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Kendra McSweeney

Distinguished Scholar Award, 2021

Kendra McSweeney, professor in the Department of Geography, has received the Distinguished Scholar Award, awarded each year to six Ohio State faculty members who demonstrate scholarly activity, research or other creative works representing exceptional achievements in their respective fields.

McSweeney is an internationally renowned scholar in the field of environment-society relations. Her primary focus explores cultural and political ecology, conservation and development, resilience, demography and land use/cover change. Her current research includes tracing the socioecological impacts of drug trafficking through Central America and studying the nature and implications of demographic change among Latin America's Indigenous populations.

She has been recognized with prestigious awards including the Alexander and Ilse Melamid Medal of the American Geographical Society, the Cultural and Political Ecology Distinguished Career Award of the American Association of Geographers and the Carl Sauer Award of the Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers.

Her publication record includes major contributions in science journals such as Science, Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as major interdisciplinary journals such as Environmental Research Letters, Ecological Engineering, Economic Botany, Human Ecology, World Development, Journal of Land Use Science and One Earth.

“In addition to her expertise in the cultural ecologies of forest dependent livelihoods, she has collaborated with several prominent human-environment and economic geographers to combine her own insights from Central America with theirs from other contexts, and on that basis to build broader theoretical and field defining statements,” wrote one of McSweeney’s colleagues.

Another stated, “Her current research into the relationships among drugs, money laundering, trafficking and land cover change — as a genuine political ecology and sustainability science of narcotics — is a substantial contribution to our field. It develops an area of work that simply did not exist before, certainly not with this level of empirical and methodological rigor.”

Distinguished Scholar Award recipients receive a $20,000 research grant and a $3,000 honorarium to pursue their scholarly activity.