Chuan Liao

Academic Fellow 2022
Assistant Professor
ASU School of Sustainability

Tempe Campus


Dr. Chuan Liao is an interdisciplinary sustainability and environmental scientist. His research interest lies at the intersection of environment and development. He has worked on topics that include land tenure and land use change, community-based natural resources management, dryland sustainability, and sustainable energy transition. His research includes both theoretical and empirical work, and he has carried out research in East Africa and Central Asia. His recent work has appeared in Science, Nature Food, Development and Change, among other journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Environment from Cornell University, and is Editor-in-Chief of World Development.


PhD, Natural Resources and Environment, Cornell University 2015


33. Fei, D., Liao, C., Yang, H. Student Returnees from China’s COVID-19 Epicenter: Spatio-temporal Movement and Impact of Tracing. Social Science & Medicine, 287 (2021) 114371.

32. Williams, T., Trush, S., Sullivan, J., Liao, C., Chesterman, N., Agrawal, A., Guikema, S., Brown, D. Land-use changes associated with large-scale land transactions in Ethiopia. Ecology & Society (accepted).

31. Liao, C., Erbaugh, J., Kelly, A., Agrawal, A. 2021. Clean Energy Transitions and Human Well-Being Outcomes in Lower and Middle Income Countries: A Systematic Review. Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, 145 (2021) 111063.

30. Liao, C., Nolte, K, Sullivan, J. Brown, D., Lay, J., Althoff, C., Agrawal, A. 2021. Carbon Emissions from the Global Land Rush and Their Potential Mitigation. Nature Food, 2, 15–18.

29. Liao, C., Fei, D., Huang, Q., Jiang L., Shi, P. 2021. Targeted Poverty Alleviation through Photovoltaic-Based Intervention: Rhetoric and Reality in Qinghai, China. World Development, 137 (2021) 105117.

28. Fu, H., Zhang, Y., Liao, C., Mao, L., Wang, Z., Hong, N. 2020. Investigating PM 2.5 Responses to Air Pollutants and Meteorological Factors at Multiple Temporal Scales. Scientific Reports, 10:15639.

27. Liao, C., Agrawal, A., Clark, P., Levin, S., Rubenstein, D. 2020. Landscape Sustainability Science in the Drylands: Mobility, Rangeland and Livelihoods. Landscape Ecology, 35, 2433–2447.

26. Khatami, R., Southworth, J., Muir, C., Caughlin, T., Ayana, A., Brown, D., Liao, C., Agrawal, A. 2020. Operational Large-Area Land Cover Mapping: An Ethiopia Case Study. Remote Sensing, 2020, 12, 954.

25. Liao, C., Jung, S., Agrawal, A., Brown, D. 2020. Socio-Environmental Patterns of Large-Scale Land Transactions: Evidence from Ethiopia, Liberia, Cambodia, and Peru. Land Degradation and Development, 31 (10), 1241-1251.

24. Liao, C., Qiu, J., Chen, B., Chen, D., Fu, B., Georgescu, M., He, C., Jenerette, D., Li, X., Li, X., Li, X., Qiuying, B., Shi, P., Wu, J. 2020 Advancing Landscape Sustainability Science: Theoretical Foundation and Synergies with Innovations in Methodology, Design, and Application. Landscape Ecology, 35, 1-9.

23. Fei, D., Liao, C. 2019. China’s Eastern Industrial Zone in Ethiopia: Unpacking the Enclave. Third World Quarterly, 41 (4), 623-644.

22. Jung, S., Liao, C., Agrawal, A., Brown, D. 2019. Evidence on the Impacts of Forestry Concessions on Wealth in Liberia. Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, 6(5): 961-1000.

21. Hajjar, R., Ayana, A., Rutt, R., Hinde, O., Liao, C., Keene, S., Bandiaky-Badji, S., Agrawal, A. 2019. Capital, Labor, and Gender: The Consequences of Large-Scale Land Transactions on Household Labor Allocation. Journal of Peasant Studies, 47 (3), 566-588.

20. Liao, C., Fei, D. 2019. Poverty Reduction through Photovoltaic-Based Development Intervention in China: Potentials and Constraints. World Development, 122: 1-10.

19. Liao, C., Clark, P., DeGloria, S. 2018. Bush Encroachment Dynamics and Rangeland Management Implications in the Horn of Africa. Ecology and Evolution, 00: 1–10.

18. Agrawal, A. Hajjar, R., Liao, C., Rasmussen, L., Watkins, C. 2018. Editorial Overview: Forest Governance Interventions for Sustainability through Information, Incentives, and Institutions. Current Opinions in Environmental Sustainability, 32, A1–A7.

17. Liao, C., Brown, D., Fei, D., Long, X., Chen, D., Che, S. 2018. Big Data‐Enabled Social Sensing in Spatial Analysis: Potentials and Pitfalls. Transactions in GIS. 00: 1-21.

16. Liao, C., Brown D. 2018. Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture for Synergistic Outcomes in Food Production, Ecosystem Services, and Smallholder Livelihoods. Current Opinions in Environmental Sustainability, 32, 53-59.

15. Liao, C. Clark, P., Shibia, M., DeGloria, S. 2018. Spatio-Temporal Dynamics of Cattle Behaviors and Resource Selection Patterns in the Open Grazing System of East Africa. International Journal of Geographical Information Science. 32(7): 1523-1540.

14. Liao, C. 2018. Quantifying Multi-Scale Pastoral Mobility: Developing A Metrics System and Using GPS-Tracking Data for Evaluation. Journal of Arid Environments, 153, 88-97.

13. Liao, C., Clark, P. 2018. Rangeland Vegetation Diversity and Transition Pathways under Indigenous Pastoralist Management Regimes in Southern Ethiopia. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 215, 105-113.

12. Liao, C. 2018. Modeling Herding Decision-Making in the Extensive Grazing System in Southern Ethiopia. Annals of American Association of Geographers, 108 (1): 260-276.

11. Liao, C., Clark, P., DeGloria, S., Barrett, C. 2017. Complexity in the Spatial Utilization of Rangelands: Pastoral Mobility in Borana, Ethiopia. Applied Geography, 86, 208-219.

10. Liao, C., Fei, D. 2017. Pastoralist Adaptation Practices under Non-Governmental Development Interventions in Southern Ethiopia. The Rangeland Journal, 39 (2): 189-200.

9. Fei, D., Samatar, A., Liao, C. 2017. Chinese-African Encounters in High-Tech Sectors: Comparative Investigation of Chinese Workplace Regimes in Ethiopia. Development Policy Review, 36 (S1): O455-O475.

8. Liao, C. Fei, D. 2017. Sedentarization as Constrained Adaptation: Evidence from Pastoral Regions in Far Northwestern China. Human Ecology, 45 (1): 23-35.

7. Liao, C., Ruelle, M., Kassam, K-A. 2016. Indigenous Ecological Knowledge as the Basis for Adaptation to Rangeland Vegetation Regime Shifts: Evidence from Pastoralist Communities in the Horn of Africa. Journal of Environmental Management, 182 (2016): 70-79.

6. Liao, C., Jung, S., Brown, D., Agrawal, A. 2016. Insufficient Research on Land Grabbing. Science, 353 (6295): 131.

5. Liao, C., Fei, D. 2016. Resilience of What to What: Evidence from Pastoral Contexts in East Africa and Central Asia. Resilience: International Policies, Practices and Discourses, 4 (1): 14-29.

4. Liao, C., Barrett, C., Kassam, K.-A. 2015. Does Diversification Improve Livelihoods? Pastoral Households in Xinjiang, China. Development and Change, 46 (6): 1302-1330.

3. Liao, C., Morreale, S., Kassam, K.-A., Sullivan, P., Fei, D. 2014. Following the Green: Coupled pastoral migration and vegetation dynamics in the Altay and Tianshan Mountains of Xinjiang, China. Applied Geography, 46, 61–70.

2. Liao, C., Sullivan, P., Barrett, C., Kassam, K.-A. 2014. Socioenvironmental Threats to Pastoral Livelihoods: Risk Perceptions in the Altay and Tianshan Mountains of Xinjiang, China. Risk Analysis, 34 (4): 640–655.

1. Wang M., Liao C., Yang S., Zhao W., Liu M., Shi P. 2012. Are People Willing to Buy Natural Disaster Insurance in China? Risk Awareness, Insurance Acceptance, and Willingness to Pay. Risk Analysis 32 (10): 1717–1740.

Expertise Areas

Socio-Ecological Systems

Environmental Sustainability

Data Science