About Jessica

An agroecologist and environmental scientist, Dr Jessica P. R. Thorn recently joined CSU’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability as a postdoctoral researcher working with Prof. Julia Klein, Prof. Robin Reid, Prof. Catherine Tucker, Prof. Anne Nolin and the NSF-funded Mountains Sentinels Network. This work will entail participatory modeling of socio-ecological systems in agro-pastoral 59 mountainous communities, including the Himalayas, Andes, Cascades, Rockies and Alps. The broad goals of her research are to understand relationships between ecosystem processes/services and wellbeing, autonomous adaptation processes and socio-ecological resilience to extreme events, and shifts in traditional knowledge-belief-practice with global environmental change. This work has spanned various systems and scales in rural and peri-urban contexts, including the Sacred Valley of Cusco and Tambopato Peru; Terai Plains and Far Western regions of the Terai Plains of Nepal; the Guinea-savanna zone of Northern Ghana; Mathare Valley Slums of Nairobi, Kenya; and the Cape Flats of Cape Town, South Africa. Jessica typically works with transdisciplinary teams, employing a suite of multidisciplinary analytical tools to understand and describe states and relationships between multiple, dynamic, and interacting real-world processes. This includes systems dynamics and Bayesian network modeling, scenario planning, spatial mapping, systematic reviews, socio-economic and ecological surveys at the field/landscape level, biological assessments and taxonomic identification of plants and insects, participatory rural appraisal techniques and participant observation. As part of her doctoral research (University of Oxford, supervised by Prof. Willis Director of Science Kew RBG), she worked with the CGIAR flagship program Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security facilitating multi-level/sectoral adaptation planning and diagnostic vulnerability assessments at community to national levels and the Centre for International Forestry Research Evidence-based Initiative leading a systematic review.


  • Climate change science; adaptation & ecology; Functional diversity & ecosystem services; Agricultural rural development & agrobiodiversity conservation; Ethnobotany; Participatory socio-ecological modelling (systems dynamics, scenarios and backcasting); Environmental evidence & systematic review methodologies; Informal settlement disaster resilience


DPhil, Dept. Zoology, Long-term Ecology and Resource Stewardship Lab - University of Oxford
Oxford, UK, 2016

MSc, Environmental Change & Mgt, School of Geography & the Environment, Environmental Change Institute - University of Oxford
Oxford, UK, 2011

BSocSci(Honours), Human Geography, Dept. Environmental & Geographical Sci - University of Cape Town
Cape Town, South Africa, 2008

BSocSci, Environmental & Geographical Sci, Psychology - University of Cape Town
Cape Town, South Africa, 2007

Awards, Honors, Grants

  • Visiting Scientist Fellowship at ETH Zurich, 2017
  • Graduate Student Grant, Dept. of Zoology, University of Oxford , 2015
  • The Oxford Research Centre for Humanities (TORCH) Mind the Environmental gap TORCH-Smith School Prize for work in visual, literary and musical arts on the environment, 2015
  • Brettschneider Visiting Fellowship at Cornell University to develop new artistic collaboration , 2015
  • Visiting academic. University of Cape Town. Dept. Environmental and Geographical Science, University of Cape Town, SA , 2014, 2015
  • Centre for International Forestry Research Evidence-based Initiative award for systematic review , 2014
  • British Ecological Society Travel Grant to Association of Tropical Conservation Biology Conference, 2014
  • League of European Research Universities (LERU) Leadership Award, Marie Curie University, France, 2014
  • Rhodes Trust Southern African Fund , 2013
  • Simms and Master Grant, Merton College, University of Oxford, 2012/3/4
  • Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security Adaptation to Long-term climate change Systemic Integrated Adaptation Planning Studentship , 2012
  • Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) Research Award, UK Dept. for International Development (DfID) and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), 2011
  • Bullock Travel Award St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford , 2011
  • International Alliance of Research Universities Sustainability Fellowship, University of Copenhagen, 2011
  • Young Scholars for Humanitarian Aid, UN International Strategy on Disaster Reduction Inter-agency and Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, Kenya , 2011
  • Contesting Body Politics Project NRF Research Grant, 2008
  • University of Cape Town Council Scholarship, 2008
  • National Research Fund (NRF) of South Africa Scholarship, 2008


  • Introduction to Access Database software by University of Oxford Computing Centre, 2015
  • Data analysis for field ecologists by Dept. Continuing Education, University of Oxford, 2014
  • R-Studio by Dept. Zoology, University of Oxford, 2012
  • Introduction to Agent Based Modeling by University of Oxford Computing Centre, 2012
  • Introduction to ArcGIS by University of Oxford Computing Centre, 2011
  • Teaching English as a Foreign Language by Ingligua, 2007


  • Mountains Sentinels Network, African Centre of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability, Colorado State University. British Ecological Society, Assoc. of Tropical Biology Conservation, British Institute in East Africa, Oxford Martin Future of Food Program, Biodiversity Institute, the Oxford Centre for Humanities Service (TORCH), Informal Settlements In Struggle, Oxford Pan-Africanist Society, Global Directions International Development Research Group

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