the two have assembled a team of researchers at Boston University to create a partner model, which would function as a more user-friendly alternative. The BU research team also includes contributions from students, including Pardee Graduate Fellow Xiaojing Tang who is developing a model for long-term forest loss based on satellite imagery.
Prof. Kaufman’s work on Cambodian fisheries will be featured in a PBS Newshour special that will be aired soon.