Danica Schaffer-Smith
Postdoctoral Research Associate
NatureNet Science Fellow


PhD, Duke University, 2018
MESM, University of California-Santa Barbara, 2010
BS, The University of Redlands, 2006


Danica is a Landscape Ecologist with technical expertise in remote sensing and geospatial analysis. Her previous research has spanned a variety of topics, including modeling the spread of wind-driven fires, assessing habitat connectivity for endangered species, analyzing global tropical deforestation dynamics, and exploring methods to quantify linkages between coupled social-ecological systems. Her dissertation work, in collaboration with Point Blue Conservation Science and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, characterized the extent and variability of surface water at important shorebird migration stopover sites in California, and assessed how shorebirds have responded to landscape habitat fluctuations.

Currently, Danica is working with the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes and The Nature Conservancy North Carolina to investigate how extreme events ranging droughts to hurricanes impact water quality and the role of nature-based solutions in making floodplains more resilient to extremes. This involves 1) assessing nutrient pollution risks from both urban sources and intensified agriculture, such as concentrated animal feeding operations, and 2) determining the priority locations for interventions to reduce flooding impacts and improve water quality. Danica is additionally engaged in the Sustainable Rivers Program, a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which aims to modify infrastructure operations to achieve ecological benefits downstream.

Headshot of postdoctoral fellow Gwen IaconaGwen Iacona
Postdoctoral Research Associate

PhD, University of Tennessee
MS, University of Florida




Dr. Gwen Iacona is an applied conservation scientist who uses quantitative and empirical approaches to understand how biodiversity outcomes can be improved by better decision making. Her current work aims to improve endangered species recovery by better understanding the risks and costs associated with recovery planning. Gwen specializes in using theoretical tools to study how the costs of conservation interventions influence the choice of actions and the resulting outcomes for conservation agencies. Past projects include predicting invasive plant cover, modelling protected area effectiveness, and prioritizing conservation action. Gwen currently is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes at Arizona State University where she is working with Professor Leah Gerber. She has a PhD from the University of Tennessee, where she studied with Professor Paul Armsworth, and an MS from the University of Florida.

Postdoctoral fellow Krista KemppinenKrista Kemppinen
ASU-Conservation International Postdoctoral Fellow

PhD, University of Cambridge, 2017
BA (Hons), University of Cambridge, 2011



Krista Kemppinen is an ASU-CI postdoctoral fellow working on the role of nature in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Her research articulates and quantifies the degree of dependence of the SDGs and associated targets on natural capital, and investigates the trade-offs between individual goals and targets. Through this research, Kemppinen aims to inform national and global scale policy interventions.

Prior to coming to ASU, Kemppinen was a PhD candidate, and before this an undergraduate student, at the University of Cambridge. The focus of her PhD thesis was to investigate the causes of past atmospheric CO2 fluctuations by designing and executing Earth System Model experiments on the Cambridge HPC Cluster, conducting statistical analyses of the model outputs, evaluating these against observations, and building computationally cheap model surrogates. For her Bachelor’s, Kemppinen specialised in the environmental science disciplines as well as conservation and sustainable development.

Kemppinen has worked in different countries and sectors, including:  the Indian Himalayas, where she looked at the impact  of measures introduced to reduce water scarcity and achieve energy security; Southern Italy, where she investigated volcanic aerosol emissions; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute in Helsinki, where she worked on ocean methane emissions. Kemppinen has native proficiency in English, French, Spanish and Finnish.

In her spare time, Kemppinen is a Carbon Pricing Evaluation Support Fellow for MIT’s Climate CoLab. She is also passionate about science communication and facilitating the exchange of scientific information. Organisations she has previously volunteered with include the Cambridge Climate and Sustainability Forum, the Wolfson Research Event and a new UK-based social networking start up aiming to advance scientific collaborations.