Catherine Tucker

Profile photo of Catherine Tucker
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Associate Faculty, Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change (CIPEC)
Student Building 130
701 E. Kirkwood Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405-7100
Phone: (812) 855-1041
tuckerc[at]indiana [dot] edu

Research Interests: Institutional analysis, human dimensions of global environmental change, political ecology, community-based natural resource management, collective action, development, food studies, globalization, Latin America.

Understanding interrelationships between humans and the environment, and exploring possible paths toward greater social and environmental sustainability, constitute my central research interests. I am particularly interested in the relationships between people and forests, and the circumstances through which local populations may achieve sustainable natural resource management and improved livelihoods. A key component in my work is the study of the institutions (defined as the rules, norms and values) associated with community organization, development processes, and forest management. To assist with analyses of the relationships between forest change and people's experiences, I link ethnographic fieldwork with the techniques of remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and work across disciplinary boundaries. My work currently encompasses three interrelated research projects:

  1. Coffee farmers' adaptations to market volatility and environmental change in western Honduras : Export coffee production represents a major component in the Honduran economy, and influences forest transformation trends. Changes in world coffee markets and price volatility are posing a challenge for coffee growers' livelihoods. Moreover, coffee plantations are making incursions into important watersheds and high biodiversity forests. These processes occur in a context of climate change that is disrupting traditional expectations of weather patterns. The study aims to understand what adaptations appear to be most promising and sustainable for coffee producers and the natural environment.

  2. Community-based protected area management and water conservation: The potential for communities to create and manage strictly protected areas remains an understudied topic. I am examining the emergence and maintenance of the Montaña Campara Watershed Reserve in western Honduras. The reserve was created by three adjacent municipalities that share the mountain, without national government involvement. The municipalities and their populations created the reserve despite conditions considered unfavorable to collective action, including border disputes and ongoing tensions among the principal actors. The reserve has experienced reforestation since its creation, which involved the peaceful and voluntary relocation of a number of farmers who had occupied the mountain. Current work is evaluating the institutional, cultural, economic and political dimensions of the reserve's creation and the difficulties associated with its management.

  3. Communal forest management and economic development in western Honduras and Oaxaca, Mexico : Through longitudinal, comparative research in a Lenca community (Honduras) and a Zapotec community (Oaxaca), I am investigating the interrelationships among community institutions, national policies, market integration, and socioeconomic factors as they influence development processes and forest transformations.

These projects intersect with additional interests in Fair Trade and alternative trade strategies, and the roles of food production and consumption in shaping societal processes. Together these areas of research inform my broad theoretical and practical interests to identify contexts that may promote more sustainable and equitable choices among individuals and societies.

Geographical Areas of Specialization: Honduras, eastern Guatemala, and Oaxaca, Mexico

Field Schools:

Heritage and Cultural Diversity in Oaxaca, Mexico


2010 Coffee Culture: Local Experiences, Global Linkages.  Anthropology of Stuff Series.  New York: Routledge Press.
2008 Changing Forests: Collective Action, Common Property and Coffee in Honduras. New York:   Springer Academic Press. Now available online at IUCAT

Selected Publications

2011 Tucker, C. M. “Forest Management Research, Institutional Analysis and Policy in Latin America.” Current Conservation 4(3): 16-20.
2010 Tucker, C. M.  “Learning on Governance in Forest Ecosystems: Lessons from Recent Research.”  International Journal of the Commons 4(2):687-706. URL:
2010 Tucker, C. M. “Private Goods and Common Property: Pottery Production in a Honduran Lenca Community.” Human Organization 69(1):43-53.
2009 Tucker, C. M., H. Eakin, E. Castellanos. “Perceptions of Risk and Adaptation: Coffee producers, market shocks and extreme weather in Central America and Mexico.” Global Environmental Change(2010) 20:23-32. Published online August 2009
2008 Tucker, C. M., J. C. Randolph, T. Evans, K. P. Andersson, L. Persha, and G. M. Green. “An approach to assess relative degradation in dissimilar forests: toward a comparative assessment of institutional outcomes.” Ecology and Society 13(1): 4. [online] URL:
2007 Tucker, C.M. J.C. Randolph, and Edwin Castellanos.  Institutions, Biophysical Factors and Forest Conditions:  An integrative analysis of private and communal forests in Guatemala and Honduras.Human Ecology. 35(3): 259-274
2006 Eakin, H., C.M. Tucker, and E. Castellanos.  Responding to the Coffee Crisis: A pilot study of farmers' adaptations in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.  The Geographical Journal 172(2):156-171
2005 Tucker, C.M., D. Munroe, H. Nagendra and J. Southworth. Comparative Spatial Analyses of Forest Conservation in Honduras and Guatemala. Conservation and Society 3(1):174-200.
2005 Vanwey, L., C.M. Tucker, and E. McConnell.  Community Organization, Migration and Remittances in Oaxaca.  Latin America Research Review 40(1):83-106.
2005 Tucker, C.M. and J. Southworth.  Processes of Forest Change at the Local and Landscape Levels in Honduras and Guatemala.  In Seeing the Forest and the Trees: Human-Environment Interactions in Forest Ecosystems, ed. Emilio F. Moran and Elinor Ostrom. Pg. 253-277. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
2004 Tucker, C.M. Aiming for Sustainable Community Forest Management: The Experiences of Two Communities in Mexico and Honduras . In D. Zarin, J. Alavalapati, F. E. Putz, and M. C. Schmink, eds. Working Forests in the Tropics: Conservation through Sustainable Management? Pg. 178-199. Columbia University Press.
2004 Tucker, C. M . Land, Property Systems, and Indigenous Intellectual Property Rights A Honduran Case Study. In M. Riley, ed. Indigenous Knowledge and Indigenous Rights: Tools That Work . Pg. 127-152. Walnut Creek, CA:  Altamira Press.
2004 Tucker, C.M. Community Istitutions and Forest Management in Mexico's Monarch Butterfly Reserve.Society and Natural Resources 17:69-587
2003 Nagendra, H., J. Southworth, and C. M. Tucker . 2003. Accessibility as a determinant of landscape transformation in Western Honduras : linking pattern and process. Landscape Ecology 18:141-158. .
 2002 Southworth, J., H. Nagendra, and C. M. Tucker . 2002. Fragmentation of a landscape: incorporating landscape metrics into satellite analyses of land cover change. Landscape Research27(3):253-269 .
2001 Southworth, J. and C. M. Tucker . 2001. The roles of accessibility, local institutions and socioeconomic factors influencing forest cover change in the mountains of western Honduras .Mountain Research and Development , 21(3):276-283.
2000 Tucker, C.M. 2000.  Striving for Sustainable forest Management in Mexico and Honduras:  The Experience of Two Communities. Mountain Research and Development 20(2): 116-117.
1999 Tucker, C. M . 1999. Private vs. Communal Forests: Forest Conditions and Tenure in a Honduran Community. Human Ecology 27(2):201-230.