Dr. Bill McConnell

Bill  McConnell
  • Associate Professor, Fixed Term Emeritus
  • SLE Planning & Projects Office
  • International Studies and Programs, African Studies Center


Dr. William McConnell is a land change scientist who applies a mixed Cultural/Political Ecology- Geographic Information Sciences approach to questions of land use dynamics from local to global scales. He has spent the past 25 years in interdisciplinary research groups, including the George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University, the Anthropological Center for Training and Research on Global Environmental Change and the Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change at Indiana University, and the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability at Michigan State University.


Dr. McConnell’s research is rooted in place-based analysis of local land use in the context of broader environmental and socio-political dynamics, thus from a socio-ecological, or coupled human and natural, systems perspective. He has done work in Africa (e.g., Madagascar, Mali, Kenya) and Asia (e.g., China, Nepal), and has recently begun to extend his work to South America (e.g., Brazil, Colombia). Many of these sites involve protected areas intended to conserve rare or endangered wildlife, the research concerns the impacts of conservation actions on the agricultural livelihoods of people nearby, or even inside, the protected areas. Scalar dynamics have been a key question driving his research, which he addresses through comparative studies across research sites, and in synthesis work aimed at deriving more general understanding of the causes and consequences of land use decision-making. This comparative and synthesis work has been cross-continental—and even global—in scope, involving both methodological and theoretical concerns.


The synthesis work in which Dr. McConnell participates is often conducted under the aegis of international and interdisciplinary scientific networks, such as the IGBP-IHDP Land Use and Cover Change (LUCC) project, and its successor, the Global Land Project (GLP), as well as the International Network of Research on Coupled Human and Natural Systems (CHANS-Net). Dr. McConnell often serves in the role of team and network coordinator. The Belmont Food Security and Land Use project that Dr. McConnell currently manages is a multi-institution project in which each country team is supported by a national agency. Thus, while the US team is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Brazilian team is supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), and the UK team by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).