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My lab's research agenda centers on rural communities' adaptive response to environmental change with a focus on agricultural and coastal livelihoods. We center the role of multi-scalar power dynamics and social difference in understanding adaptive choices among rural community members.

Current research, in partnership with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, examines agriculturalists' adaptive soil management decisions in the Willamette Valley, Oregon and outcomes for soils and livelihoods. The study also examines the knowledge sources that agriculturalists draw on in making those decisions, and how climate models and data can better reflect farmer knowledge and better meet their needs. Methods employed include interviews, participatory mapping, and focus groups, and utilizes data modeled with the Community Earth System Model

Another area of focus examines community co-management of marine protected areas. This thread of work looks at how local communities exert their voice in the natural resource management of protected areas, especially as it impacts their livelihoods. This work has included projects in Cahuita National Park, Costa Rica and the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary, California.


A third area of focus is the racialized dimensions of land dispossession and environmental risk for Indigenous and Afro-descendant Costa Ricans in the country's coastal Talamanca canton. This work included eleven months of ethnographic fieldwork, 60 interviews, 250 household surveys, and geospatial land cover analysis. I am still conducting research with this community on potential environmental injustices associated with increasing banana plantations in low-income area


Past projects have included research on the social dimensions of sustainability in the U.S. beef industry and on the gendered dimensions of livelihood change in Andean mining communities.

Our lab's research has been funded by competitive research grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of State Fulbright Program, and the American Association of University Women. 


This art representing the social-ecological landscape of Talamanca, Costa Rica was made by Alister Méndez Venegas of Hone Creek, Talamanca for the Comité Persona Joven Talamanca. Alister worked as a research assistant with me in Costa Rica. Used with permission.

Selected Publications

2023. Emard, K., & V. Gordon. “My planting is to farm community”: Afro-Costa Rican women’s agrarian food practices. In Beyond the Kitchen Table: Exploring the Role of Black Women in Global Food Systems, ed. P. McCutcheon, L. Best, & T. Rajack-Talley. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-1-4696-7595-4

2023. Shah, S.H.... K. Emard, et al. Connecting physical and social science datasets: Challenges and pathways forward. Environmental Research Communications.

2022. Emard, K. Relationality and anti-oppressive geographic praxis. Gender, Place, and Culture, 29(11): 1505-1513.

2021. Gosnell, H., K. Emard, & E. Hyde. Taking stock of social sustainability and the U.S. beef industry. Sustainability, 13, 11860.

2021. Emard, K., & L. Nelson. Geographies of global lifestyle migration: Towards an anticolonial approach. Progress in Human Geography, 45(5): 1040-1060.

2020. Kinkaid, E., K. Emard, & N. Senanayaka. The podcast-as-method? Critical reflections on using the podcast to produce geographic knowledge. Geographical Review, 110(1-2): 78-91.


2017. Emard, K.* The impacts of mining on livelihoods in the Andes: A critical overview. The Extractive Industries and Society, 4(2): 410-418.

*published under old name of K. Brain

Click here for a full CV.

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This mural in the Casa de la Cultura Marcus Garvey in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica shows an Afro-Costa Rican representation of their experiences of land uses and livelihood change in coastal Talamanca.

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