Brent Loken

Study program:
Ph.D. Resource and Environmental Management
Current affiliation:
Executive Director, Integrated Conservation; Visiting scholar, Stockholm Resilience Centre

Brent studies the interplay of social, ecological and economic factors in the conservation of clouded leopards in East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Brent Loken, a 2011 Trudeau scholar and interdisciplinary scientist, has been working to protect Borneo's forests since 2009. He is the executive director and co-founder of Integrated Conservation, an NGO; is active with the Resilience Alliance; and is a visiting scholar at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Loken is currently researching the integration of sustainability science and resilience thinking into conservation planning and the role of NGOs, power and politics in conservation. His research has focused on developing new techniques for estimating clouded leopard and orangutan densities, investigating orangutan terrestriality, and evaluating the impact of logging on mammal diversity.


Doctoral research


The interplay of social, ecological and economic factors in the conservation of clouded leopards in East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Brent doctoral research will explore the concepts of sustainability and resilience in two indigenous Dayak communities in East Kalimantan, Borneo. Resilience is capturing interest across academic, policy and popular debate as people seek to keep social-ecological systems within desirable configurations that continue delivering ecosystem goods and services. Brent will conduct one of the first resilience analyses on the biologically and culturally rich island of Borneo. Using Elinor Ostrom's framework for analyzing the sustainability of social-ecological systems, Brent will work to diagnose combinations of variables that lead to sustainable and productive use of resources and combinations that tend to lead to resource collapses. Additionally, Brent will investigate how the topology of social networks influences how various stakeholders come together to deal with natural resource problems. Brent's research will be one of the early case studies to specifically use network analysis to assess variables from Ostrom's framework.

Brent Loken grew up in a small rural community in Iowa wandering the marshes, creeks and woodlots near his home. It was during these excursions that he developed a passion for wildlife and began pursuing a career as a conservation biologist. As an undergraduate at Augustana College, Brent researched waterfowl in Michigan, schistosome dermatitis in Montana and Big Horn sheep in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. But the world beckoned and a short diversion from his career as a conservation biologist turned into fifteen rewarding years as a science teacher and administrator, working in schools in Syria, Pakistan, Bolivia, Alaska, Tanzania and Taiwan.

As one of the founding administrators at a new expeditionary learning school in Taiwan, Brent was responsible for designing and helping to implement a vision of education nearly unique in that region of the world.  The success of designing and implementing a school from the ground up gave Brent the experience and confidence to create a conservation NGO that integrates leading sustainability science research and the traditional ecological knowledge of local people to build sustainable and resilient social-ecological systems.

Brent is currently collaborating with the Wehea Dayak people in East Kalimantan, Borneo, to help protect one of the largest primary forests and intact orangutan populations in East Kalimantan. To date, he has helped to organize a biodiversity and ethnoecological study in Wehea, implemented a ranger training program, designed an environmental and cultural rediscovery center and is helping the Wehea community to document their culture and traditions.

Through Brent's work internationally, he has become interested in the factors that lead to self-organizing and sustainable use of resources in some communities and unsustainable resource use in others. Brent's doctoral work at Simon Fraser University will help him better understand the configuration of variables that lead to resilient and sustainable outcomes. Ultimately, Brent hopes his research will help pave the way for new approaches to conservation planning and policy and that information learned from this study can be applied to other regions of the world characterized by complex problems in conservation and development featuring fragmented "wild" biota, indigenous peoples, and emerging local governance.

  • February 21, 2019
    This article was authored by Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation 2011 Scholar Brent Loken, who recently co-authored a report for the EAT–Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health about healthy eating and sustainable food systems at the global level.