Dr Jessica Thorn is a research associate in the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of York, and an African Women in Climate Change Science fellow at the African Climate and Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town. She applies probabilistic social-ecological modelling, scenario analysis, and empirical observations of ecosystem services and well-being to measure the potential impact of climatic, infrastructural and demographic change on local actor decisions and land use. Born in the vast Namib desert, Jessica studied a BSocSci(Hons) in Human Geography at the University of Cape Town, was awarded scholarships to complete her MSc (Environmental change and Management) and DPhil (Zoology) at Oxford, and worked as a postdoc at ETH Zurich and Colorado State University with the Mountain Sentinels Collaborative Network. Over the last twelve years, she has been involved in various NSF, NERC, NRF, DFID, CGAIR, IDRC, World Bank and USAID funded projects, conducting field research in eight countries. After working with a community-based organization to access housing for 164 poor urban dwellers in Cape Town, as coordinator of the Climate Action Partnership of Conservation International, Jessica managed eight conservation programs across South Africa. She then was selected as Young Scholar for Humanitarian Aid for the UN International Strategy on Disaster Risk Reduction and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre to work on adaptation to urban flooding in Nairobi and Western Kenya. Her PhD took her to smallholder landscapes in South Asia (i.e. Terai Plains of Nepal, Central India) and West Africa (i.e. Northern Ghana). As part of this work with CGIAR Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security, Jessica facilitated national- and community-level governance workshops. She developed and trialled methodologies for climate adaptation, designed training modules, established women’s cooperatives and early childhood development centres and helped to developed regional diverse, plausible scenarios. She also conducted research for the Centre for International Forestry Research, Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, Cambridge, London School of Economics, Brown University, University of Cape Town, and Western Cape Government. More recently, she has taught on international courses in Global Biodiversity Trade and Indigenous Communities, Field Ecology, Wildland Ecosystems, Urban Geography, Global Challenges for the 21st Century, and Cities of the South. Working in the policy-research interface, Jessica sits on advisory boards for three CBOs, is an elected member of the Global Environmental Facility, has advocated for ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction and UNFCCC COP, and contributed to TEEB AgriFood Systems thinking report. For this work, Jessica was awarded the League of European Research University (France) leadership award, the Cornell Brettschneider fellowship (USA) for promoting collaborative work between artists and environmental scientists, and the Marie Sklodowska Curie Seal of Excellence (EU). This will continue Jessica’s work in conservation, climate adaptation and international development.
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