Michael Esbach

Postdoctoral Fellow, High Meadows Environmental Institute
M26 Guyot Hall
  • Ph.D. University of Florida, Interdisciplinary Ecology
  • B.A. University of Virginia, Sustainable Development

Michael Esbach is an interdisciplinary scientist with interests in Indigenous stewardship, relations of care, and conservation. Grounded in a respect for partnership with Indigenous peoples over the past decade, his research is focused on the ways in which communities utilize institutions and ecological knowledge to care for their lands and foster resilience in the face of change. Michael has worked with local communities, policymakers, and researchers in Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, the Solomon Islands, British Columbia, and Ecuador—collaborations that span the gamut of knowledge systems, livelihoods, political economies, and cultural contexts. In each of these settings, he worked to challenge colonial logics and practices, and support Indigenous social, environmental, and territorial movements for justice.

As a Postdoctoral Fellow with the High Meadows Environmental Institute, Michael continues his long-term partnership with the Cofán Nation in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Cofán health, well-being, and sovereignty are currently threatened by accelerating deforestation and degradation linked to resource extraction and urbanization surrounding their territories. Through an ethic of knowledge coexistence and complementarity in knowledge generation, Michael is working with Cofán colleagues to examine the mechanisms through which Cofán governance and stewardship foster resilience. This includes attention to the connections between Cofán knowledge, cultural values, institutions, and ecological change. This work aims to demonstrate the importance of diverse Indigenous values and approaches to stewardship, and inform the production of Planes de Vida, a pan-Amazonian participatory planning instrument for territorial governance.

Selected Publications