Welcome to Zhao Ma’s Human and Policy Dimensions Lab at Purdue University!

Zhao Ma

Zhao Ma


My research program focuses on how individuals and institutions make decisions with respect to natural resource management and conservation within the context of socio-ecological change.  I examine these decision making processes from two aspects. One aspect focuses on private individuals. I ask questions about how individuals make decisions with respect to land use and resource management, how they perceive and respond to environmental changes at various scales, and what information, assistance and incentives they need to make informed decisions. The other aspect focuses on public and private institutions. I ask questions about how institutions formulate, implement and evaluate policies and programs to address socio-ecological change, and how various ecological, social, economic and political factors influence policy and program development. I also study the interactions between individual and institutional decision making. I ask questions about how individual attitudes and behaviors across the landscape and over time affect policy development, and how existing institutional infrastructures promote or hinder individual decision making.

My research relies on both quantitative and qualitative approaches, including conducting surveys, focus groups, and interviews, conducting document analysis and policy inventory, and using econometric models to understand individual decision making processes.

I am generally interested in topics within the forest ecosystem and farming system. However, I have work with livestock producers in the past and am willing to explore research opportunities in other coupled natural-human systems.



I currently teach two undergraduate courses:

FNR 37500 Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Management

POL 22300/FNR 22310 Introduction to Environmental Policy