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Abigail Sullivan

Abigail Sullivan

Abigail Sullivan is a post-doctoral research associate with Decision Center for a Desert City.

I am an environmental social scientist studying social-ecological systems from an institutional perspective. Institutions are the shared rules, norms, and strategies that influence human decision making processes.

My mixed-methods dissertation research explored how institutions impacted the management of an invasive plant that had spread throughout locally governed forests in Chitwan, Nepal. The institutional lens I employed is a common thread throughout much of my current research, as this perspective can provide insights key to understanding global environmental changes facing any system.  

As a postdoctoral scholar for Decision Center for a Desert City, I will apply my theoretical background in institutions and environmental governance, and my methodological training in statistical and institutional analysis, to evaluate sustainability transitions in three cities (Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas) in the lower basin states of the Colorado River.

To carry out my research, I regularly use both qualitative and quantitative methods and I am a strong believer that using a variety of tools provides a better understanding of the multiple dimensions that most problems contain. 

PhD Environmental Social Science, 2016 Arizona State University 

MS Ecology and Environmental Science (Concentration: Environmental Economics), 2013 University of Maine

BS Environmental Science, 2011 Unity College

Journal Articles


Schoon, M. L., A. M. York, A. Sullivan and J. Baggio. 2017. The emergence of an environmental governance network: The case of the Arizona borderlands. Regional Environmental Change 17(3):677-689. DOI: 10.1007/s10113-016-1060-x. (link )

Sullivan, A., D. D. White, K. L. Larson and A. Y. Wutich. 2017. Towards water sensitive cities in the Colorado River Basin: A comparative historical analysis to inform future urban water sustainability transitions. Sustainability 9(5):761. DOI: 10.3390/su9050761.

Sullivan, A., A. M. York, L. An, S. T. Yabiku and S. J. Hall. 2017. How does perception at multiple levels influence collective action in the commons? The case of Mikania micrantha in Chitwan, Nepal. Forest Policy and Economics 80(Jul):1-10. DOI: 10.1016/j.forpol.2017.03.001. (link )

Sullivan, A., A. M. York, D. D. White, S. J. Hall and S. T. Yabiku. 2017. De jure versus de facto institutions: Trust, information, and collective efforts to manage the invasive mile-a-minute weed (Mikania micrantha). International Journal of the Commons 11(1):. DOI: 10.18352/ijc.676. (link )



Andress, S., H. Paul and A. Sullivan. 2017. Water Wise Gilbert Contribution to the Reduction of Commercial Water Consumption. Poster presented at the 2017 DCDC Poster Symposium, April 24, 2017, Tempe, AZ.


Sullivan, A., A. M. York and K. Hjelm. 2015. Understanding the impact of institutional heterogeneity on the management of the mile-a-minute weed in Chitwan, Nepal.. Poster presented at the Seventeenth Annual CAP LTER All Scientists Meeting and Poster Symposium, 16 January 2015, Skysong, Scottsdale, AZ. (link )