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Thomas Smucker

Tom Smucker, portrait
Associate Professor & Graduate Chair of Geography
Lindley N264, Athens Campus
African Studies


Ph.D., Michigan State University, 2003


  • Environment and development
  • Rural livelihood systems
  • Food systems and food security
  • Adaptation to climate change
  • Environmental governance
  • African drylands

Dr. Smucker is a geographer who specializes in environment-development interactions in East Africa. His areas of teaching specialization include human geography, food systems and food security, the human dimensions of global environmental change, and theories of international development. A primary concern of his research has been to understand the interplay of local agency, local knowledge systems, and external political economy factors in shaping vulnerability and resilience of African dryland farming and herding-based livelihood systems to climatic variability and change. He has contributed to several NSF-funded interdisciplinary projects assessing social and institutional challenges of climate change adaptation in East Africa, including the East Africa Climate, People and Savannah Ecosystems Project (EACLIPSE) and the Local Knowledge and Climate Change Adaptation Project (LKCCAP). His recent research considers how devolutionary processes have shaped the prospects for deeper integration among climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and land restoration interventions under multi-level governance systems in East Africa. His research at the intersection of governance and livelihood change seeks to center non-climatic processes in our understanding of geographies of climate vulnerability. He mentors master’s level graduate students pursuing related questions, with recent students conducting field-based research in Ghana, the Gambia, Kenya, Tanzania, India, and Brazil. He served as a Contributing Author on the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability), contributing to a regional vulnerability synthesis based on the risk framework of AR6 that includes risk from climate responses and recognizes the interactions among the drivers of risk. He currently serves as Editor of the Research in International Studies, Africa Series from Ohio University Press.

Courses Taught

  • GEOG 1200: Human Geography
  • GEOG 3400/5400: Geographies of Development
  • GEOG 3410/5410: Geography of Hunger and Food Security
  • GEOG 3431: Global Issues in Environmental Geography
  • GEOG 6420: Theories of Development (cross-listed as INST 5400: Pro-Seminar in International Development)


Advising and Mentoring Award, Center for International Studies, 2021

Grasselli Brown Outstanding Teacher Award, College of Arts and Sciences, 2021

Representative Publications

Semwaza, F.* and Smucker, T. (Forthcoming). Social justice and the dynamics of land access and exclusion in Tanzania: From Ujamaa to neoliberalism. Handbook of Social Justice in the Global South, eds., Nikhil Deb, Manjusha Nair, and Glenn Muschert. Edward Elgar Publishers.

Ayanlade, A., Smucker, T., Nyasimi, M., Sterly, H., Weldemariam, L. F., & Simpson, N. P. (2023). Complex climate change risk and emerging directions for vulnerability research in Africa. Climate Risk Management, 100497.

Smucker, T., Oulu, M., and Nijbroek, R. 2020. Institutional Foundations for Convergence: Sub-National Collaboration at the Nexus of Disaster Risk Reduction, Climate Change Adaptation, and Land Restoration under Devolved Governance in Kenya. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 51: 101-116.

Smucker, T., and Wisner, B. (2020). Fishing for a future: Local institutions, aspirations, and agency in a complex climate adaptation system. Tanzania Journal of Development Studies, 18(1), 81-204. Available at:

Smucker, T., Wisner, B., and Maingi, S. 2020. NGOs and Natural Hazards Governance in Africa. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazards Science. Oxford University Press.  Available at: 9780199389407.001.0001/ acrefore-9780199389407-e-332  

Nijbroek R; Smucker T.; Oulu M. 2019. The CDR Nexus: Convergence of Climate Change Adaptation, Disaster Risk Reduction, and Land Restoration in Kajiado, Kitui, and Makueni Counties, Kenya. CIAT Policy Brief No. 46. International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). 6 p. Available at: 107739/CIAT_PB%2046%20CDR%20NEXUS.pdfk

Wangui, E. and Smucker, T. 2018. Gendered Constraints to Scaling Up: A Case Study of Spontaneous Adaptation in a Pastoralist Community in Mwanga District, Tanzania. Climate and Development 10(4): 369-376.

Velempini, K. Smucker, T, and Clem C. 2018. Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Variability and Change: Mapping and Assessment of Water Resource Management Challenges in the North Pare Highlands, Tanzania. African Geographical Review 37: 30-48.

Smucker, T, and Wangui, E. 2016. Gendered Local Knowledge and Adaptive Practices: Differentiation and Change in Mwanga District, Tanzania. Ambio 45(S3): 45(3), 276-286.

Iniesta-Arandia, I., Ravera, F., Buechler, S., Díaz-Reviriego, I., Fernández-Giménez, M., Reed, M., Thompson-Hall, M., Wilmer, H., Aregu, L., Cohen, P., Djoudi, H., Lawless, S., Martín-López, B., Smucker, T., Villamor, G., Wangui., E. 2016. A Synthesis of Convergent Reflections, Tensions and Silences in Linking Gender and Global Environmental Change Research. Ambio 45 (3 suppl.): 383–93.

Rai, P. and Smucker, T. 2016. Empowering through Entitlement? The Micropolitics of Food Access in Maharashtra State, India. Journal of Rural Studies 45: 260-269.

Asaka, J. and Smucker, T. 2016. Assessing the Role of Mobile Phone Communication in Drought-Related Mobility Patterns of Samburu Pastoralists. Journal of Arid Environments 128: 12-16.