Tim Baird, PhD

Seeking new graduate students for projects on mobile phones, women's empowerment, and creative technologies for education.

I'm interested in the interactions between environmental conservation, economic development, and social change - in a word, sustainability. My research in rural Africa has examined how vulnerable communities are adapting to protected areas, engaging a globalizing world, and embracing new technologies. It is a great privilege to work with such welcoming and resilient families and communities.

I'm also interested in how social networks change, how engagement works, and how people respond to disruption. This work relates to scholarship in human-environment interactions, human ecology, resilience studies, and student-centered learning.

Creativity and Innovation District-horiz

Sep 2021 our team published a paper on women, agriculture, and phones in Tanzania in JGAFS

Aug 2021 great story about the opening of our Creativity and Innovation District

Jun 2021 excited about our new paper on phones and wrong numbers in Ecology and Society

Jun 2021 also excited about our story in theconversation.com about the paper  

Apr 2021 super class visits from Jennifer Russell (VT SBIO) & Cedric Shannon (Weathertop Farm)

Feb 2021 great zoom visit to Guy Grossman's political science class on ICT4D

Dec 2020 public lecture (zoom!) on wrong numbers in East Africa

Oct 2020 new paper on strategies for student-centered teaching online  

Sep 2020 humbled to serve as the inaugural faculty principal for the new CID LLP at VT  

Aug 2020 a great story on our work with women in Tanzania in the VT News

Aug 2020 our team published a paper on mobile phones in Tanzania in PLOS ONE

Jul 2020 our group published a new paper on Pink Time in the IJTLHE

May 2020 Kelly Summers published her thesis work in the Journal of Rural Studies 

Dec 2019 public lecture at the GSSC in Cologne on Dec. 11. 

Oct 2019 David Fox published his thesis work in Applied Geography.

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Peer-reviewed publications (*students)

Quandt, A., J.D. Salerno, T.D. Baird, J.T. McCabe, E. Xu, J.E. Herrick, J. Hartter (2021) Mobile phone use and agricultural impacts among female smallholder farmers in Tanzania. Journal of Gender, Agriculture and Food Security 6 (1) 43-54. (open access link)

Baird, T.D., J.T. McCabe, E. Woodhouse, I. Rumas, S. Sankeni, G.O. Saitoti (2021) Mobile phones and wrong numbers: how Maasai agro-pastoralists form and use accidental social ties in East Africa. Ecology and Society 26 (2) 41. (open access link) (public lecture)


Baird, T.D. (2021) Applying the Own it, Learn it, Share it framework to the flexible Pink Time assignment to scaffold student autonomy online or in person. Educational Technology Research and Development 69 (1) 105-108. (link) (view-only link)

Quandt, A., J.D. Salerno, J.C. Neff, T.D. Baird, J.E. Herrick, J.T. McCabe, E. Xu, J. Hartter (2020) Mobile phone use is associated with higher smallholder agricultural productivity in Tanzania, East Africa. PLOS ONE 15 (8) e0237337. (open access link

*Summers, K.H, T.D. Baird, E. Woodhouse, M.E. Christie, J.T. McCabe, F. Terta, N. Peter (2020) Mobile phones and women's empowerment in Maasai communities: How men shape women's social relations and access to phones. Journal of Rural Studies 77: 126-137. (open access link) (VT News)


Baird, T.D., D.J. Kniola, J. Hartter, K.A. Carlson, S. Rogers, D. Russell and J.C. Tise (2020) Adapting Pink Time to Promote Self-Regulated Learning Across Course and Student Types. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 32 (1) 49-63. (open access link)


*Fox, D.N., T.D. Baird, T.D., M.J. Stern, and S.P. Prisley (2019) Where mobile groups settle: spatial patterns and correlates of Maasai pastoralist sedentarization in northern Tanzania. Applied Geography 112: 102086. (link)


*Jensen, D., T.D. Baird, and G. Blank (2018) New Landscapes of Conflict: Land Use Competition at the Urban-Rural Fringe. Landscape Research 44 (4): 418-429. (link)

Santo, A., K. Guillozet, M.G. Sorice, T.D. Baird, S.A. Gray, C.J. Donlan and C.B. Anderson (2017) Examining private landowners' knowledge systems of invasive species. Human Ecology 45 (4): 449-462. (link)

Baird, T.D. and J. Hartter (2017) Livelihood diversification, mobile phones and information diversity in northern Tanzania. Land Use Policy 67: 460-471. (link) (vtnews.vt.edu)


Baird, T.D., B.C. Chaffin and D.J. Wrathall (2017) A Disturbance Innovation Hypothesis: Perspectives from Human and Physical Geography. The Geographical Journal 183 (2): 201-208. (link) (PDF)


*Lewis, A.L., T.D. Baird and M.G. Sorice (2016) Mobile phone use and human-wildlife conflict in northern Tanzania. Environmental Management 58 (1): 117-129. (link) (motherboard.com) (rewrite.com) (durablehuman.com)

Stern, M.J. and T.D. Baird (2015) Trust ecology and the resilience of natural resources institutions. Ecology and Society 29 (2): 14. (open access link) (wholeterrain.com)

Baird, T.D. (2015) Conservation implications of the diffusion of Christian religious ideals in rural Africa. Population and Environment 36 (4): 373-399. (link)

Baird, T.D. (2015) Comment on Who Helps and Why? Cooperative Networks in Mpimbwe by C. Kasper and M. Borgerhoff Mulder. Current Anthropology. 56 (5): 701-732. (link)


Baird, T.D., D.J. Kniola, A.L. Lewis* and S.B. Fowler (2015) Pink Time: Evidence of self regulated learning and academic motivation among undergraduate students. Journal of Geography 114 (4): 146-157. (link) (theubiquitouslibrarian.com)

MacKenzie, C.A., T.D. Baird, J. Hartter (2014) Use of Single Large or Several Small Policies as Strategies to Manage People-Park Interactions. Conservation Biology 28 (6): 1645-1656. (link

Baird, T.D. and C.L. Gray (2014) Livelihood Diversification and Shifting Social Networks of Exchange: A Social Network Transition? World Development 60: 14-30. (link) (research.vt.edu) (theconversation.com)

Baird, T.D. (2014) Conservation and Unscripted Development: Proximity to park associated with development and financial diversity. Ecology and Society 19 (1): 4. (open access link)

Baird, T.D. and P.W. Leslie (2013) Conservation as Disturbance: Upheaval and Livelihood Diversification near Tarangire National Park. Global Environmental Change 23 (5): 1131-1141. (link) (research.vt.edu)

Baird, T.D. (2013) Parks and Place Fragments: The Implications of Biodiversity Protection in Tanzania and Indiana. African Geographical Review 32 (1): 100-104. (link)

Baird, T.D., P.W. Leslie, and J.T. McCabe (2009) Effect of Conservation on Local Perceptions of Risk and Behavioral Response. Human Ecology 37 (4): 463-474. (link)

Miller, T.R., T.D. Baird, C. Littlefield, G.P. Kofinas, F.S. Chapin III, C.L. Redman (2008) Epistemological pluralism: Reorganizing interdisciplinary research. Ecology and Society 13 (2). (open access link)



Invited commentaries

Baird, T.D. (2015) Motivate the Future. Pedagogy in Practice. Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research, Virginia Tech, 2-4. (link)






External Grants

Pending: National Science Foundation, Human-Environment and Geographical Sciences (HEGS). Building Ecology: Examining Space-Place Dynamics in a Shared Indoor Environment. T. Baird (PI), N. Abaid, D. Franusich, T. Pingel, E. Tural. 


National Science Foundation, 2017-2022, Geography and Spatial Sciences Program (GSS) & Cultural Anthropology Program. SBE-RCUK: The effects of mobile phones on gendered social networks, decision making and vulnerability. T. Baird (PI), E. Woodhouse, J.T. McCabe, BCS-1660428. $330,034 (+ £40,051 from RCUK)


Steelcase, Inc., 2018-2020, Active Learning Center Grant: Integrating Social Science and Sensing Technologies to Examine Active Learning Environments. T. Baird (PI), D. Kniola, P. Tarazaga, B. Knapp, V. Thomas, R. Wynne, L. Fuller (approx. $67,000).

National Geographic Society, 2013-2014, Committee for Research and Exploration: Texting the Last Great Herds: Maasai Social Networks and Land Use in the Age of the Cell Phone. T. Baird (PI) and J. Hartter, CRE #9293-13. $17,720

Fulbright-Hays Fellowship, 2009-2010, U.S. Department of Education. Wildlife Conservation and the Role of Inter-household Exchange in Social-Ecological Resilience. $38,106.


National Science Foundation, 2009-2010, Doctoral Dissertation Research: Wildlife Conservation and the Role of Inter-household Exchange in Social-Ecological Resilience. P. Leslie (PI) and T. Baird, BCS-0927173. $12,000.

External Honors

2019  Design Award (Gold, Silver), European Product Design Awards (Kizingo design team)

2019  Design Award (Silver), 12th Annual IDA awards (Kizingo design team)

2013  Nystrom Dissertation Award (Finalist), AAG
2012  Student Paper Award, Cultural & Political Ecology Specialty Group, AAG
2012  Student Paper Award, Africa Specialty Group, AAG
2009  Dissertation Research Grant, AAG

Select Internal Honors 

2021  Favorite Faculty Award, Division of Student Affairs, Virginia Tech 

2018  XCaliber Award for exceptional, high-caliber contributions to technology-enriched teaching and learning, Office of the Provost, Virginia Tech

2017  Favorite Faculty Award, Division of Student Affairs, Virginia Tech 




Some of my thoughts on education can be found here (2015) and here (2020).

What I teach

Seeking Sustainability I: GEOG 1115 / Every fall / syllabus / general education media
Seeking Sustainability II: GEOG 1116 / Every spring / syllabus
Africa Together: GEOG 4984 / Spring 2021 / syllabus

Human-Environment Interactions: GEOG 5984 (Grad class) / Spring 2022 / syllabus

Pink Time

Pink Time is a radical assignment to

promote course engagement and

learning. Check out our website

... or my talk on Pink Time.

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the BUILD Project (Boosting University Infrastructure for Learning + Discovery)

With support from Steelcase, Inc. and several groups at Virginia Tech (ICAT, ISCE, CNRE, CLAHS, SOE), our team has been experimenting to strategies from engineering and the social sciences to examine patterns of movement in formal and informal learning environments (e.g., classrooms, labs, study lounges, etc.) and how these patterns are related to student engagement and collaboration. These videos show preliminary analysis of  "students and faculty" in an active learning computer lab. (OpenPose video (left) created by David Franusich, ICAT).

the Pathways to Sustainability Minor

Hey students! In the podcast below, I discuss some of my strategies for teaching GenEd courses and design of our interdisciplinary Pathways to Sustainability Minor.

Seeking Sustainability - a course design story by the Active Learning Curation Program


In 2017, Alice Rogers, who was the manager of the ALCP at VT, created this wonderful video exhibit of my Seeking Sustainability class. The goal of the project was to examine how active learning is working in VT's new classroom building. I'm so grateful for the work that she did to look carefully at our class and tell a thoughtful and engaging story. Check out her work:



Prospective Students

I am actively looking for qualified and enthusiastic new students to start in the fall of 2021. Currently my projects involve: (1) gendered social networks and mobile phones in northern Tanzania (yes - the pics on the site); and (2) digital strategies to examine education spaces in North America (see the BUILD project above). If you are interested in working with me, or simply discussing the prospect of graduate school at Virginia Tech, please contact me by email with your interests and CV and we can set up a time to talk.

Current Students

Geoffrey Otieno, Kenyatta University, Kenya (BA), changing Maasai social networks and patterns of reciprocity.

Mark Villarreal, James Madison University (BA), human-building interactions & intelligent infrastructure in campus settings.

Former Students

Kelly Summers (MS), mobile phones and women's empowerment in East Africa. Current position with the Environmental Protection Agency.

David Fox (MS), spatial patterns of pastoralist settlement in East Africa. Current position with the Vermont Center for Geographic Information.

Ashley Lewis (MS), mobile phones and human-wildlife conflict in East Africa. Current positions with the Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad and the National Awareness Tracking School.



Other Press

I ate locally for a year in 2008 and blogged about it for The Splendid Table on American Public Media. Check out my interview below (beginning around 21:20).

the Splendid Table - American Public Media