Laura Aileen Sauls

Laura Aileen Sauls

Laura Aileen Sauls

Assistant Professor

land rights, forests, biodiversity conservation, climate change, extractive industries, migration, earth observation, political ecology, Central America

Laura Aileen Sauls joined the Global Affairs Program in 2022 as an Assistant Professor focusing on the global environment. Before joining the program, she was previously a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield (UK) and a Teaching Fellow at the College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, MA USA). Previous to pursuing her PhD, Laura was a worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on multilateral environmental policy, including related to climate change, sustainable development, and Arctic environmental cooperation.

Her research draws on political ecology and critical development studies to examine how resource-governing institutions change in the context of global environmental crises and political economic shifts. Incorporating an environmental justice lens and a deep commitment to engaged and collaborative research, Laura works with Indigenous and forest-based community organizations across Mexico and Central America to understand what just and sustainable resource governance might look like across scales. Her most recent projects explore how emerging remote sensing and near-earth observation technologies intersect with ongoing land rights struggles and governance arrangements. 

Selected Publications

Sauls, Laura Aileen, Jaime Paneque-Gálvez, Mónica Amador-Jiménez, Nicolás Vargas-Ramírez, and Yves Laumonier. 2023. “Drones, Communities and Nature: Pitfalls and Possibilities for Conservation and Territorial Rights.” Global Social Challenges 1 (published online ahead of print 2023): 1–23.

Sauls, Laura Aileen, and Victor López Illescas. 2023. “Redefining Rights-Based Conservation through Philanthropy: The Ford Foundation in Mesoamerica.” Conservation Science and Practice 5 (5): e12942.  

Mack, Elizabeth A., Laura Aileen Sauls, Brad D. Jokisch, Kerstin Nolte, Birgit Schmook, Yifan He, Claudia Radel, et al. 2023. “Remittances and Land Change: A Systematic Review.” World Development 168 (August): 106251.  

Cuba, Nicholas, Laura A Sauls, Anthony J. Bebbington, Denise Humphreys Bebbington, Avecita Chicchon, Pilar Delpino Marimón, Oscar Diaz, Susanna Hecht, Susan Kandel, Tracey Osborne, Rebecca Ray, John Rogan, Viviana Zalles. 2022. “Emerging hot spot analysis to indicate forest conservation priorities and efficacy on regional to continental scales: a study of forest change in Selva Maya 2000-2020.” Environmental Research Communications 4(071004).

Sauls, Laura Aileen, Anthony Dest, and Kendra McSweeney. 2022. “Challenging Conventional Wisdom on Illicit Economies and Rural Development in Latin America.” World Development 158 (October): 105996.

Blume, Laura Ross, Laura Aileen Sauls, and Christopher A. C. J. Knight. 2022. “Tracing Territorial-Illicit Relations: Pathways of Influence and Prospects for Governance.” Political Geography 97 (August): 102690. (co-first author)

Pritchard, Rose, Laura Aileen Sauls, Johan A. Oldekop, Wilhelm Andrew Kiwango, and Dan Brockington. 2022. “Data Justice and Biodiversity Conservation Justicia.” Conservation Biology: e13919.

Expanded Publication List

Peer-reviewed Articles

Green, Kasyan, John Rogan, Laura Sauls, Nicholas Cuba, Roberta Kamille Pennell, and Denise Bebbington. 2022. “Tracking Forest Dynamic Trends in Belize: The Role of Protected Areas, Agriculture, and Fire in the South Eastern Selva Maya.” Remote Sensing Letters 13 (8): 778–88.  

Delpino Marimón, Pilar, Denise Humphreys Bebbington, Anthony J Bebbington, Laura A Sauls, Nicholas Cuba, Avecita Chicchon, Susanna Hecht, et al. 2021. “‘Tradescapes’ in the Forest: Framing Infrastructure’s Relation to Territory, Commodities, and Flows.” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 53 (December): 29–36.  

Shyamsundar, Priya, Laura Aileen Sauls, Jennifer Zavaleta Cheek, Kira Sullivan-Wiley, J. T. Erbaugh, and P. P. Krishnapriya. 2021. “Global Forces of Change: Implications for Forest-Poverty Dynamics.” Forest Policy and Economics 133 (December): 102607.

Bebbington, Anthony, Avecita Chicchon, Nicholas Cuba, et al. (including Laura Sauls). 2020. “Opinion: Priorities for Governing Large-Scale Infrastructure in the Tropics.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117 (36): 21829–33. (authors alphabetical)

Sauls, Laura Aileen. 2020. “Becoming Fundable? Converting Climate Justice Claims into Climate Finance in Mesoamerica’s Forests.” Climatic Change 161: 307-325.

Bebbington, Anthony J., Denise Humphreys Bebbington, Laura Aileen Sauls, John Rogan, Sumali Agrawal, César Gamboa, Aviva Imhof, et al. 2018. “Resource Extraction and Infrastructure Threaten Forest Cover and Community Rights.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115 (52): 13164–73.

Bebbington, Anthony, Laura Aileen Sauls, Herman Rosa, Benjamin Fash, and Denise Humphreys Bebbington. 2018. “Conflicts over Extractivist Policy and the Forest Frontier in Central America.” European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, December 103–32.

Pontius Jr, Robert Gilmore, Roopa Krithivasan, Laura Sauls, Yan Yan, and Yujia Zhang. 2017. “Methods to Summarize Change among Land Categories across Time Intervals.” Journal of Land Use Science 12:4, 218-230.

Book Chapters

Sauls, Laura Aileen, and Jennifer A. Devine. 2023. “Geospatial Technologies in Tourism Land and Resource Grabs: Evidence from Guatemala’s Protected Areas.” In Routledge Handbook of Global Land and Resource Grabbing, edited by Andreas Neef, Chanrith Ngin, Tsegaye Moreda, and Mollet, Sharlene, 205–19. London: Routledge.

Sauls, Laura Aileen, Fernando Galeana, and Steven Lawry. 2022. “Indigenous and Customary Land Tenure Security: History, Trends, and Challenges in the Latin American Context.” In Land Tenure Security and Sustainable Development, edited by Margaret B. Holland, Yuta J. Masuda, and Brian E. Robinson, 57–79. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.

Devine, Jennifer A., Hannah L. Legatzke, Megan Butler, and Laura Aileen Sauls. 2021. “Tourism Development as Slow Violence: Dispossession in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve.” In A Research Agenda for Geographies of Slow Violence, 73–88. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Reports and Working Papers

NYDF Assessment Partners. 2020. “Balancing Forests and Development: Addressing Infrastructure and Extractive Industries, Promoting Sustainable Livelihoods.” Amsterdam: Climate Focus. (Laura Sauls, Contributing Author)

Shyamsundar, Priya, Jennifer Zavaleta Cheek, Laura Vang Rasmussen, et al. (including Laura Aileen Sauls, Contributing Author). 2020. “Chapter 6. Global Forces of Change: Implications for Alleviating Poverty and Sustaining Forests.” In Forests, Trees and the Eradication of Poverty: Potential and Limitations, edited by Daniel C Miller, Stephanie Mansourian, and Christoph Wildburger, 177–214. IUFRO World Series Vol. 39. Vienna: International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).

Davis, Andrew, Manuel Martí, and Laura Sauls. 2020. Bosques, incendios y cambio climático en Guatemala: opciones e implicaciones para el cumplimiento de la contribución determinada a nivel nacional (NDC) (Forests, fires and climate change in Guatemala: options and implications for meeting the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)). San Salvador: Fundación PRISMA.

Monterroso, Iliana, Laura Aileen Sauls, Andrew Davis, and Manuel Martí. 2019. Deforestación y políticas públicas: trayectorias históricas y perspectivas para la gobernanza de los bosques del Petén (Deforestation and public policy: historical trajectories and perspectives for forest governance in Petén). San Salvador: Fundación PRISMA.

Shin, Yunne-Jai, Almut Arneth, Rinku Roy Chowdhury, Guy F. Midgley, et al. (including Laura Sauls, Contributing Author). 2019. “Chapter 4. Plausible futures of nature, its contributions to people and their good quality of life.” In IPBES Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, edited by E. S. Brondizio, J. Settele, S. Díaz, and H. T. Ngo. Bonn, Germany: IPBES secretariat.

Sauls, Laura Aileen and Herman Rosa. 2018. Assessment and Scoping of Extractive Industries and Infrastructure in Relation to Deforestation: Central America. San Francisco, CA: Climate and Land Use Alliance.

Bebbington, Anthony J., Denise Humphreys Bebbington, and Laura Aileen Sauls. 2018. Assessment and Scoping of Extractive Industry and Infrastructure in Relation to Deforestation: Global and Synthesis Report. San Francisco, CA: Climate and Land Use Alliance.

Humphreys Bebbington, Denise and Laura Aileen Sauls. 2018. Assessment and Scoping of Extractive Industries and Infrastructure in Relation to Deforestation: Mexico. San Francisco, CA: Climate and Land Use Alliance.

Agrawal, Sumali, Anthony J. Bebbington, Aviva Imhof, Mai Jebing, Nonette Royo, Laura Aileen Sauls, Rini Sulaiman, Tessa Toumbourou, and Arief Wicaksono. 2018. Assessment and Scoping of Extractive Industries and Infrastructure in Relation to Deforestation: Indonesia. San Francisco, CA: Climate and Land Use Alliance.

Davis, Andrew, Laura Sauls, Manuel Martí and Fausto Luna. 2017. Governments to Governance? German Forest Aid in Mesoamerica. October. San Salvador: Fundación PRISMA.

Davis, Andrew and Laura Sauls. 2017. Evaluating Forest Fire Control and Prevention Effectiveness in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. June. San Salvador: Fundación PRISMA. Report available in English and Spanish at:

Davis, Andrew, Susan Kandel, Fausto Luna, and Laura Sauls. 2015. Rights-based governance: Experiences of territorial authorities in Mesoamerica. October. Fundación PRISMA: Report available in English and Spanish at:

Courses Taught

GLOA 615 - Justice and the Global Environment 

GLOA 100 - Intro to Global Affairs

INTS 210 - Sustainable World


PhD Geography, Clark University (Worcester, MA USA)

MA Geography, Clark University 

MPhil Development Studies, University of Oxford (UK)

BA International Relations and Environmental Science & Policy, College of William & Mary (Williamsburg, VA USA)