Jennifer Olson is interested in the interaction between changes in the environment and society. Understanding the causes of environmental trends and how they affect society leads to important policy implications from the national to the international level, and she regularly works with policy makers, United Nations officials and others to develop effective methods of communicating science results. Research topics that she has focused on include the socioeconomic causes of land degradation, the effects of environmental change on human health, the interaction between land use and climate change, and the impacts of land use change on biodiversity.
Jennifer has over fifteen years of living and working experience in Africa, including research in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda funded by NSF, UNEP, GEF, CIESIN/NASA, USAID and others, and as a Peace Corps and a U.N. volunteer in rural Burkina Faso, Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic. She conducted her Masters and PhD research in Rwanda. She is the currently the leader of the land use change component and manager of a NSF project, “An Integrated Analysis of Regional Land-Climate Interactions in East Africa”, and will play a similar leadership role in a new NSF project, “Dynamic Interactions among People, Livestock, and Savanna Ecosystems under Climate Change.” In addition, she leads a team of medical, natural and social scientists in a health-environment initiative, "Impacts of climate and land use change on emerging human and livestock diseases in East Africa."