Our research examines the links between environmental conservation and human development with a focus on the key role that political factors play in shaping the implementation and impacts of policies designed to achieve these two broad goals. We focus on a variety of social-ecological contexts across the globe, with a special emphasis on forest landscapes in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. A list of publications by Dr. Miller and other research group members is presented below, organized by broad thematic area. Student, post-doc, and visiting scholar authors on publications are underlined. Publications by Dr. Miller are also available via Google Scholar and Research Gate. Please note that many of the papers listed here have been published in journals. We try to make our work available through open access publication when possible, but in many cases a subscription to the particular journal may be necessary to view the article. If you cannot access a particular paper and would like a copy, or if you find a link is broken, please email me.  Thank you for your interest.

International Conservation Finance: Flows and Impacts

Despite the importance of financial support to biodiversity conservation efforts globally, knowledge of the allocation and effectiveness of such funding remains limited. We address this knowledge gap by investigating financial flows and impacts from a range of sources, including bilateral and multilateral aid agencies, private foundations, international NGOs, and national budgets.


Waldron, A., D.C. Miller, D. Redding, A. Mooers, N. Nibbelink, J.T. Roberts, J.A. Tobias, and J.L. Gittleman. 2017. “Reductions in Global Biodiversity loss Predicted from Conservation Spending.”  Nature.  (video hereNature News & Views)

Bare, M., C. Kauffman, and D.C. Miller. 2015. “Assessing the Impact of International Conservation Aid on Deforestation in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Environmental Research Letters 10(12): 125010.

Miller, D.C. 2014. “Explaining Global Patterns of International Aid for Linked Biodiversity Conservation and Development.” World Development 59: 341-359. (blog post here)

Waldron, A., A.O. Mooers, D.C. Miller, N. Nibbelink, D. Redding, T.S. Kuhn, J.T. Roberts, and J.L. Gittleman. 2013. “Targeting Global Conservation Funding to Limit Immediate Biodiversity Declines.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(29): 12144-12148. (news coverage at, the Smithsonian, and the University of Michigan, among other sources; blog post here)

Waldron, A., C.H. Sekercioglu, D.C. Miller, A.O. Mooers, J.T. Roberts, J.L. Gittleman. 2013. “Turkey’s Biodiversity Funding on the Rise.” Science 341: 1173

Miller, D.C., A. Agrawal, and J.T. Roberts. 2013. “Biodiversity, Governance, and the Allocation of International Aid for Conservation.” Conservation Letters 6: 12-20. (news coverage in Nature and The New Scientist)

Hein L, D.C. Miller, and R. De Groot. 2013. “Payments for Ecosystem Services and the Financing of Global Biodiversity Conservation.” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 5: 87-93.

Zavaleta, E., D.C. Miller, N. Salafsky, E. Fleishman, M. Webster, B. Gold, D. Hulse, M. Rowen, G. Tabor, and J. Vanderryn. 2008. “Enhancing the Engagement of U.S. Private Foundations with Conservation Science.” Conservation Biology 22: 1477-1484.

Working Papers:

Nakamura, K. , D.C. Miller, A. Waldron . 2019. “Mapping country-scale conservation funding flows: A Framework with evidence from Peru.”

Funding support:


Arthur L. & Elaine V. Johnson Foundation

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Long-Term Impacts of Forest Conservation and Management

Governments, donors, and their constituents are increasingly demanding better evidence on the effectiveness of development policies and programs across different sectors. The forest sector is no exception.  However, efforts to strengthen the evidence base confront the challenge that the results of forest conservation and management may take years, even decades to materialize while forest-related interventions usually last no more than five years. This research addresses these challenges through analysis of forest conservation and management projects, especially those financed by international donors, and development of predictive proxy indicators and other approaches.


Rana, P. and D. C. Miller (2021). “Predicting the long-term social and ecological impacts of tree-planting programs: Evidence from northern India.” World Development 140: 105367. (News coverage at PNAS)

Rana, P. and D.C. Miller. 2019. “Explaining Long-term Outcome Trajectories in Social–ecological Systems.PLOS ONE 14(4): e0215230.

Rana, P.  and D.C. Miller. 2019. “Machine Learning to Analyze the Social-Ecological Impacts of Natural Resource Policy: Insights from Community Forest Management in the Indian Himalaya.” Environmental Research Letters 14: 2. (News coverage at Mongabay, EurekAlert!,, and Environmental News Network)

Miller, D.C. and Katia S. Nakamura. 2018. “Protected Areas and the Sustainable Governance of Forest Resources.” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 32: 96-103.

Miller, D.C.P. Rana, and C.B. Wahlen. 2017. “A Crystal Ball for Forests? Analyzing the Social-Ecological Impacts of Forest Conservation and Management over the Long Term.” Environment and Society. 8: 40-62.

Working Papers:

Miller, D.C. and C.B. Wahlén. 2015. “Understanding Long-Term Impacts in the Forest Sector: Predictive Proxy Indicators.” Washington, DC: Program on Forests. (Blog coverage from Profor)

Funding support:

Program on Forests (PROFOR)

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Socioeconomic Contributions of Forests and Trees on Farms

Forests and trees on farms contribute to human well-being in a variety of ways.  They provide goods ranging from fruit to timber, fodder to firewood, and services such as pollination, hydrological regulation, and carbon sequestration that support the livelihoods of millions of people around the world.  Despite these contributions, however, forests and trees often remain peripheral in wider development policy discussions.  This research collates and analyzes evidence on the contribution of forests and on-farm trees to poverty reduction and greater prosperity in different contexts around the world.


Miller, D.C., S. Mansourian, and C. Wildburger, Eds. 2020. Forests, Trees and the Eradication of Poverty: Potential and Limitations. A Global Assessment Report. IUFRO World Series Volume 39. Vienna.

Newton, P., A. Kinzer, D.C. Miller, J.A. Oldekop, A. Agrawal. 2020. “The number and spatial distribution of forest-proximate people globally.” One Earth 3:363-370 

Miller, D.C., J.C. Muñoz-Mora, L.V. Rasmussen, A. Zezza.  2020. “Do Trees on Farms Improve Household Well-Being? Evidence from National Panel Data in Uganda.” Frontiers in Forests and Global Change. 3:101.

Amadu, F.O., P.E. McNamara, and D.C Miller. 2020. “Yield Effects of Climate-smart Agriculture Aid Investment in Southern Malawi.” Food Policy. 92:101869.

Amadu, F.O., P.E. McNamara, and D.C Miller. 2020. “Understanding the Adoption of Climate-Smart Agriculture: A Farm-Level Typology with Empirical Evidence from Southern Malawi.” World Development 126: 104692.

Amadu, F.O.D.C Miller, and P.E. McNamara. 2020. “Agroforestry as a pathway to agricultural yield impacts in climate-smart agriculture investments: Evidence from southern Malawi.” Ecological Economics. 167: 106443.

Miller, D.C., P.J. Ordoñez, S.E. Brown, S. Forrest, N.J. Nava, K. Hughes, and K. Baylis. 2020. “The impacts of agroforestry on agricultural productivity, ecosystem services and human well-being in low- and middle-income countries: Protocol for an evidence and gap map.” Campbell Systematic Reviews 16(1): e1066.

Miller, D.C., R. Hajjar. 2020. “Forests as Pathways to Prosperity: Empirical Insights and Conceptual Advances.” World Development 125: 104647.

Cheng, S.H., K. MacLeod, S. Ahlroth, S. Onder, E. Perge, P. Shyamsundar, P. Rana, R. Garside, P. Kristjanson, M.C. McKinnon, and D.C. Miller. 2019. “A Systematic Map of Evidence on the Contribution of Forests to Poverty Alleviation.” Environmental Evidence 8: 3.

Miller, D.C., J.C. Muñoz-Mora, A. Zezza, and J. Durazo. 2019. Trees on Farms: Measuring their Contri­bution to Household Welfare. A Guidebook for Designing Household Surveys. World Bank. Washington DC. 

Brown, S.E.D.C. Miller,  P.J. Ordonez, and K. Baylis. 2018. “Evidence for the Impacts of Agroforestry on Agricultural Productivity, Ecosystem Services, and Human Well-Being in High-Income Countries: A Systematic Map Protocol.” Environmental Evidence 7: 24.

MillerD.C., J.C. Muñoz-Mora, and L. Christiaensen. 2018. “Do Trees on Farms Matter in African Agriculture?” Chapter 13 in Christiaensen, L. and L. Demery, eds. Agriculture in Africa: Telling Myths from FactsWashington, DC: World Bank.

Miller, D.C., J.C. Muñoz Mora, and L. Christiaensen. 2017. “The Prevalence, Economic Contribution, and Determinants of Trees on Farms across Sub-Saharan Africa.” Forest Policy and Economics. 84: 47-61. Working Paper version. (news coverage: NPRReutersEurekaAlert!/, and others; data and other information here).

Waldron, A., D. Garrity, Y. Malhi, C. Girardin, D.C. Miller, and N. Seddon. 2017. “Agroforestry can enhance food security while meeting other Sustainable Development Goals.” Tropical Conservation Science. 10: 1-6.

Cheng, S.H., S. Ahlroth, S. Onder, P. Shyamsundar, R. Garside, P. Kristjanson, M.C. McKinnon, D.C. Miller. 2017. “What is the evidence for the contribution of forests to poverty alleviation? A systematic map protocol.” Environmental Evidence 6: 1.

Newton, P., D.C. Miller, M.A. Ateenyi Byenkya, and A. Agrawal. 2016. “Who are forest-dependent people? A taxonomy to aid livelihood and land use decision-making in forested regions.” Land Use Policy. 57: 388-395.Reports and working papers:

Bakkegaard, R.K., Agrawal, A., Animon, I., Hogarth, N., Miller, D.C., Persha, L., Rametsteiner, E., Wunder, S., and A. Zezza. 2016. “National socioeconomic surveys in forestry: Guidance and questionnaires for measuring the multiple roles of forests in household welfare and livelihoods.” FAO Forestry Paper No. 179. FAO, CIFOR, IFRI, and the World Bank. Rome.

Agrawal, A., B. Cashore, R. Hardin, G. Shepherd, C.S. Benson, and D.C. Miller. 2013.  “Economic Contributions of Forests.” United Nations Forum on Forests, New York.

Hudson, J., A. Agrawal, and D.C. Miller.  2013. “Changing Futures, Social Choices, and  Forests Contributions.” United Nations Forum on Forests, New York.

Funding support:

3ie – International Initiative for Impact Evaluation

International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO)

Program on Forests (PROFOR)

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Conservation and Human Well-Being Linkages

Governments and conservation organizations increasingly pursue conservation policies to achieve positive outcomes for both human well-being and natural ecosystems. To achieve such combined goals, clarity is required on linkages between nature and people, and the mechanisms by which specific conservation efforts affect different aspects of human well-being. Despite a critical need, the state of existing evidence on impacts and effectiveness of existing conservation and human well-being policies is neither clear nor adequate.


McElwee, P., Turnout, E., Chiroleu-Assouline, M., Clapp, J., Isenhour, C., Jackson, T., Kelemen, E., Miller, D.C., Rusch, G, Spangenberg, J.H., Waldron, A., Baumgartner, R.J., Bleys, B., Howard, M., Mungatana, E., Ngo, H., Ring, I., Ferreira dos Santos, R. 2020. “Ensuring a Post-COVID Economic Agenda Tackles Global Biodiversity Loss.” One Earth 3:448-461.

Trimmer, J.T., Byrne, D.M., Houser, S.A., Lohman, H.A.C., Katende, D., Semakula, D., Zerai, A., Banadda, N., Miller, D.C., and Guest, J.S. 2020. “Navigating multidimensional social-ecological system tradeoffs across sanitation alternatives in an urban informal settlement.” Environmental Science & Technology.

Trimmer, J.T., Miller, D.C., Byrne, D.M., Lohman, H.A.C., Banadda, N., Baylis, K., Cook, S.M., Cusick, R.D., Jjuuko, F., Margenot, A.J., Zerai, A., & Guest, J.S. 2020. “Re-envisioning sanitation as a human-derived resource system.” Environmental Science & Technology.

Cheng, S.H., M.C. McKinnon, Y.J. Masuda, R. Garside, K.W. Jones, D.C. Miller, A.S. Pullin, W.J. Sutherland, C. Augustin, D.A. Gill, S. Wongbusarakum, and D. Wilkie. 2020. “Strengthen causal models for better conservation outcomes for human well-being.” PLOS ONE.15(3), e023495. 

Trimmer, J., D.C. Miller, and J. Guest. 2019. “Resource Recovery from Sanitation to Enhance Ecosystem Services.” Nature Sustainability. 2: 681-90

Cheng, S., C. Augustin, A. Bethel, D. Gill, S. Anzaroot, J. Brun, B. DeWilde, R. Minnich, R. Garside, Y. Masuda, D.C. Miller, D. Wilkie, S. Wongbusarakum and M. McKinnon. 2018. “Using machine learning to advance synthesis and use of conservation and environmental evidence.” Conservation Biology. 32(4):762-764.

McKinnon, M.C., S.H. Cheng, S. Dupre, J. Edmond, R. Garside, L. Glew, M.B. Holland, E. Levine, Y.J. Masuda, D.C. Miller, I. Oliveira, J. Revenaz, D. Roe, S. Shamer, D. Wilkie, S. Wongbusarakum, and E. Woodhouse. 2016. “What are the effects of nature conservation on human well-being? A systematic map of empirical evidence from developing countries.” Environmental Evidence 5: 8. (Data available here)

McKinnon, M.C., S.H. Cheng, R. Garside, Y.J. Masuda, D.C. Miller. 2015. “Sustainability: Map the evidence.” Nature 528: 185-187. (news coverage at, the University of Illinois, among other sources)

Working papers:

Glew, L., M.B. Mascia, and D.C. Miller. “A Conceptual Framework for Analyzing the Social Impacts of Biodiversity Conservation.”

Funding support:

Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment at the University of Illinois

Science for Nature and People Partnership

Conservation and Development in the W Region of West Africa

This research examines the social and ecological impacts of aid-funded conservation in and around the W National Park, a large protected area that spans territory in Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger. It focuses on the ECOPAS project (Ecosystèmes Protégés en Afrique Soudano-Sahélienne), which was funded by the European Union from 2001-2008. Variation in national political context, particularly between Benin and Niger, provides an ideal opportunity to explore how governance shapes the impacts of protected area-related aid.


Miller, D.C., M. Minn, and B. Sinsin. 2015. “The Importance of National Political Context to the Impacts of International Conservation Aid: Evidence from the W National Parks of Benin and Niger.” Environmental Research Letters 10(11): 115001. (News coverage at

Working papers:

Miller, D.C. “Evaluating the Social-Ecological Legacy of Biodiversity Conservation around a Large West Africa Protected Area.”

Miller, D.C. “The Missing Middle: International Biodiversity Aid and the Politics of Property around Benin’s W National Park.”

Funding support:

Social Science Research Council

International Programs in the College of ACES at the University of Illinois

Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute and other sources at the University of Michigan

Role and Effects of Different Property Rights Regimes

Property rights to natural resources comprise a major policy instrument for those seeking to advance sustainable resource use and conservation. A large, diverse, and rapidly growing body of literature investigates the links between property regimes and environmental and livelihoods outcomes, but has not synthesized theoretical and policy insights within specific resource systems and especially across resource systems. This research reviews of empirical evidence on this topic from case studies in the developing world, focusing on forests, fisheries and rangelands.


Miller, D. C., P. Rana, K. Nakamura, S. Irwin, S. H. Cheng, S. Ahlroth and E. Perge (2021). “A global review of the impact of forest property rights interventions on poverty.Global Environmental Change 66: 102218.

Ojanen, M., W. Zhou, D.C. Miller, S.H. Nieto, B. Mshale, and G. Petrokofsky. 2017. “What are the Environmental Impacts of Property Rights Regimes in Forests, Fisheries, and Rangelands?”  Environmental Evidence 6: 1.

Ojanen, M., D.C. Miller, W. Zhou, B. Mshale, E. Mwangi, and G. Petrokofsky. 2014. “What are the Environmental Impacts of Property Rights Regimes in Forests, Fisheries, and Rangelands? A Systematic Review Protocol.”  Environmental Evidence 3: 19.

Working papers:

Kishor, N., D.C. Miller, J. Virdin, C. Wahlén. “The Contribution of Tenure Reform in World Bank Projects to Sustainable Management of Forests and Fisheries.”

Funding Support:

Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

Program on Forests (PROFOR)

Political Science and the Environment

Environmental processes and outcomes are fundamentally shaped by politics and policy.  This research distills insights from political science relevant to biodiversity conservation as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation.  It also seeks to demonstrate how consideration of environmental problems can enhance understanding of political processes and behavior, core concerns in political science.  Despite the importance of politics to the environment and the significance of environmental issues to a richer understanding of politics, the engagement between these two fields has been limited.  We explore the reasons for this lack of dialogue and suggest ways of enhancing the conversation between those interested in conservation and politics.


Miller, D.C. and A. Agrawal. (Forthcoming). “Political Science and Conservation.” Chapter in Conservation Social Science: Understanding People and the Conservation of Biodiversity. Mascia, M., Ed. Wiley-Blackwell: Malden, MA.

Miller, D.C. 2007. Political Science. In the Society for Conservation Biology Social Science Working Group’s On-line Catalogue of Social Science Tools.

Funding support:

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation