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Chuan Liao

Chuan Liao

Assistant Professor, School of Sustainability

School of Sustainability
Arizona State University
PO Box 875502
Tempe, AZ 85287-5502


  • Senior Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
  • Assistant Professor, School of Sustainability


Chuan Liao is a geographer and sustainability scientist. His research aims to understand relationships among land, rights, and resources, as well as the causal mechanisms for achieving synergistic outcomes in agricultural production, environmental conservation, and smallholder livelihoods. Much of his work focuses on empirically examining the complexity in the coupled natural-human systems in order to test and refine theories in both natural and social sciences. His current research projects investigate the impact of large-scale land tenure change on the agroecological systems and the sustainability of subsistence pastoralism in East Africa and Central Asia.


  • PhD, Natural Resources, Cornell University, 2015
  • MS, Natural Resources, Cornell University, 2012
  • BS, Resource Science, Beijing Normal University, 2010


External Links

Journal Articles


Fei, D., A. I. Samatar and C. Liao. 2018. Chinese–African encounters in high‐tech sectors: Comparative investigation of Chinese workplace regimes in Ethiopia. Development Policy Review 36(S1):O455-O475. DOI: 10.1111/dpr.12357. (link )

Liao, C. 2018. Modeling herd decision making in the extensive grazing system in southern Ethiopia. Annals of the American Association of Geographers 108(1):260-276. DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2017.1328306. (link )

Liao, C. 2018. Quantifying multi-scale pastoral mobility: Developing a metrics system and using GPS-Tracking data for evaluation. Journal of Arid Environments 153(Jun):88-97. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2017.12.012. (link )

Liao, C. and D. G. Brown. 2018. Assessments of synergistic outcomes from sustainable intensification of agriculture need to include smallholder livelihoods with food production and ecosystem services. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 32(Jun):53-59. DOI: 10.1016/j.cosust.2018.04.013. (link )

Liao, C. and P. E. Clark. 2018. Rangeland vegetation diversity and transition pathways under indigenous pastoralist management regimes in southern Ethiopia. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 252(Jan):105-113. DOI: 10.1016/j.agee.2017.10.009. (link )

Liao, C., P. E. Clark, M. Shibia and S. D. DeGloria. 2018. Spatiotemporal dynamics of cattle behavior and resource selection patterns on East African rangelands: evidence from GPS-tracking. International Journal of Geographical Information Science 32(7):1523-1540. DOI: 10.1080/13658816.2018.1424856. (link )


Liao, C., P. E. Clark, S. D. DeGloria and C. B. Barrett. 2017. Complexity in the spatial utilization of rangelands: Pastoral mobility in the Horn of Africa. Applied Geography 86(Sep):208-219. DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2017.07.003. (link )

Liao, C. and D. Fei. 2017. Pastoralist adaptation practices under non-governmental development interventions in Southern Ethiopia. The Rangeland Journal 39:189-200. DOI: 10.1071/RJ16015. (link )

Liao, C. and D. Fei. 2017. Sedentarization as constrained adaptation: Evidence from pastoral regions in far northwestern China. Human Ecology 45(1):23-35. DOI: 10.1007/s10745-016-9872-3. (link )


Liao, C. and D. Fei. 2016. Resilience of what to what? Evidence from pastoral contexts in East Africa and Central Asia. Resilience 4(1):14-29. DOI: 10.1080/21693293.2015.1094167. (link )

Liao, C., S. Jung, D. G. Brown and A. Agrawal. 2016. Letters: Insufficient research on land grabbing. Science 253(6295):131.

Liao, C., M. L. Ruelle and K. S. Kassam. 2016. Indigenous ecological knowledge as the basis for adaptive environmental management: Evidence from pastoralist communities in the Horn of Africa. Journal of Environmental Management 182(Nov):70-79. DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2016.07.032. (link )


Liao, C., C. B. Barrett and K. S. Kassam. 2015. Does diversification improve livelihoods? Pastoral households in Xinjiang, China. Development and Change 46(6):1302-1330. DOI: 10.1111/dech.12201 . (link )


Liao, C., S. J. Morreale, K. S. Kassam, P. J. Sullivan and D. Fei. 2014. Following the green: Coupled pastoral migration and vegetation dynamics in the Altay and Tianshan Mountains of Xinjiang, China. Applied Geography 46(Jan):61-70. DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2013.10.010. (link )

Liao, C., P. J. Sullivan, C. B. Barrett and K. S. Kassam. 2014. Socioenvironmental threats to pastoral livelihoods: Risk perceptions in the Altay and Tianshan Mountains of Xinjiang, China. Risk Analysis 34(4):640-655. DOI: 10.1111/risa.12146 . (link )