Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology

Institutional Affiliation 

Department of Anthropology, Colorado State University.


BA Georgetown University; MS University of Wisconsin - Madison; Ph.D. University of Copenhagen

Regional and Thematic Interests

Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand);  Land-Use/Land-Cover Change; International Development 


My research is focused in the field of land change science investigating the drivers of land-use and land-cover changes, as well as livelihood systems changes, in rural, urban, and peri-urban areas of Southeast Asia.  I have worked in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Northeast Thailand since 1997, as well as carried out  land-use / land-cover change and livelihood systems change research on the islands of Lombok, Flores, and Sumba in Indonesia. Through the use of remote sensing data (e.g. current and historical satellite imagery and aerial photographs, LiDAR and RADAR),  fieldwork, and GIS tools and spatial analysis techniques, I investigate the human-environment interactions that lead to land-use and ultimately land-cover changes over local and regional landscapes. 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, and recently have started to investigate telecoupled drivers of changes in the region. My most recent projects have focused on the role that new transportation corridors have in the development process and on the way land-use and land-cover is changing in the region. 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 remote sensing and GIS resources that are housed in the laboratory and with. 

Selected Publication

Nguyen, Hai-Hoa, Clive McAlpine, David Pullar, Stephen Joseph Leisz, Gramotnev Galina (2015) Drivers of Coastal Shoreline Change: Case Study of Hon Dat Coast, Kien, Giang, Vietnam. Environmental Management 55:1093-1108.

Leisz, Stephen J., Michael Schultz Rasmussen. Mapping fallow lands in Vietnam’s north central mountains using yearly Landsat imagery and a land-cover succession model. International Journal of Remote Sensing (accepted July 2011).

Fisher, Christopher, Stephen Leisz, Gary Outlaw (2011) Lidar – A valuable tool uncovers an ancient city in Mexico. Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing 77(10):962-967.

Ziegler, AD, JM Fox, Webb, EL, C Padoch, S Leisz, RA Cramb, O Mertz, TT Bruun, Tran Duc Vien (2011) Recognizing contemporary roles of swidden agriculture in transforming landscapes of Southeast Asia. Conservation Biology (published on-line March 2011).

Leisz, Stephen J. (2009) Dynamics of Land Cover and Land Use Changes in the Upper Ca River Basin of Nghe An, Vietnam. Southeast Asian Studies 47(3): 285 – 306.

Leisz, Stephen J. (2009) Land Use Changes in the Uplands of Southeast Asia: Proximate and Distant Causes. Southeast Asian Studies 47(3).

Truong, Dao Minh, Kono Yasuyuki, Yanagisawa Masayuki, Stephen J. Leisz, Kobayashi Shigeo (2009) Linkage of Forest Policies and Programs with Land Cover and Land Use Changes in the Northern Mountain Region of Vietnam: A Village-level Case Study. Southeast Asian Studies 47(3).

Mertz, Ole, Stephen J Leisz, Andreas Heinimann, Kanok Rerkasem, Thiha Thiha, Wolfram Dressler, Van Cu Pham, Kim Chi Vu, Dietrich Schmidt-Vogt, Carol C.J.P. Colfer, Michael, Epprecht, Christine Padoch (2009) Demography of Swidden Cultivators in VII – 3 Southeast Asia. Human Ecology 37(3): 269-280.

Schmidt-Vogt, Dietrich, Stephen J. Leisz, Ole Mertz, Andreas Heinimann, Thiha Thiha, Peter Messerli, Michael Epprecht, Pham V Cu, Vu K Chi, Martin Hardiono, Dao M Truong (2009) An Assessment of Trends in the Extent of Swidden in Southeast Asia. Human Ecology 37(3): 281-290.

Mertz, Ole, Christine Padoch, Jefferson Fox, Robert Cramb, Stephen J. Leisz, Nguyen Thanh Lam, Tran Duc Vien (2009) Swidden Changes in Southeast Asia; Understanding Causes and Consequences. Human Ecology 37(3): 259-264.

Leisz, Stephen J., Kjeld Rasmussen, Jorgen E. Olesen, Tran Duc Vien, Bo Elberling, Jens Jacobsen, Lars, Christiansen (2007) The impacts of local farming system development trajectories on greenhouse gas emissions in the northern mountains of Vietnam. Regional Environmental Change 7(4): 187-208.

Ziegler, Alan D., Thomas W. Giambelluca, Don Plondke, Stephen Leisz, Liem T. Tran, Jefferson Fox, Michael A. Nullet, John B. Vogler, Dao Minh Truong, Tran Duc Vien (2007) Hydrological consequences of landscape fragmentation in mountainous northern Vietnam: Buffering of Hortonian overland flow. Journal of Hydrology 337(1-2): 52-67.

Padoch, Christine, Kevin Coffey, Ole Mertz, Stephen J. Leisz, Jefferson Fox, Reed L. Wadley (2007) The Demise of Swidden in Southeast Asia? Local Realities and Regional Ambiguities. Danish Journal of Geography 107(10): 29-42.

Jakobsen, Jens, Kjeld Rasmussen, Stephen Leisz, Rikke Folving, and Nguyen Vinh Quang (2007) The effects of land tenure policy on rural livelihoods and food sufficiency in the upland village of Que, north central Vietnam. Agricultural Systems 94(2): 309-319.

Jepsen, Martin R., Stephen J. Leisz, Kjeld Rasmussen, Jens Jakobsen, Lasse Moller-Jensen and Lars Christiansen (2006) Agent-based modeling of shifting cultivation field patterns, Vietnam. International Journal of Geographical Information Science 20(9): 1067-1085.

Tran Duc Vien, Stephen J. Leisz, Nguyen Thanh Lam, A. Terry Rambo (2006) Using Traditional Swidden Agriculture to Enhance Rural Livelihoods in Vietnam’s Uplands. Mountain Research and Development 26(3): 192-196.

Leisz, Stephen J., Nguyen thi Thu Ha, Nguyen thi Bich Yen, Nguyen Thanh Lam, Tran Duc Vien (2005) Developing a methodology for identifying, mapping and potentially monitoring the distribution of general farming system types in Vietnam’s northern mountain region. Agricultural Systems 85: 340-363.

Xu Jianchu, Jefferson Fox, John B. Vogler, Zhang Peifang, Fu Yongshou, Yang Lixin, Stephen J. Leisz (2005) Land-use and land cover change and farmer vulnerability in Xishuangbanna prefecture in southwestern China. Environmental Management 36 (3):404-413.

Fox, Jefferson, Dao Minh Truong, A. Terry Rambo, Nghiem Phuong Tuyen, Le Trong Cuc, and Stephen Leisz (2000) Shifting Cultivation: A New Paradigm for Managing Tropical Forests. BioScience 50(6): 521-528.

Xiu Jianchu, Jefferson Fox, Lu Xing, Nancy Podger, Stephen Leisz, and Ai Xihui (1999) Effects of Swidden Cultivation, State Policies, and Customary Institutions on Land Cover in a Hani Village, Yunnan, China. Mountain Research and Development 19(2): 123-132.

Leisz, Stephen and James Gage (1995) Suggestions for Development/Conservation Research Needs in Madagascar. Society and Natural Resources 9(1): 97-100.