Ryan R. Unks

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Ryan Unks is an interdisciplinary scientist with training in landscape ecology, plant ecology, and anthropology. As a postdoctoral fellow at SESYNC, he studies landscape ecological change and rural livelihoods in central and southern Kenya with a focus on understanding the drivers and implications of vegetation change. His research critically engages with different conceptualizations of socio-ecological relations and has a primary objective of understanding how governance processes have shaped land-use patterns and landscape ecological processes at different scales. He uses a range of methods, including remote sensing, plant community analysis, and qualitative analysis. He works in collaboration with the Wilson Lab in the University at Buffalo’s Department of Geography and the Pastoralism, Uncertainty and Resilience: Global Lessons from the Margins (PASTRES) program at the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre at the Institute of Development Studies. Ryan was previously a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Lyon, where he used a qualitative approach to study social and ecological dimensions of livelihoods and the subdivision of collectively titled Ilkisongo Maasai land in Kajiado County, Kenya. He also used remote sensing—Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Climate Hazards Group Infrared Precipitation with Stations (CHIRPS)—to understand changing vegetation dynamics in relation to rainfall across the same group ranches. He holds a PhD in Integrative Conservation in Forestry and Natural Resources from the University of Georgia. His PhD research used mixed qualitative and quantitative methods, field-based plant ecology methods, and remote sensing (Landsat) to analyze the relationship between changing access to forage resources and differentiated livelihoods in collectively titled Maa-speaking pastoralist lands in Laikipia, Kenya.

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Photo of Ryan R. Unks
2020 - 2022
Areas of Expertise
landscape ecology
plant community ecology
environmental anthropology
social-ecological systems
political ecology
Research Interests
rural livelihoods
semi-arid vegetation dynamics
landscape connectivity
Methods of Expertise
mixed methods
remote sensing
plant community analysis