Peter Klepeis's Research and Travel
Peter Klepeis doing fieldwork in Ethiopia

Peter Klepeis

Associate Professor of Geography
Geography, 305 Ho Science Center
p 315-228-6797

Research and Travel

In collaboration with students and colleagues from around the world, I have conducted research on four continents.

Tropical Deforestation in Southeastern Mexico

A farmer clearing tropical forest in the southern Yucatan Peninsular near the Calakmul Biopshere Reserve
Conventional wisdom about the cause of tropical deforestation tends to blame population growth and poor farmers. But twentieth-century trends in deforestation are primarily linked to social structures – neoliberal government policies, market forces, and historical land tenure – and, until recently, not the agency of local farmers.

For more information:

  • Bray, D.B. and P. Klepeis. 2005. Deforestation, Forest Transitions, and Institutions for Sustainability in Southeastern Mexico, 1900-2000. Environment and History 11: 195-223.
  • Klepeis, P. 2004. "Forest Extraction to Theme Parks: The Modern History of Land Change in the Region". In Integrated Land-Change Science and Tropical Deforestation in the Southern Yucatán: Final Frontiers, B.L. Turner II, Geoghegan J., and D.R. Foster (editors). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 39-59. 
  • Klepeis, P. 2003. Development Policies and Tropical Deforestation in the Southern Yucatán Peninsular Region: Centralized and Decentralized Approaches. Land Degradation and Development 14: 1-21.
  • Klepeis, P. and C. Vance. 2003. Neoliberal Policy and Deforestation in Southeastern Mexico: An Assessment of the PROCAMPO Program. Economic Geography 79(3): 221-240.
  • Klepeis, P. and B.L. Turner II. 2001. Integrated Land History and Global Change Science: The Example of the Southern Yucatán Peninsular Region Project. Land Use Policy 18(1): 27-39.

Sustainable Development in Patagonia

Forested, mountainous landscape
In the 1990s, the U.S.-based Trillium Corporation planned a large-scale logging project in the region, but the project ended in the face of strong environmentalist opposition. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the failed project may have been a lost opportunity for advancing sustainable development.

For more information:
  • Klepeis, P. and P. Laris. 2006. “Contesting Sustainable Development in Tierra del Fuego”. Geoforum 37(4): 505-518.

Hobby Ranching in Southern Chile

Sheep herder on horseback
Hobby ranching ─ a widespread phenomenon in which landowners raise livestock for lifestyle reasons rather than to earn a living ─ occurs on the island and one outcome has been the introduction and spread of invasive weeds.

For more information:
  • Klepeis, P. and P. Laris. 2008. “Hobby Ranching and Chile’s Land Reform Legacy”.  The Geographical Review 98(3): 372-414.

Emerging Amenity Landscapes in Australia

Nick Gill at a sign stating 'Land Sale: Windellama Park, Hobby Farms, 25 Acres to 100 Acres'
Parts of New South Wales were important centers of fine wool and dairy production in the 20th century. Now, in the face of a decline in both industries, new rural landowners are acquiring property for largely lifestyle reasons. We study the implications of rural change for regional ecology, including the spread of exotic invasive weeds.

For more information:
  • Klepeis, P., Gill, N., and L. Chisholm. 2009. “Emerging Amenity Landscapes: Invasive Weeds and Land Subdivision in Rural Australia”. Land Use Policy 26(2): 380-392.
  • Gill, N., Klepeis, P., and L. Chisholm. 2010. Stewardship among lifestyle-oriented rural landowners. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 53(3):1-18.

Earthworm Perceptions in New York State

Poster about the Town of WebbMost people think earthworms have ecosystem benefits. The Northern Forest of the United States, however, is vulnerable to exotic invasive earthworms that humans have introduced to the region since the colonial period. A case study in Webb, NY, uses environmental history, interviews, and a mail survey to explore the perceptions residents have of earthworms and actions linked to their spread.

For more information:

Forest Recovery in Eaton, NY

Aerial photo of Eaton, NY, 1936
When he worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, my grandfather took air photos of central New York landscapes as a way to help create better land management strategies. My colleagues and I used photos from that era (as well as others taken subsequently) to track 20th-century forest recovery in Eaton, New York. Who knows…maybe we used one of his photographs.

For more information:
  • Forest decline in the eastern U.S.?
  • Klepeis, P., Scull, P., Lalonde*, T., Svajlenka*, N., and N. Gill. 2013. “Changing Forest Recovery Dynamics in the Northeastern United States” Area 45(2) 239–248.

Carbon Offsets in Chilean Patagonia

Patagonia River
Colgate University has hired the company Patagonia Sur to plant native trees in Chilean Patagonia to help achieve the university’s goal of carbon neutrality. My research there considers both the role of for-profit conservation in sustainable development initiatives and the use of international carbon offset projects as a mechanism to address anthropogenic climate change.

For more information:

Land Stewardship in Northern Ethiopia

Project members Eliza Kent and Izabela Orlowska interview priests about the management of church forests near Debre Tabor.
Church forests support the highest richness of tree species in northern Ethiopia and provide essential ecosystem services. An integrated team of scholars – representing ecology, history, religion, and both physical and human geography – is exploring how strong common pool resource management allows particular communities to maintain or enhance the stewardship of church forests.

For more information: