Stephen J. Leisz

Contact Information

Phone: (970) 491-3960



Office: Clark B220

Role: Faculty

Position: Associate Professor

  • Geography

Department: Anthropology


Advising Faculty Member, GDPE
Director, Remote Sensing and Land Change Science Laboratory


My research is focused in the emerging field of land change science. Through the use of remote sensing data (e.g. current and historical satellite imagery and aerial photographs, LiDAR and RADAR), appropriate fieldwork, and GIS, I investigate the human-environment interactions that lead to land-use and ultimately land-cover changes over local and regional landscapes. I currently have two major research foci. The first, which I have been involved in since 1997, focuses on the way that changing livelihood systems in present day Southeast Asia and Melanesia influence land use and land cover changes at local and regional levels, and by extension how these changes influence ecosystem services (e.g. carbon sequestration, biodiversity) and local economies. The second makes use of LiDAR, medium and high resolution satellite imagery, and derived digital elevation models integrated with archeological fieldwork to investigate the drivers of land changes in pre-Hispanic central Mexico (more information regarding this project is found at In the past I have researched potential climate change impacts on biodiversity and human societies in Melanesia; investigated the relationship between land and natural resource tenure systems and land-use/cover changes in parts of Africa and Madagascar; and looked at land surveying and mapping issues related to squatter settlements in the periphery of Managua, Nicaragua. Due to my interest in the relationship between livelihood system changes and land change, I also am interested in how international development and land change interact. I am the Director of the Remote Sensing and Land Change Science Laboratory at Colorado State University and much of my research makes use of the remote sensing and GIS resources that are housed in the laboratory.

Current Research Project

Increased accessibility, landscape changes, rural transformations, and urbanization: Impacts of the east-west economic corridor from Da Nang, Vietnam, to Khon Kaen, Thailand. (Funded by the NASA Land-Cover/Land- Use Change Program []). In the early 1990s the six countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) started construction on a system of roads, mainly running in the north-south and east-west directions, with the aim of improving the regions connectivity and key sectors of the economy through improving the GMS’s transportation infrastructure. This project focuses on impacts of the “East-West Economic Corridor” (EWEC), which runs 1,600 kilometer route and connects the countries of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. The project focuses on the part of the corridor that connects Da Nang, Vietnam, to Khon Kaen, Thailand. Upgrades on this section of the EWEC were completed by 2007. The route passes through six urban areas, agricultural dominated coastal plains, areas of tropical montane moist forest where swidden cultivation is practiced, and across areas where permanent agriculture is practiced in a drier, savanna type setting. The project is investigating the impacts of the road on the urban and rural areas of these three countries.

Message to prospective graduate students

Please look through these web pages to see if my research is of interest to you. I regularly advise students in the International Development concentration within Cultural Anthropology and students who are enrolled in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology (GDPE), an interdisciplinary graduate degree program at CSU that offers MS and PhD degrees in Ecology. Please contact me via email to explore potential options for a graduate degree.


Legacies of Resilience: a long-term research project

Dr. Leisz: Select Publications

Dr. Leisz: Reports, non-peer reviewed chapters, and presentations

Dr. Leisz in the News

The Remote Sensing and Land Change Science Laboratory


Ph.D. in Geography, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2007
M.S. in Environmental Monitoring, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, 1996
B.A. in American Studies, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., 1986

Curriculum Vitae

Download Curriculum Vitae


GR320, Cultural Geography

Independent studies: remote sensing, GIS, and international development