Scott Beck, a doctoral student in Forestry and Environmental Resources, is doing research focused in South Africa, within the Greater Kruger National Park Socio-Ecological System. Here, rapidly growing, marginalized communities struggle to survive within an increasingly arid savannah ecosystem, which is nested along the boarder of the largest game reserve—and tourist attraction—in South Africa. Scott operates within the larger framework of the IMAGINE program, working with communities to identify ongoing complexities stemming from internal social dynamics and resource consumption and external sources like governmental inefficiency and climate change.
Scott works with a large interdisciplinary team of researchers—from psychologists to hydrologists. They use a variety of methodologies to collect data including: (1) household surveys, (2) focus groups, (3) asset mapping, (4) GIS/remote sensing, and (5) water quality testing. Scott is particularly interested in how temporal changes in land cover and social drivers related to fuel wood harvesting and consumption, effect water retention/evapotranspiration and drinking water quality in Hamakuya and Bushbuckridge, South Africa. This is important because marginalized communities are more vulnerable to events like natural disasters and climate change. Understanding how the complex social characteristics of communities drive natural resource use, and how that use contributes to environmental degradation, could help communities develop plans to mitigate and/or manage many of these threats.