Faculty Directory

Flora Lu
  • Pronouns she, her, her, hers, herself
  • Title
    • Provost, Colleges Nine and Ten
    • Professor, Environmental Studies
  • Division Social Sciences Division
  • Department
    • Environmental Studies Department
    • College Nine
    • John R. Lewis College
  • Affiliations Anthropology Department, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Dolores Huerta Research Center for the Americas, College Nine, John R. Lewis College
  • Phone
    831-459-2034, 831-459-3214
  • Email
  • Fax
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • Social Sciences 1, 214
    • Natural Sciences II, Room 479
  • Office Hours Fall 2022: by appointment only
  • Mail Stop Environmental Studies
  • Mailing Address
    • 1156 High Street
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064
  • Faculty Areas of Expertise Environmental Studies, Community-based Research, Conservation, Diversity, Environmental Justice, Indigenous Peoples, Intellectual Property, Latin American and Latino Studies, Social Justice, Sustainability
  • Advisees, Grad Students, Researchers Christopher Allen Lang, , , Tashina Jessi Vavuris, Tracy Liu

Summary of Expertise

Ecological anthropology
Human ecology of the Amazon
Indigenous resource use and management
Ecology, tropical rainforest ecosystems, biodiversity conservation
Household economics, market integration, culture change
Political ecology, environmental justice
Latin America, Ecuador

Research Interests

Specializing in Ecological Anthropology, Flora studies the interrelationships between human societies and the natural environment with a geographic emphasis in the Amazon. She integrates social and natural science approaches to study resource use and conservation among indigenous peoples in Ecuador with a focus on land use, social change, cultural resilience, and household economic strategies. Her theoretical lens encompasses ecological anthropology, political ecology, and human ecology, and her topics of research include:
• common property regimes: the social organization of rights to and ownership of natural resources or land which is held in common among a group of members;
• conservation politics: the perceived relationship between nature and culture in determining what constitutes “conservation” as well as the often-contradictory role of indigenous peoples within the environmentalist movement;
• environmental justice: the role of race, ethnicity class, and power in the distribution and addressing of environmental degradation and scarcity across different scales;
• indigenous resource use: the utilization, management and stewardship of floral and faunal species and the larger ecosystems to which they belong, including hunting, swidden agriculture, fishing and gathering;
• household economics: patterns of economic strategies by resource-dependent households which often mix subsistence and market activities to form viable livelihoods.

Biography, Education and Training

Flora received her A.B. in Human Biology with honors from Stanford University in 1993 and Ph.D. in Ecology from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1999. A National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow, UNC Royster Society Fellow, Lang Post-doctoral Fellow at Stanford University, and Stanford Distinguished Alumni Scholar, she studies the interrelationships between human societies and the natural environment with a geographic emphasis in the Neotropics. More recently, she is interested in conducting research more locally, examining issues of inclusivity in the campus environmental sustainability movement as well as groundwater governance in the Central Coast of CA.

Honors, Awards and Grants


Honors and Awards:


Outstanding Student Program Award (for the People of Color Sustainability Collective), NASPA Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Community, December 2018


Best Practices Award Winner, Sustainability Innovations (for the People of Color Sustainability Collective), California Higher Education Sustainability Conference, June 27, 2017


Chancellor’s Achievement Award for Diversity, 2016 (for the People of Color Sustainability Collective)


UCSC Committee on Teaching's Excellence in Teaching Award, 2011
UCSC Division of Social Sciences “Golden Apple” Distinguished Teaching Award, 2010
California Beach Volleyball Association, AAA ranked player, 2010-2011
School for Advanced Research on the Human Experience (Santa Fe, NM)
Research Team Short Seminar, “Indigenous Socio-Economic Change, 
Health and Well-Being in the Amazon,” Fall 2010 
Social Sciences Division Research Award, UCSC, 2009-2010
Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award, UNC, 2008
Stanford Distinguished Alumni Scholar, 2008
Institute for Arts and Humanities Fellowship, UNC 2005
On-campus Dissertation Fellowship, Graduate School, UNC 1999 
Royster Society of Fellows Dissertation Fellowship, UNC, 1998-1999 
Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, U.S. Dept. of Education, 1997 
National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, 1993-1996 
Off-campus Dissertation Fellowship, Graduate School, UNC, 1996 
James B. Duke Graduate Fellowship, Duke University, 1993-1995 (declined)
Featured in two National Geographic Channel Programs: “Inside Basecamp” and “Next Wave II,” 2002-2003


Selected External Grants:

NORFACE Network and Belmont Forum T2S Program

"Transitions to Groundwater Sustainabilty: Joint Learnings from Human-Groundwater Interactions."

Principal Investigator (of California Case Study)



National Science Foundation

"Collaborative Proposal: The Impact of Oil Extraction, Regulatory Policy, and Environmental Practice on Indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian Communities."

Principal Investigator (Co-PI Gabriela Valdivia)

UCSC ($225,911)

National Science Foundation

"Workshop Proposal: Multiscalar and Cross-Disciplinary Approaches towards Equitable Water Governance."

Principal Investigator (Co-PIs Ben Crow, Constanza Ocampo-Raeder)

UCSC ($50,000)

National Science Foundation

“A Cross-Cultural Study of Integration to the Market and Indigenous Health in the Ecuadorian Amazon.”

Principal Investigator (Co-PI: Mark Sorensen, BCS-0822967)

Department of Anthropology, UNC, 2008-2011 ($230,000)

National Institutes of Health

“Comparison of Colonist and Indigenous Amazonian Land Use.”

Collaborating Investigator with Richard E. Bilsborrow (R01-HD38777-01)

Carolina Population Center, UNC. 2000-2003 ($1,511,406)

Selected Publications

  • Marcela Cely-Santos and Flora Lu. 2019. "Intersections between Rural Livelihood Security and Animal Pollination in Anolaima, Colombia." Geoforum 104: 13-24.
  • Flora Lu, Rebecca Hernandez, Adriana Renteria, Nancy Kim, Elida Erickson, Anna Sher, and Lisa O'Connor. 2018. "Inclusive Sustainability: Environmental Justice in Higher Education." Handbook of Sustainability and Social Science Research (Walter Leal Filho, John Callewaert and Robert Marans, eds.). New York: Springer. Pp. 63-81.
  • Rutgerd Boelens, Ben Crow, Jaime Hoogesteger, Flora Lu, Erik Swynegedouw, and Jeroen Vos. 2017. Hydrosocial Territories and Water Equity: Theory, Governance, and Sites of Struggle. Special Issues on Water Policy and Governance. London: Routledge.
  • Flora Lu, Gabriela Valdivia, and Néstor L. Silva. 2017. Oil, Revolution, and Indigenous Citizenship in Ecuadorian Amazonia. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.
  • Flora Lu and Néstor SIlva. 2015. "Imagined Borders: (Un)bounded Spaces of Oil Extraction and Indigenous Sociality in "Post-Neoliberal" Ecuador. Social Sciences 4: 434-458.
  • Gabriela Valdivia, Wendy Wolford, and Flora Lu. 2014. "Border Crossings: New Geographies of Protection and Production in the Galápagos Islands." Annals of the Association of American Geographers 104(3): 686-701.
  • Flora Lu and Mark Sorensen. 2013. Integración al Mercado y Salud Indígena en el Nororiente Ecuatoriano. Quito, Ecuador: Abya Yala.
  • Flora Lu, Richard E. Bilsborrow and Ana Isabel Oña. 2012. Modos de Vivir y Sobrevivir: Un Estudio Transcultural de Cinco Etnias en la Amazonia Ecuatoriana. Abya Yala: Quito, Ecuador.
  • Flora Lu, Gabriela Valdivia, and Wendy Wolford. 2013. “Social Dimensions of 'Nature at Risk' in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.” Conservation and Society 11(1): 83-95.
  • Wendy Wolford, Flora Lu, and Gabriela Valdivia. 2013. "Environmental Crisis and the Production of Alternatives: Conservation Practice(s) in the Galapagos Islands." Science and Conservation in the Galapagos Islands--Frameworks and Perspectives (Stephen J. Walsh and Carlos Mena, eds.), Springer. Pp. 87- 104.
  • Flora Lu. 2012. “Petroleum Extraction, Indigenous People and Environmental Injustice in the Ecuadorian Amazon.” International Environmental Justice: Competing Claims and Perspectives (Frederick Gordon and Gregory Freeland, eds.), Hertfordshire, UK: ILM Publishers. Pp. 71-95.
  • Flora Lu and Ciara Wirth. 2011. “Conservation Perceptions, Common Property, and Cultural Polarization among the Waorani of Ecuador’s Amazon.” Human Organization 70(3): 233-243.
  • Flora Lu. 2011. “Patterns of Indigenous Resilience in the Amazon: A Case Study of Huaorani Hunting in Ecuador.” Journal of Ecological Anthropology 14(1): 5-21.
  • Caitlin Doughty, Flora Lu, and Mark Sorensen. 2010. “Crude, Cash and Culture Change: The Huaorani of Amazonian Ecuador.” Consilience, the Journal of Sustainable Development 3(1): 18-32.
  • Flora Lu, Clark Gray, Carlos Mena, Richard Bilsborrow, Jason Bremner, Alisson Barbieri, Chris Erlien, and Steve Walsh. 2010. “Contrasting Colonist and Indigenous Impacts on Amazonian Forests.” Conservation Biology 24(3): 881-885.
  • Flora Lu. 2010. “The Conservation Catch-22: Indigenous Peoples and Cultural Change.” In Human Ecology: Contemporary Research and Practice. Edited by Daniel Bates and Judith Tucker. New York: Springer. Pp. 79-88.
  • Flora Lu. 2007. “Integration into the Market among Indigenous Peoples: A Cross-Cultural Perspective from the Ecuadorian Amazon.” Current Anthropology 48(4): 593-602.
  • Flora Lu. 2006. “’The Commons’ in an Amazonian Context.” Social Analysis 50(3): 187-194.
  • Flora L. Holt. 2005. “The Catch-22 of Conservation: Indigenous Peoples, Biologists and Culture Change.” Human Ecology 33(2): 199-215.
  • Flora Lu. 2001. “The Common Property Regime of the Huaorani Indians of Ecuador: Implications and Challenges to Conservation.” Human Ecology 29(4): 425-447.
  • Bruce Winterhalder, Flora Lu and Bram Tucker. 1999. “Risk-sensitive Adaptive Tactics: Models and Evidence from Subsistence Studies in Biology and Anthropology.” Journal of Archaeological Research 7(4): 301-348.

Selected Presentations

  • Keynote for the Bay Area Conservation Biology Symposium, UC Berkeley, April 27, 2019.
  • Invited plenary panelist, Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference, University of Kentucky, February 23, 2018.
  • "Waorani Recognition: Oil and Environmental Governance in Ecuadorian Amazonia." Presentation at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting. Washington DC. November 29-December 3, 2017.
  • "'Ni tienen cédula': Peoples in Voluntary Isolation, Citizenship, ad Contested Land Use in Ecuadorian Amazonia." Paper presented at the Association of American Geographers Meeting, San Francisco. March 29-April 2, 2016.
  • "On the Other SIde of the Camera's Lens: Native Amazonian Perspectives of Oil in Ecuador." Paper (with Néstor SIlva) presented at the Latin American Studies Association 2015 Meeting. Puerto Rico, May 27-30, 2015.
  • "The Effects of Market Integration on Childhood Health and Well Being in the Ecuadorian Amazon." Presentation for the Broom Center for Demography Conference, Indigeous Well Being Amid Socioeconomic Transformation, UC Santa Barbara, March 14, 2014.
  • "Tragedies and the Commons: Oil and the Fraying Social Fabric among the Waorani of Amazonian Ecuador." Paper (with Néstor Silva) presented at the American Anthropological Association 2013 Meeting. Chicago, Illinois. November 20-24, 2013.
  • Stanford University, Center for Latin American Studies. "Indigenous People, Amazonian Forests and Crude Oil: The Waorani of Northeastern Ecuador." February 8, 2013.
  • Keynote address, 12th Annual Campus Earth Summit, Student Environmental Center, UCSC. March 8, 2013
  • Santa Clara University, Environmental Studies Institute. "Ecologically Noble Savages or Rapacious Rainforest Residents? Indigenous Conservation in the Ecuadorian Amazon." May 4, 2012.
  • "Hybrid Livelihoods, Vulnerability and Resilience among Native Amazonians in Ecuador." Paper presented at the American Anthropological Association 2011 Meeting. Montreal, Canada, November 15-20, 2011.
  • "A Cross-Cultural Study of Integration to the Market and Indigenous Health in the Ecuadorian Amazon." (Co-authors: M. Sorensen, K. Houck, A. Oña, K. Álvarez, D. Hidrobo, C. Doljanin, and D. Albán). Human Biology Association Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, MN, April 13-14, 2011.
  • “Integration to the Market and Indigenous Health in the Ecuadorian Amazon.” (Co-Author, Mark Sorensen). Paper presented at the American Anthropological Association 2009 Annual Meeting. Philadelphia, December 2-6, 2009.
  • “Patterns of Indigenous Resilience in the Amazon: A Cross-Cultural Study of Economic, Ecological, and Cultural Change in Northeastern Ecuador.” Paper presented at the American Anthropological Association 2008 Annual Meeting. San Francisco, November 19-23, 2008.
  • “The Enchanted and Endangered Isles: Fishing, Farming, Migration and Conservation in the Galápagos Archipelago, Ecuador.” Paper presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology 2008 Annual Meeting at the Marriott Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, March 25-29.

Teaching Interests

Ecological Anthropology
Contemporary Ecuador
Amazonian Human Ecology
Socio-Ecological Impacts of Energy Policy and Development
Environmental Justice