I am a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University. I am an interdisciplinary social-environmental scientist studying how human communities are impacted by environmental change. My work examines the cultural dynamics of environmental change in North America across scales using mixed methods from ethnography and archival research to field ecology and spatial analysis. My postdoctoral project explores the social dimensions and institutional effectiveness of collaborative forest stewardship with federal agencies and Native Nations in California.

My previous work examined the social and cultural dimensions of environmental change in the North America's Great Basin. Based on thirty-six months of field-based ethnographic and historical research in California and Nevada, it investigated the cultural politics of land and its stewardship in dryland forest and shrub steppe ecosystems as it intersected with a changing climate, land use histories, and environmental governance regimes. Landscapes are undergoing material transformation due to climate change, land use practices, and settler colonialism, in turn reshaping how people relate to land, substantiate their place on it, and make claims to territory. This is creating new socioecological configurations of people, land, and place I call ecologies of belonging, the subject of my current book manuscript.

Broadly, my research program addresses the sociocultural dimensions of climate and land use change, Indigenous environmental justice, and rural social inequality across North America. My areas of research and teaching interest include environmental anthropology, Indigenous environmental studies, ethnoecology, and human-environment geography. I am also engaged in community-based participatory research projects with Tribal Nations to expand Indigenous-led land stewardship and protect cultural landscapes from degradation for the benefit of future generations.

Professional Education

  • Ph.D., Yale University, Combined Degree in Anthropology and Forestry & Environmental Science (2023)
  • M.Phil., Yale University, Anthropology (2019)
  • M.E.Sc., Yale University, Forestry & Environmental Science (2016)
  • B.A., University of California, Davis, Economics, International Relations; Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning

Stanford Advisors

All Publications

  • Informal modes of social support among residents of the rural American West during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rural sociology McConnell, K., Mueller, J. T., Merdjanoff, A. A., Burow, P. B., Farrell, J. 2023; 88 (4): 972-1000


    During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal spending to government safety net programs in the U.S. increased dramatically. Despite this unparalleled spending, government safety nets were widely critiqued for failing to fully meet many households' needs. Disaster research suggests that informal modes of social support often emerge during times of disruption, such as the first year of the pandemic. However, use of formal government programs and informal support are rarely examined relative to each other, resulting in an incomplete picture of how households navigate disaster impacts and financial shocks. This study compares estimates of informal social support to formal government program use in the rural U.S. West, drawing on data from a rapid-response survey fielded during the summer of 2020 and the 2021 Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS-ASEC). We find that informal social support systems were, on aggregate, used almost as extensively as long-standing government programs. Our findings highlight the critical role of person-to-person assistance, such as sharing financial resources, among rural households during a disruptive disaster period. Routine and standardized data collection on these informal support behaviors could improve future disaster research and policy responses, especially among rural populations.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/ruso.12507

    View details for PubMedID 38586189

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10993294

  • Governance and Conservation Effectiveness in Protected Areas and Indigenous and Locally Managed Areas Annual Review of Environment & Resources Zhang, Y., et al 2023; 48: 559-588
  • The Ecology of Belonging: Cultural Dyanamics of Environmental Change in the North American West Burow, P. B. Yale University (School of the Environment and Department of Anthropology). New Haven, CT. 2023 ; Ph.D. Dissertation 456 pp


    This dissertation examines the social and cultural dimensions of environmental change in the rural North American West. Based on thirty-six months of field-based ethnographic and historical research in the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada regions of California and Nevada, it investigates the cultural politics of land and its stewardship in dryland forest and shrub steppe ecosystems as it intersects with a changing climate, land use histories, and environmental governance regimes. Landscapes are undergoing material transformation due to climate change, land-use practices, and settler colonialism, in turn reshaping how people relate to land, substantiate their place on it, and make claims to territory. This is creating new socioecological configurations of people, land, and place I call ecologies of belonging. The cultural and political dynamics that shape the construction and maintenance of the boundaries of belonging and non-belonging in these assemblages are explored through a series of interconnected chapters that show how Paiute people, federal land managers, and livestock ranchers navigate environmental changes and understand their changing relationship to the land through the work of constructing place and belonging for themselves and others. I elucidate these processes through four ethnographic case studies explaining major sociocultural dynamics of rapidly shifting landscapes: (1) moral ecologies reflected in conflicting modes of landscape valuation and moral claims-making that play out in stewardship encounters over the proper maintenance of relationships between people, plants, and animals; (2) sage grouse conservation as a project of cultivated belonging that seeks to reshape how species are perceived in relation to the land through their iconicity as an indicator of healthy ecosystems; (3) aesthetic representations of desert landscapes I call the settler pastoral that sustain an agrarian vision for productive rural lands tied to the production of food and reproduction of culture through livestock ranching that is challenged for its erasures by Great Basin Indigenous artists and land rights advocates through the visualization of extraction; and (4) heritage politics evident in contested regimes for managing cultural heritage on public lands that structure relationships between Native Nations and federal land mangers over material culture and Indigenous claims to land and belonging. A series of intercalary chapters provide natural history profiles for four important nonhuman figures in this study: pinyon pine, sage hen, cheatgrass, and cattle. These sections collectively describe the life history and place of these plants and animals on the land and the role they play as actors shaping landscapes. By unraveling the uneven effects of environment change for Indigenous nations, natural resource managers, livestock ranchers, and rural communities—all of whom are affected by large-scale wildfires, the threat of species extirpation, evolving land use practices, and novel ecosystems—this dissertation breaks new ground to show the contingent and quotidian practices of land stewardship that reshape the landscape of place and belonging in the Great Basin. The dissertation shows how the social identities and cultural practices of Paiute people are destabilized by the loss of traditional foods and access to forestlands for cultural practices due to large-scale wildfires; drought-induced plant mortality; ecological restoration projects; and land-use impacts from livestock grazing, outdoor recreation, and mining development. It describes how livestock ranchers are gradually being displaced on the land as their operations are upended by changing societal values and governance regimes affecting land use that are making cattle increasingly out of place on Great Basin uplands even as protections for valley agricultural lands are being expanded to sustain ranching and maintain undeveloped open space. Land managers struggle with the multiplying burdens of environmental change, contending with limited staffing and highly bureaucratic processes that make adaptation to changing circumstances difficult in light of existing paradigms of environmental values and knowledge about what constitutes natural variation in ecosystems in unprecedented times. This project offers insight into how land stewardship and public lands policy affect Indigenous nations and rural communities facing rapid socioecological change in the rural US West. It links material changes in the landscape to historical land management practices and shifting experiences of place that are affecting the land-based practices and cultural attachments that natural resource-dependent communities maintain with rural lands. The institutional barriers to Indigenous stewardship on public lands limit important cultural practices that sustain the lifeways and livelihoods of Indigenous peoples, but new models are demonstrating promise in increasing collaboration and community-led stewardship. This work highlights the contestation of settler colonial land regimes by Paiute people and the vision of local communities for livable, hospitable landscapes that support multiple forms of life and belonging in the Anthropocene.

  • Elevated serious psychological distress, economic disruption, and the COVID-19 pandemic in the nonmetropolitan American West PREVENTIVE MEDICINE Mueller, J., Merdjanoff, A., McConnell, K., Burow, P., Farrell, J. 2022; 155: 106919


    In this study we examined the psychological distress, self-rated health, COVID-19 exposure, and economic disruption of a sample of the nonmetropolitan western U.S. population and labor force one year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using novel primary survey data from non-metropolitan counties in the eleven contiguous western United States collected from February 28 until April 3, 2021 (n = 1203), we descriptively analyzed variables and estimated binomial and multinomial logit models of the association between economic disruption, COVID-19 exposure, self-rated health, and psychological distress. Results showed there was widespread presence of psychological distress, COVID-19 exposure, and economic disruption among the overall sample and members of the labor force. There was extremely high incidence of serious psychological distress (14.8% CI [12.1,17.8] of the weighted sample), which was heightened among the labor force (16.6%, CI [13.0,20.9] of those in the labor force). We found economic disruption was associated with severe psychological distress, but exposure to infection was not. Comparatively, overall self-rated health was at similar levels as prior research and was not significantly associated with economic disruption or COVID-19 exposure. COVID-19, particularly its associated economic effects, had a significant relationship with serious psychological distress in this sample of adults in the nonmetropolitan western United States.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.ypmed.2021.106919

    View details for Web of Science ID 000742840700019

    View details for PubMedID 34929221

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8683090

  • Unsettling the Land: Indigeneity, Ontology, and Hybridity in Settler Colonialism Indigenous Resurgence: Decolonization and Movements for Environmental Justice Burow, P., Brock, S., Dove, M. edited by Dhillon J. Berghahn Books. 2022

    View details for DOI 10.3167/9781800732452

  • The Anthropocene Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology Johnson, A., Hebdon, C., Burow, P., Chatti, D., Dove, M. edited by Aldenderfer, M. Oxford University Press. 2022
  • Effects of land dispossession and forced migration on Indigenous peoples in North America SCIENCE Farrell, J., Burow, P., McConnell, K., Bayham, J., Whyte, K., Koss, G. 2021; 374 (6567): eabe4943


    What are the full extent and long-term effects of land dispossession and forced migration for Indigenous peoples in North America? We leveraged a new dataset of Indigenous land dispossession and forced migration to statistically compare features of historical tribal lands to present-day tribal lands at the aggregate and individual tribe level. Results show a near-total aggregate reduction of Indigenous land density and spread. Indigenous peoples were forced to lands that are more exposed to climate change risks and hazards and are less likely to lie over valuable subsurface oil and gas resources. Agricultural suitability and federal land proximity results—which affect Indigenous movements, management, and traditional uses—are mixed. These findings have substantial policy implications related to heightened climate vulnerability, extensive land reduction, and diminished land value.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.abe4943

    View details for Web of Science ID 000714943400032

    View details for PubMedID 34709911

  • Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on rural America PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Mueller, J., McConnell, K., Burow, P., Pofahl, K., Merdjanoff, A. A., Farrell, J. 2021; 118 (1)


    Despite considerable social scientific attention to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on urbanized areas, very little research has examined its impact on rural populations. Yet rural communities-which make up tens of millions of people from diverse backgrounds in the United States-are among the nation's most vulnerable populations and may be less resilient to the effects of such a large-scale exogenous shock. We address this critical knowledge gap with data from a new survey designed to assess the impacts of the pandemic on health-related and economic dimensions of rural well-being in the North American West. Notably, we find that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on rural populations have been severe, with significant negative impacts on unemployment, overall life satisfaction, mental health, and economic outlook. Further, we find that these impacts have been generally consistent across age, ethnicity, education, and sex. We discuss how these findings constitute the beginning of a much larger interdisciplinary COVID-19 research effort that integrates rural areas and pushes beyond the predominant focus on cities and nation-states.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2019378118

    View details for Web of Science ID 000607270100063

    View details for PubMedID 33328335

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7817144

  • Locating the ‘Rural’ in Anthropology The SAGE Handbook of Cultural Anthropology Koh, V., Burow, P., Kanoi, L., Dove, M. edited by Pedersen, L., Cliggett, L. Sage Publishers. 2021: 296-310

    View details for DOI 10.4135/9781529756449

  • Land, Indigeneity, and Hybrid Ontologies Living Earth Community: Multiple Ways of Being and Knowing Burow, P., Brock, S., Dove, M. edited by Mickey, S., Tucker, M., Grim, J. Open Book Publishers. 2020: 193-202

    View details for DOI 10.11647/OBP.0186

  • Nature’s Belonging: Landscapes, Conservation and the Cultural Politics of Place in the Great Basin Public Lands in the Western U.S.: Place and Politics in the Clash between Public and Private Burow, P. edited by Sullivan, K., McDonald, J. Rowman and Littlefield. 2020: 175-197
  • Social scientific research on the American West: current debates, novel methods, and new directions ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH LETTERS Burow, P., McConnell, K., Farrell, J. 2019; 14 (12)
  • Who Is in the Commons: Defining Community, Commons, and Time in Long-Term Natural Resource Management GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES ON LONG TERM COMMUNITY RESOURCE MANAGEMENT Dove, M. R., Johnson, A., Lefebvre, M., Burow, P., Zhou, W., Kanoi, L., Lozny, L. R., McGovern, T. H. 2019; 11: 23-40
  • Unsettling the Land Indigeneity, Ontology, and Hybridity in Settler Colonialism ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY-ADVANCES IN RESEARCH Burow, P., Brock, S., Dove, M. R. 2018; 9 (1): 57-74