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Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance


Dr Zabala is Affiliated Lecturer in the Department of Land Economy and Senior Editor, Nature Sustainability journal. Her interests are in environmental governance and sustainability policy effectiveness, with a focus on understanding the diversity of views on controversial or conflictive issues. This includes adoption and diffusion of sustainable land-use practices, social implications of biodiversity indicators and drivers and motivations of behavioural change.

She has published research on a range of policies, such as environmental and conservation programs in rural areas in Mexico and South Africa, deforestation drivers at large scales, peatland fires in Indonesia, and public policy for sustainable transport to industrial estates. Her work has been published by UNEP and in journals like Global Environmental Change, Land Use Policy and Ecological Economics. She also writes regularly opinion pieces for the media.

Her expertise includes R statistical language, econometrics, multi-criteria decision methods, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Q methodology and data visualisation. She also lectured in R programming, scientific figure design and Q methodology, at the Social Sciences Research Methods Programme (formerly Social Sciences' Research Methods Centre) and the Graduate School of Life Sciences.

Her research has focused on incentive schemes for ecosystem service management. Her thesis uncovered unexpected drivers of adoption of silvopasture (a type of agroforestry) in the tropical forest frontier. She explained this adoption using a framework of exogenous and endogenous predictors, informed by theories in behavioural economics and social psychology, and accounting for pathway dependency derived from place-based social and environmental history. More recent work includes an assessment of the multiple social views of bird diversity indicators in the UK and their implications for biodiversity policy, analysing acceptability of waste-to-energy facilities (with University of Basque Country), barriers for sustainable aquaculture certification (with University of Tokyo), and sustainability in post-pandemic recovery policies.

She holds a PhD in Environmental Policy (University of Cambridge), MSc in Geography (University of Oxford), postgraduate degree in Ecological Economics and BSc in Environmental Sciences with focus on social environmental studies (both at Autonomous University of Barcelona). She was previously web knowledge consultant for a clean technology networking platform (Skipso), and designer of environmental communication material.


Key publications: 
C-EENRG Fellow
Affiliated Lecturer, Department of Land Economy
Senior Editor, Nature Sustainability
Dr Aiora  Zabala

Contact Details


Person keywords: 
Forest governance
Behaviour Change
Human perspectives
Rural livelihoods
R statistical language and GIS
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Public Policy
Ecological economics