Latin American Studies

Karl Zimmerer

Karl Zimmerer
Professor of Geography


Karl Zimmerer is a geographer and environmental scientist whose research and teaching is focused on a group of interconnected topics centered on global human-environmental change. These interests concern the interaction of cultural, socioeconomic, and environmental dynamics in agriculture and resource use of developing and developed countries.

The first area of Karl's interests is the role and conservation of agrobiodiversity in complex agricultural landscapes containing local and regional food and consumption systems. Recently he is extending this research to frameworks of agrobiodiversity in global environmental change and governance.

Karl's second area of interest is the role of globalization in agriculture, rural livelihoods, and biodiversity conservation. This research includes neoliberalizing policies and politics as well as other governmental, non-governmental, and citizen approaches including "spaces of hope" in conservation and sustainability.

The third of Karl's areas of interest is concerned with concepts and theory in human-environment and nature-society approaches to environmental studies. It also includes the historical experience and present-day development of spatial-environmental models and planning, particularly through interaction of the knowledge systems of ecological science and local and indigenous peoples. Karl is author of numerous articles and chapters, and his books and monographs include four publications, most recently Globalization and New Geographies of Conservation (2006, University of Chicago). He is active in various groups and organizations involved with agricultural, environmental, conservation, and globalization policies, serves as the Head of the Geography Department at the Pennsylvania State University and also edits the Nature-Society section of the Annals of the Association of American Geographers.

Current research:

  • Agrobiodiversity change and resilience related to water resource use, irrigation, and climate change, with emphasis on tropical mountain countries, especially western South America (Bolivia)
  • Spatial interactions involving the role of social networks and environmental factors in high-agrobiodiversity farming and organic agriculture (Bolivia, Wisconsin)
  • Trajectories of environmental conservation and land use under neoliberal governments and alternative regimes, 1985-present (Latin America and Caribbean countries, especially Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Peru, and Bolivia)
  • Cartography, landscape ideas, and spatial-environmental models of land use and social-ecological complexity in tropical mountain environments (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia)


  • GEOG 30: Geographic Perspectives on Sustainability and Human-Environment Systems
  • GEOG 297: Environment and Food
  • GEOG 430: Human Use of Environment
  • GEOG 497: Current Interdisciplinary Research in Peru: Key Challenges and Opportunities
  • GEOG 500: Introduction to Geographic Research
  • GEOG 507: Seminar in Human Environment Geography
  • GEOG 530: Human-Environment Seminar
Karl Zimmerer