Kai Chan

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I am a professor in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at University of British Columbia. I am an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented sustainability scientist, trained in ecology, policy, and ethics from Princeton and Stanford Universities. I strive to understand how social-ecological systems can be transformed to be both better and wilder (‘better’ including considerations of justice). Towards this end, I do modeling and empirical research to improve the management and governance of social-ecological systems. I have worked on ecosystem services for years (while recognizing and working on the concept’s limitations), including cumulative impacts. Now my work is focused on understanding the opportunities for bold positive change, socially and ecologically (with themes of rewilding, transformative change, relationality, and values). If you’re a prospective student, please also see my IRES page.

History: Before UBC, I was a postdoctoral fellow with Gretchen Daily and Paul Ehrlich at the Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) at Stanford University. My research there had two major components: countryside biogeography (the study of biodiversity in human-dominated landscapes) and conservation planning/finance (the design of conservation tools). I was a Ph.D. student under Simon Levin at Princeton University, where I studied the process of diversification, and collaborated with Brian Moore. I was also a policy fellow, and did ethics research with Peter Singer. In 2012, I was the Fulbright Canada Visiting Research Chair at the University of California, Santa Barbara, hosted at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management by Steve Gaines and Ben Halpern.

Advocacy and Leadership: Our responsibilities to current and future persons and the natural world call for us all to be social and environmental advocates and activists. At Princeton, I coordinated Greening Princeton; at Stanford, I co-coordinated scienceinpolicy.org (to improve the use of science in policy); and I am now a director on the board of the BC chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and a senior fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program; for three years I was also a columnist at the Vancouver Metro (Eco-Minded). In 2014, I organized a letter signed by 300 scientists to rebuke the shoddy use of science in the review of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Panel (see here and here). Now I am working with others on a bold vision to start a ‘social-ecological movement for sustainability‘, which we call CoSphere for a Community of Small Planet Heroes (ecologically restoring economies), whose purpose is to provide a vehicle for organizations and individuals to take responsibility for and mitigate their impacts on ecosystems and people (through ecosystem services). I am currently a member (and working group leader) of the Global Young Academy, a fellow of the Leopold Leadership Program, a Coordinating Lead Author of the IPBES Global Assessment, and a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

Prospective Students: I am looking for rigorously trained students interested in ecological approaches to management and sustainability. I am not wedded to any topic or idea but rather motivated by a passion for both application and advancing fundamental insight, without consideration for disciplinary boundaries but recognizing the importance of disciplinary traditions for successful scholarship. Ideal candidates will be savvy about one or more of the following and interested in at least three: (a) ecological dynamics; (b) quantitative analysis and modeling; (c) social systems, especially the role of individuals and groups in social change; (d) rewilding (broadly, as the restoration of ecological interactions); (e) environmental values, especially relational; (f) transformative change. You should thrive on feedback and integrating diverse perspectives for richer understandings.

Everyone listed here at CHANS Lab is a member of our group, as follows:

Supervised graduate students:
Clare Price (MSc)
Aaron Aguirre (MSc)
Daniel Forrest (PhD)
Dana Johnson (PhD)
Alberto Campos (PhD)
Joanne Fitzgibbons (PhD)

Collaborating students:
Anna Santo (PhD)

Félix Landry Yuan

Visiting collaborators/Collaborating Adjunct Professors:

Paige Olmsted
Matthew Mitchell
Cathryn Clarke-Murray
Ed Gregr
Robin Naidoo
Gary Luck
Tom Sisk

Former students and postdocs:
Andy Stock (postdoc 2023)
Rocío López (PhD Sep 2023)
Rumi Naito (PhD Aug 2023)
Ashli Akins (PhD Sep 2022)
Julia Craig (MSc Aug 2022)
Colton Stevens (MSc Jul 2022)
Jonathan Taggart (PhD Aug 2021)
Harold Eyster (PhD Jul 2021)
Maayan Kreitzman (PhD Aug 2020)
John Driscoll (PhD Jul 2020)
Cameron Bullen (MSc Jun 2020)
Aspen Ono (MA Apr 2020)
Alejandra Echeverri (PhD Aug 2019)
Mark Tadaki (PhD Oct 2018)
Emily Anderson (PhD Aug 2018)
Adrian Semmelink (MSc Jun 2018)
Mollie Chapman (PhD Dec 2017)
Liz Williams (MA Aug 2017)
Paige Olmsted (PhD Apr 2017)
Nathan Bennett (Postdoc 2014-6)
Daniel Karp (postdoc 2015-6)
Gerald Singh
(PhD Sep 2016)
Sarah Klain
(PhD Sep 2016)
Ed Gregr (PhD Aug 2016)
Jordan Tam (PhD Apr 2016)
Ally Thompson (MSc May 2015)
Jordan Levine (PhD Sep 2014)
Jessica Clasen (postdoc 2013)
Russell Markel (postdoc 2011-3)
Rebecca Martone (postdoc 2009-13)
Megan Mach (PhD Jul 2012, postdoc 2012)
Maria Espinosa (MSc Aug 2010)
Veronica Lo (MSc Aug 2009)
Lara Hoshizaki (MSc Jun 2009)

Contact Details:
Kai M A Chan, Professor
Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability
UBC AERL, 438 – 2202 Main Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4 Canada

Email: kaichan at ires dot ubc dot ca
Tel: 604.822.0400
Fax: 604.822.9250

My CV (pdf, brief). Google Scholar. ResearchGate. Blog.