Christopher Crawford

Postgraduate Research Associate
STEP Ph.D. '22
Office Phone
311 Robertson Hall

I am a postdoc in David Wilcove’s lab studying biodiversity conservation through the lens of agricultural land-use change. As a conservation scientist, I use the tools of geospatial analysis, ecology, and environmental science to investigate what a changing agricultural footprint means for the natural world.

Agriculture’s footprint is currently in a state of flux, with some places experiencing agricultural expansion and intensification to meeting rising demands while others experience abandonment as people move and the economics of farming change due to demographic, technological, and environmental changes. I’m motivated by a desire to find opportunities to conserve biodiversity throughout these agricultural transitions, whether that means helping guide expansion in order to minimize impact or fostering a return of nature following abandonment.

My research has focused on questions related to the environmental trade-offs these transitions present. Where does cropland abandonment occur and to what extent is it durable? Where will these transitions present opportunities for habitat regeneration in former croplands, and how might policies be designed to harness these opportunities and encourage regeneration? In places where agricultural expansion is necessary, can spatial land-use prioritization tools help minimize biodiversity loss? Some of my recent publications can be found on Google Scholar.

I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2012, and prior to graduate school, I worked at the nonprofit Sustainable Conservation in San Francisco, working to encourage river restoration in California’s Central Valley and prevent the use of invasive plants in gardening and landscaping through the PlantRight program.

Selected Publications

Crawford CL, Yin H, Radeloff VC, & Wilcove DS (2022). Rural land abandonment is too ephemeral to provide major benefits for biodiversity and climate. Science Advances, 8(21). 

Crawford CL, Estes LD, Searchinger TD, & Wilcove DS (2021). Consequences of underexplored variation in biodiversity indices used for land‐use prioritization. Ecological Applications, 31(7). 

Crawford CL, Volenec ZM, Sisanya M, Kibet R, & Rubenstein DI (2018). Behavioral and Ecological Implications of Bunched, Rotational Cattle Grazing in an East African Savanna Ecosystem. Rangeland Ecology & Management. 72(1).