Hi! I am a PhD Candidate in Eric Lambin's Land Change Lab and I'm interested in policies and governance mechanisms of land use. More specifically, I investigate if and how certain governance approaches can help to reduce the negative impacts of land use in the tropics while encouraging sustainable and fair use of natural resources. To address my research questions, I use multiple methods, including literature and document review, remote sensing, and modeling.

Education & Certifications

  • MS, Imperial College London, Conservation Science (2016)
  • MS, Lund University, Environmental Studies & Sustainability Science (2015)
  • BA, FOM University of Applied Sciences for Economics and Management, International Management (2011)

Service, Volunteer and Community Work

  • Co-Chair, Student-invited speaker committee (June 2019 - Present)


    Stanford, USA

Personal Interests

In my free time, I love to explore California's natural side through cycling, hiking, climbing, and backpacking. I always try to carry my camera to capture all the amazing sunsets, starry skies, landscapes, and critters out there (I have a sweet spot for all reptiles and amphibians). I also love a good book, listen to and play music, and make home made kombucha and sourdough bread.
You can check out my photography & art on my website or follow me on Instagram @m_vonessen.
For updates on my research and general stuff, follow me on Twitter @Mv_Essen

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

My research focuses on jurisdictional approaches to sustainable resource use - a type of governance approach that has emerged over the past decade and is increasingly promoted by a range of stakeholders and implemented globally. Specifically, I am interested in what jurisdictional approaches are from a conceptual point of view and how they differ from alternative approaches to sustainable resource use. Further, I want to explore if jurisdictional approaches can be effective in achieving positive environmental and social outcomes and what factors determine their success. For this, I am developing an agent-based model that allows us to investigate the mechanisms and variables of jurisdictional approaches.

Lab Affiliations

Work Experience

  • Standards Manager, High Conservation Value Resource Network (6/1/2017 - 6/1/2018)


    London, UK

  • Project Manager, Siemens AG (10/1/2011 - 7/1/2013)


    Cologne, Germany

All Publications

  • Agent-Based Simulation of Land Use Governance (ABSOLUG) in Tropical Commodity Frontiers JASSS-THE JOURNAL OF ARTIFICIAL SOCIETIES AND SOCIAL SIMULATION von Essen, M., Lambin, E. F. 2023; 26 (1)
  • Jurisdictional approaches to sustainable resource use Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment von Essen, M., Lambin, E. F. 2021

    View details for DOI 10.1002/fee.2299

  • High pathogen prevalence in an amphibian and reptile assemblage at a site with risk factors for dispersal in Galicia, Spain PLOS ONE von Essen, M., Leung, W. M., Bosch, J., Pooley, S., Ayres, C., Price, S. J. 2020; 15 (7): e0236803


    Ranaviruses are agents of disease, mortality and population declines in ectothermic vertebrates and emergences have been repeatedly linked to human activities. Ranaviruses in the common midwife toad ranavirus lineage are emerging in Europe. They are known to be severe multi-host pathogens of amphibians and can also cause disease in reptiles. Recurrent outbreaks of ranavirus disease and mortality affecting three species have occurred at a small reservoir in north-west Spain but no data were available on occurrence of the pathogen in the other amphibian and reptile species present or at adjacent sites. We sampled nine species of amphibians and reptiles at the reservoir and nearby sites and screened for ranavirus presence using molecular methods. Our results show infection with ranavirus in all nine species, including first reports for Hyla molleri, Pelophylax perezi, Rana iberica, and Podarcis bocagei. We detected ranavirus in all four local sites and confirmed mass mortality incidents involving Lissotriton boscai and Triturus marmoratus were ongoing. The reservoir regularly hosts water sports tournaments and the risks of ranavirus dispersal through the translocation of contaminated equipment are discussed.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0236803

    View details for Web of Science ID 000556884700098

    View details for PubMedID 32730306

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7392302

  • Valuing and mapping cork and carbon across land use scenarios in a Portuguese montado landscape PLOS ONE von Essen, M., do Rosario, I. T., Santos-Reis, M., Nicholas, K. A. 2019; 14 (3): e0212174


    The ecosystem services approach can inform decision-making by accounting for both short- and long-term benefits from different land use options. Here we used the InVEST toolkit to quantify and map key ecosystem services at the largest publicly-owned agro-silvo-pastoral farmstead in Portugal-a site representative for the montado landscape. We analyzed how Provisioning (cork production) and Regulating & Maintenance (carbon storage and sequestration) services would be affected under three land use change scenarios, which were developed in collaboration with the forest manager of the study area: Cattle Intensification, Forest Improvement, and Residential Development. Results show that increasing cattle or residential development would deliver substantially lower levels of services. We find that extensive management, improvements to forest quality, and promotion of traditional livestock grazing would provide the highest levels of assessed ecosystem services, resulting in 13.5% more carbon storage (worth between $0.34-$7.79 million USD depending on carbon price) and 62.7% more cork production (total value of USD $3.5 million) than the current land use. However, a shift in economic incentives to make sustainable cork harvesting and traditional low-density grazing of smaller ruminants like sheep and goats profitable are likely needed to reward traditional land stewardship and help support this iconic Mediterranean landscape in the future.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0212174

    View details for Web of Science ID 000460638800012

    View details for PubMedID 30845222