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Tim Baird, PhD


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.




GIF by Mary Arevalo, VT '23

Video by Hanbury

Music: Bosenga by Orchéstre Baka de Gbiné

July 2024 pleased to share our new paper on Maasai women's empowerment in the Journal of Rural Studies

May 2024 grateful for Ashley Falat's VT News story of the intersections of my teaching and research

May 2024 so proud of Shashank Karki and Addison Flack on their successful thesis defenses

Dec 2023 enjoyed discussing CID with Sarah McConnell on With Good Reason radio show

Oct 2023 super story by lidar sensor company, Blickfeld, about our Building Ecology project

Sep 2023 thrilled Pink Time is highlighted in the Chronicle of Higher Education as an antidote to ChatGPT (pdf)

Sep 2023 great to present our Building Ecology research to architecture and design firm, Hanbury

Sep 2023 loved welcoming the 2024 inaugural fellows of the VT Institute for Leadership in Technology to the CID

Sept 2023 new publication in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability on Inclusive Conservation

Jul 2023 great ESRI storymap for MS student Addison Flack describing his indoor geography project

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Peer-reviewed publications (*students)

Baird, TD (In press) Pastoralist livelihood diversification and social network transitions: A conceptual framework. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 

Baird, TD, E Woodhouse, JT McCabe, P Barnes, F Terta, N Runda (2024) New pathways for women's empowerment in pastoralist Maasai households, Tanzania. Journal of Rural Studies 109: 103333. (link)

Chaplin-Kramer, R, R Neugarten, D Gonzales-Jimenez, G Ahmadia, TD Baird, N Crane, E Delgoulet, H Eyster, N Kurashima, JC Llopis, A Millington, A Pawlowska-Mainville, J Rulmal, F Saunders, S Shrestha, M Vaughan, K Winter, S Wongbusarakum, U Pascual (2023) Transformation for inclusive conservation: Evidence on values, decisions, and impacts in protected areas. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 64: 101347. (open access link)

Baird, TD (2023) Vignette in The Faculty Factor: Developing Faculty Engagement with Living-Learning Communities  by (eds) JE Eidum and LL Lomicka. Stylus Publishing LLC (pp 34-35). (link) (pdf)

Baird, TD, JT McCabe, E Woodhouse (2022) Case study 4 Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. (2022) IPBES Values Assessment Chapter 4 - Literature & case study review on outcomes in protected areas and indigenous and community conserved areas (ICCAs). (open access link) (pdf)
Barton, DN, R Chaplin-Kramer, E Lazos, M Van Noordwijk, S Engel, A Girvan, T Hahn, B Leimona, S Lele, A Niamir, B Özkaynak, A Pawlowska-Mainville, R Muradian, P Ungar, C Aydin, P Iranah, S Nelson, M Cantú-Fernández, D González-Jiménez, and Contributing Authors (2022) Chapter 4: Value expression in decision-making. In: Methodological Assessment Report on the Diverse Values and Valuation of Nature of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Balvanera, P., Pascual, U., Christie, M., Baptiste, B., and González-Jiménez, D. (eds). IPBES secretariat, Bonn, Germany. (open access link) (pdf)

Lee, E and TD Baird (2021) Roles of Autonomous Motivation, Individualism, and Instructor Support in Student-Centered Learning in South Korea and the United States. Educational Technology International 22 (2) 285-309. (open access link) (pdf) (the Chronicle of Higher Education)
Quandt, A, JD Salerno, TD Baird, JT McCabe, E Xu, JE 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, TD, JT McCabe, E Woodhouse, I Rumas, S Sankeni, GO 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, TD (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) (the Chronicle of Higher Education)

Quandt, A, JD Salerno, JC Neff, TD Baird, JE Herrick, JT 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, KH, TD Baird, E Woodhouse, ME Christie, JT 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, TD, DJ Kniola, J Hartter, KA Carlson, S Rogers, D Russell and JC 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) (the Chronicle of Higher Education)
*Fox, DN, TD Baird, MJ Stern, and SP Prisley (2019) Where mobile groups settle: spatial patterns and correlates of Maasai pastoralist sedentarization in northern Tanzania. Applied Geography 112: 102086. (link)
*Jensen, D, TD 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, MG Sorice, TD Baird, SA Gray, CJ Donlan and CB Anderson (2017) Examining private landowners' knowledge systems of invasive species. Human Ecology 45 (4): 449-462. (link)

Baird, TD and J Hartter (2017) Livelihood diversification, mobile phones and information diversity in northern Tanzania. Land Use Policy 67: 460-471. (link) ( (
Baird, TD, BC Chaffin and DJ Wrathall (2017) A Disturbance Innovation Hypothesis: Perspectives from Human and Physical Geography. The Geographical Journal 183 (2): 201-208. (link) (pdf)
*Lewis, AL, TD Baird and MG Sorice (2016) Mobile phone use and human-wildlife conflict in northern Tanzania. Environmental Management 58 (1): 117-129. (link) ( ( ( (

Stern, MJ and TD Baird (2015) Trust ecology and the resilience of natural resources institutions. Ecology and Society 29 (2): 14. (open access link) (

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

Baird, TD (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, TD, DJ Kniola, AL Lewis* and SB Fowler (2015) Pink Time: Evidence of self regulated learning and academic motivation among undergraduate students. Journal of Geography 114 (4): 146-157. (link) (the Chronicle of Higher Education)

MacKenzie, CA, TD 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, TD and CL Gray (2014) Livelihood Diversification and Shifting Social Networks of Exchange: A Social Network Transition? World Development 60: 14-30. (link) ( (

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

Baird, TD and PW Leslie (2013) Conservation as Disturbance: Upheaval and Livelihood Diversification near Tarangire National Park. Global Environmental Change 23 (5): 1131-1141. (link) (

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

Baird, TD, PW Leslie, and JT McCabe (2009) Effect of Conservation on Local Perceptions of Risk and Behavioral Response. Human Ecology 37 (4): 463-474. (link)

Miller, TR, TD Baird, C Littlefield, GP Kofinas, FS Chapin III, CL Redman (2008) Epistemological pluralism: Reorganizing interdisciplinary research. Ecology and Society 13 (2). (open access link)
Invited commentaries

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



External Grants

National Science Foundation, 2022-2026, 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, T. Upthegrove, D. Kniola, BCS-2149229. $349,703


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 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)

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 

2022  Alumni Award for Excellence in International Education, Office of the Provost, Virginia Tech

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

2018  XCaliber Award, Office of the Provost, Virginia Tech

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

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Drawing by Alice Rogers



Some thoughts on education from 2015 and 2020.

My Courses

Seeking Sustainability I (GEOG 1115) each fall, syllabus 
Seeking Sustainability II (GEOG 1116) each spring, syllabus
Africa Together (GEOG 3214) Spring 2024, syllabus

Seeking Sustainability - 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:

The Pink Time Assignment

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 Pathways to Sustainability Minor

In the podcast below, I discuss strategies for teaching GenEd courses and the design of our interdisciplinary Pathways to Sustainability Minor. Also, check out our video below.

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Living & Learning


The Creativity and Innovation District

Living Learning Program

I'm proud to serve as the inaugural Faculty Principal of the CID. Our community includes three Living Learning Communities (Rhizome, Studio 72, and Innovate) as well as student athletes. I live with my family in our spectacular residence hall which includes a maker space, teaching studios, a rehearsal and performance hall, an outdoor classroom, and many informal lounges. These videos and podcasts tell some of our story.

GIF by Mary Arevalo, VT '23

Video by Maxwell Mandell, VT '25

Video by Maxwell Mandell, VT '25

2023 Interview with Sarah McConnell starts at 15:08

2022 Hokie Talk Podcast by Aziz Malouche, VT '24

The BUILD Research Project

(Boosting University Infrastructure for Learning + Discovery)

Our team is experimenting with 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. We're grateful for support from NSF, Steelcase Inc. and groups at Virginia Tech (ICAT, ISCE, CLAHS, SOE).

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Photo by Kadra Tedrick

The video below is part of our new Building Ecology project sponsored by the National Science Foundation to examine space/place dynamics in a shared indoor environment. They are renders of point cloud data from lidar sensors. (Video created by Co-PI Dr. Tom Pingel.) (VT News)

These videos show preliminary analysis of  people in an active learning spaces. (OpenPose video created by David Franusich, ICAT).

Sensing arts exhibit space with accelerometers and computer vision.

Students in active learning computer lab. With support from Steelcase, Inc.


Photo by Jamie Penven




Current Students

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Shashank Karki (MS) tracking human movement indoors using terrestrial lidar

BE, Kathmandu University

Co-advised with Dr. Tom Pingel, Binghamton University

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Addison Flack (MS) using lidar to examine human occupancy and collisions within a shared indoor environment

BS, Virginia Tech

Co-advising with Dr. Tom Pingel, Binghamton University

Former Students

Prospective Students

I am actively looking for qualified and enthusiastic new students to start in the fall of 2025. 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.

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Mark Villarreal (MS) human-building interactions & intelligent infrastructure in campus settings

BS, James Madison University 

Currently: Burns and McDonnell

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Kelly Summers (MS) mobile phones and women's empowerment in East Africa pastoralists

BA, Virginia Tech

Currently: Environmental Protection Agency

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David Fox (MS) spatial patterns of pastoralist settlement in East Africa

BA, University of Michigan

Currently: The Nature Conservancy

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Ashley Lewis (MS) mobile phones and human-wildlife conflict among East Africa pastoralists

BA, Virginia Tech

Currently: Virginia Department of Emergency Management

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