Dr. Varsha Vijay is an interdisciplinary conservation scientist. She is currently the Technical Director for the Science Based Targets Network, a major multi-organization science-based ecosystem targets initiative. In this role, she leads research on approaches for measuring and evaluating global nature-based sustainability targets for companies and civil entities.
Prior to this leadership role, Varsha was a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), University of Tennessee, while holding a joint appointment as a Solutions Engineer at terraPulse, a remote sensing startup. She was also a part of the BIPOC-led consulting organization, Kedge Consulting, working directly with environmental organizations to inform conservation approaches that center on human rights and environmental justice. Before joining SESYNC in 2018 as a postdoctoral fellow, Varsha completed both her BS and PhD in Environmental Sciences at Duke University.
Varsha investigates global biodiversity and anthropogenic land use using a socio-ecological systems perspective to inform more effective and equitable conservation outcomes. Her work focuses on interrelated research areas that address three primary questions: 1) What are the impacts of human activities on biodiversity and conservation efforts? 2) Can we identify emerging threats to biodiversity and predict where they will occur? 3) How do stakeholder values and interests impact investments and support for conservation? Varsha fuses quantitative approaches from landscape ecology, remote sensing, data science, and mathematical modeling with qualitative analysis and community-based, participatory research approaches. This research has produced actionable insights that have been used in strategic planning by the Pew Charitable Trusts, International Union for Conservation of Nature, European Commission, World Bank, and Oxfam. Her work has been covered by the BBC, National Geographic, and Mongabay, among others. Varsha also teaches and mentors through programs that reduce barriers to access for underrepresented identities in STEM.