Dr. Cynthia S. Simmons


Dr. Cynthia Simmons

Associate Professor

Graduate Coordinator

Affiliate Faculty, Center for Latin American Studies (LATAM)


(352) 294-7511

Focus Areas

Areas of Specialization

  • Political Ecology
  • Economic Development & Environmental Policy
  • Agrarian Reform
  • Land Conflict
  • Social Processessimmons

Educational Background

  • PhD in Geography, Florida State University, 1999
  • M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning, Florida State University, 1995
  • M.A. in International Affairs, Latin American Studies, Florida State University, 1993
  • B.A. in Communications, Pre-Law, and Latin American Studies, Florida State University, 1990


Recent Courses

  • Human Environment Seminar – Graduate Level
  • Human Geography Seminar – Graduate Level
  • Advanced Readings in Human Geography – Space, Place, and Power – Graduate Level
  • Gender Justice and Environmental Change – Theory Seminar – Graduate Level
  • Geography of Development and Environment – Graduate and Undergraduate
  • Cultural Geography -Undergraduate
  • People and Environment Geography – Undergraduate
  • World Regional Geography – Undergraduate
  • Latin American Geography – Undergraduate

Current Graduate Students


Recent Graduate Students

  • Audrey Joslin (M.S., 2008, MSU)

In My Own Words

I identify myself as a human geographer whose research program addresses the interaction of economic development and environmental policy in Less Developed Countries (LDCs). I am especially interested in the social consequences of these interactions, and much of my current work examines agrarian reform and land conflict in the Brazilian Amazon. Although this part of the world has attracted much of my attention, given the importance of the Amazon basin to biogeochemical cycles and biodiversity, I have also conducted comparative research on forest management practices of indigenous and non-indigenous farmers in the Republic of Panama (Simmons 1997; Simmons et al. 2002a), and have engaged in cross-national studies examining economic development, urbanization, and sustainability in China, India, and the United States (Mills and Simmons 2001).

The conceptual lens for my research is derived primarily from a political economy approach. In particular, I focus attention on the manner in which social processes interact across a multiplicity of scales (i.e, individual, local, regional, national, global), and the impact these interactions have on local environments and social conditions. The theoretical underpinning of my work emphasizes the local, and considers the importance of Place as essential to understanding social and environmental problems. In an effort to examine the place-specific nature of these problems, the research strategy I employ combines both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, utilizing data and insight gained from field investigation involving household surveys and key informant interviews.

Recent Publications

Liu, J., Hull, V., Batistella, M., DeFries, R., Dietz, T., Fu, F., Hertel, T., Izaurralde, R.C., Lambin, E.F., Li, S., Martinelli, L. A., McConnell, W., Moran, E., Naylor, R., Ouyang, Z., Polenske, K., Reenberg, A., Rocha, G.M., Simmons, C. S., Verburg, P., Vitousek, P., Zhang, F. and C. Zhu. 2013. Framing Sustainability in a Telecoupled World. Ecology and Society 18(2). DOI: 10.5751/ES-05873-180226.

Aldrich, S., Walker, R., Simmons, C. S., Caldas, M., and S. Perz. 2012. Contentious Land Change in Amazônia’s Arc of Deforestation. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 102(1): 103-128.

Pereira, R. and C. S. Simmons. 2012. Determinants of Cattle Expansion in Agrarian Reform Areas in the Brazilian Amazon: A Case Study of the South of Para. Latin American and Caribbean Environmental Economics Program, Working Paper Series. WP 44 (November 2012): 1-35.

Walker, R., Simmons, C. S., Aldrich, S, Perz, S. and E. Arima. 2011. The Amazon Theater of Cruelty. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 101(5): 1156-1170.

Leite, F., Caldas, M. M., Simmons, C. S., Perz, S. G., Aldrich, S. P. and R. T. Walker. 2011. The Social Viability and Environmental Sustainability of Direct Action Land Reform Settlements in the Amazon. Environment, Development, and Sustainability 13(4): 773-788.

Perz, S. G., Simmons, C. S., Walker, R. T., Caldas, M. M., Leite, F. and S. Aldrich. 2010. Intraregional Migration, Direct Action Land Reform, and New Land Settlements in the Brazilian Amazon. Bulletin of Latin American Research 29(4): 459-476.

Caldas, M. M., Simmons, C. S., Walker, R. T., Perz, S. G., Aldrich, S., Pereira, R., Leite, F. and E. Arima. 2010. Settlement Formation and Land Cover and Land Use Change: A Case Study in the Brazilian Amazon. Journal of Latin American Geography 9(1): 125-144.

Simmons, C. S., Walker, R., Perz, S., Aldrich, S., Caldas, M., Pereira, R., Fernandes, C., and E. Arima. 2010. Doing it for themselves: Direct Action Land Reform in the Brazilian Amazon, World Development 38(3): 429-444.

Walker, R., Moore, N., Arima, E., Perz, S., Simmons, C. S., Caldas, M., Vergara, D., and C. Bohrer. 2009. Protecting Amazônia with Protected Areas, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(26): 10582–10586.

Walker, R. T., Browder, J.O., Arima, E., Simmons, C. S., Pereira, R., Caldas, M., Shirota, R., and S. Zen. 2009. Ranching and the new global range: Amazônia in the 21st century. Geoforum 40: 732-745.

Recent Research Funding

Collaborative Research: Contentious Land Change in the Eastern Amazon. Simmons, C. S. (MSU Principal Investigator). Co-PIs: Aldrich, S., Arima, E., Walker, R. T. National Science Foundation, Geography and Spatial Sciences Program. June 2012-2015. $157,529.

Globalization: Socio-economic, Political, and Environmental Interdependence. Simmons, C. S. (Project Leader, Lead Principal Investigator). Co-PIs: Aldrich, S. (Indiana State University), Schneider, H. (Federal University of Pará – UFPA), Almeida, G. (Federal University of Bahia – UFBA). US-Brazil Higher Education Consortia Program, jointly administered by U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), Brazilian Ministry of Education. August 2010 – July 2014. $493,000.

Tenure and Global Climate Change. Simmons, C. S. (Co-Principal Investigator). Co-PIs: Qi, J., McKeown, C., Kerr, J., Lu, D., Messina, J., Moran, E., Zulu, L., Maxwell, S., Schultink, G., Kassens Noor, E., Nejadhashemi, A. TETRA TECH INC/USAID. April 2013 – March 2017. $821,435, Partially allocated.

The Transamazon at 40: A Generation Comes of Age. Simmons, C. S. (Co-Principal Investigator). Co-PI: Walker, R.T. National Science Foundation. September 2010 – September 2011. $7,000.


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