ND-ECI Seminar: Colleen Scanlan Lyons


Location: 207 DeBartolo Hall

Scanlan Lyons Running After Cover

Please join the Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative for an in-person seminar presented by Colleen Scanlan Lyons, Associate Research Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Her talk with focus on "Living Alongside: Activism, Agency, and Infrastructure Development in a Hotspot of Cultural and Biodiversity—Southern Bahia Brazil."

Abstract: With some of the last remaining intact Atlantic Forest in the vast country of Brazil, Southern Bahia, has long been famous as both a global biodiversity “hotspot” and a region with a rich historical and cultural heritage. But today, however, this place is also known for something else—a large-scale railroad and port development project, Porto Sul, has made it the site of one of the largest infrastructure development projects in Latin America. As social-environmental leaders defend forest conservation, family farmers seek to earn their livings in one the formerly richest cacao zones in Brazil, and quilombolas (descendants of formerly enslaved people) struggle for visibility and livelihood options in the face of climate disasters, Porto Sul quietly looms large.

This talk examines entrenched and emerging forms of activism, and the ways in which these forces "live alongside" each other and Porto Sul. It furthers the findings of a recently published monograph, Running After Paradise: Hope, Survival, and Activism in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest (University of Arizona Press 2022, available in English and in Portuguese in Spring 2024) explores timely and transversal questions: How are the people in this biodiversity hotspot resisting, aligning, and grappling with their rootedness in place, particularly when their place is changing? How does activist engagement endure and change over time? How can we, as scholars, observers, and activists accompany the complex struggles and lives of those on the frontlines of complex social-environmental dilemmas around the world?

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Bio: Colleen Scanlan Lyons is an environmental anthropologist with decades of experience building and strengthening international networks and bridging social, economic, and environmental interests to promote forest conservation and sustainable development. The mission of her work is to connect social-environmental leaders in the global North and South to promote tropical forest conservation with tangible benefits for people and place.

As Project Director with the Governors' Climate and Forests Task Force—the world’s largest subnational governmental network for forest conservation and low emissions development—Colleen works closely with governments, conservation practitioners, Indigenous and local community level leaders, NGOs and the international donor community.

Colleen is also an Associate Research Professor with the Environment and Society Program at the University of Colorado’s (CU) Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS), and has recently begun serving as the Director of IBS’s Center for the Governance of Natural Resources. At CU, she teaches graduate courses on stakeholder engagement, a field course on integrated conservation and development in Brazil’s Amazon and Atlantic Forests (which unites students and professors from CU and two Brazilian universities), mentors students, and conducts research on people and conservation, social-environmetnal leadership, and environmental governance.

She has just completed a book on social movements in the global biodiversity hotspot of Southern Bahia, Brazil: Running After Paradise: Hope, Survival, and Activism in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest (University of Arizona Press, 2022).

Colleen’s husband, Jeff, and her children Max (24), Ella (21) and Maya (18), inspire, support, and bring joy to her life each and every day. Learn more about Colleen at