Elsa Ordway is a PhD Student in the Department of Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford University focusing on research investigating forest transitions and issues of sustainable land and natural resource use in Cameroon and the Congo basin. Under the direction of Eric Lambin and in collaboration with several others from the Carnegie Department of Global Ecology and the School of Earth Sciences, Elsa employs an integrative methods approach that combines remote sensing, geographic information systems, ecology, economics and modeling at the landscape scale. Her research is predominantly focused on commodity crop expansion in humid tropical forests, with a goal of better understanding the implications of agricultural demands for land on Congo basin forests. By examining land use interactions across sectors and tracking land cover pathways to agricultural expansion at the large- and small-scale, policies can be more appropriately defined according to drivers of land use change, including market effects and governance, as well as with consideration of impacts to food security and rural poverty alleviation.
In addition to her research, Elsa is widely involved in engaging the Stanford community in tropical forest research and broader conservation efforts. She is a board member of the Bay Area Tropical Forest Network and recently developed the Stanford Tropical Forest Network Chapter. Her engagement in education at Stanford has included the development of an Advanced Applications of Remote Sensing seminar and her work as an associate instructor for a Stanford course for rising sophomores: In the Age of the Anthropocene: Coupled Human-Natural Systems of Southeast Alaska.
Elsa received her Bachelor of Arts degree in environmental studies from New York University (NYU) with a concentration in environmental science and ecology, and a minor in African Studies in 2009. She was also a student delegate for NYUs Climate Action Plan. She received her Masters degree in Conservation Biology in 2013 from Columbia University in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (E3B), where she worked with Ruth DeFries. Her Masters research focused on the impacts of armed conflict on forest transitions and forest conservation. She has received several academic awards including the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the Center for African Studies Research Fellowship and a nomination to Columbia Earth Institutes Student Advisory Committee.