Assistant Professor, IRES
Assistant Professor, Psychology
Canada Research Chair (t2, Behavioral Sustainability)

What is psychology good for? How can psychology contribute to sustainability? To answer these questions, Dr. Zhao aims to use psychological principles to design behavioral solutions to address sustainability challenges. This approach offers insights on how cognitive mechanisms govern human behavior, and how behavioral interventions can inform the design and the implementation of public policy. Dr. Zhao is currently examining the cognitive causes and consequences of scarcity, what behavioral interventions improve the performance in low-income individuals, how to promote recycling and composting behavior, water and energy conservation, what cognitive, motivational, and sociocultural factors shape the perception of climate change, and how to engage the public on biodiversity conservation.

Google Scholar:

Ph.D Candidate


I am a Ph.D candidate in Dr. Mark Johsnon’s Ecohydro Lab working on the development and application of Water Footprint methods for agricultural products.

My research focuses on Water Footprint assessments within the context of agricultural expansion in Southern Amazonia. This work involves: (1) high frequency field measurements of crop water use using eddy covariance, (2) parameterization and validation of crop models for the region’s tropical conditions, and (3) translation of agricultural water use into environmental impacts on the water cycle.

My work contributes to the project “Integrating land use planning and water governance in Amazonia: towards improving freshwater security in the agricultural frontier of Mato Grosso” supported by the Belmont Forum in collaboration with the Tropical Agriculture Department of the Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso (UFMT, Cuiabá, Brazil), UBC’ s Faculty of Land and Food Systems, Woods Hole Research Centre, and the Université du Québec à Montréal’ s Department of Strategy, Social and Environmental Responsibility.

I hold an M.Sc. (Resource Management and Environmental Studies, 2011) and a B.Sc. (Chemistry, 2002) from the University of British Columbia. I am also actively involved in the Water Footprint community through the Water Footprint Research Alliance, ongoing participation in the Water Use in Life Cycle Assessment (WULCA) Ecosystems and Resources Working Groups, and FAO’s Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance (LEAP) Partnership.

Visit my website

Publications in Google Scholar

PhD Student
Liu Scholar
Four Year Fellowship Recipient
Slaymaker Awardee

I am a PhD student in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, working with Professors Navin Ramankutty and Milind Kandlikar. My interests lie in environmental sciences, sustainability, and judicious utilization of global water resources. For my doctoral research, I plan to analyze the triangular relationship between current agricultural practices, groundwater depletion, and climate change.

Prior to joining UBC, I completed my MASc in Civil Engineering at University of Toronto, where I examined biological filtration for drinking water treatment.

Ph.D. Student

Isaac Jonas is Ph.D. student with the Institute of the Oceans and Fisheries (IOF) at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He started off as a Research Assistant to Dr U. Rashid Sumaila through the FERU/OceanCanada of the IOF. He has been working on an OceanCanada Partnership project that involves designing a Sustainability Fisheries Insurance Fund (SIF) for the small pelagic fluctuating fish stock like the Peruvian anchoveta. Isaac holds a Master of Food and Resource Economics (MFRE) degree from UBC, where he graduated as a valedictorian and a MasterCard Foundation Scholarship holder. He earned his BSc honors degree in Economics from the University of Zimbabwe. On his spare time, he works with Impact Africa Trust, a Not-for Profit Organization (NGO) that he co-founded in 2015. The NGO does work in Zimbabwe to equip young farmers with 21st century skills. A global citizen, Isaac has spoken at various local and international forums, for example, the Skoll World Forum at the Said Business School, Oxford University and the UBC African Business Forum.

PhD Student, Liu Scholar

Rumi is a Ph.D. student in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES) at the University of British Columbia (UBC), focusing on behavioral psychology applied to conservation and natural resource management in tropical landscapes. She is also a Liu Scholar at the Liu Institute for Global Issues and a UBC’s Four Year Doctoral Fellowship recipient. Drawing on insights from cognitive psychology, her doctoral studies will investigate: 1) how land-users perceive conservation challenges differently and make subsequent land-use decisions; and 2) what interventions might facilitate desired behavioral change for sustainability.

Prior to starting her doctoral studies at UBC, Rumi worked with an Indonesia-based consulting firm, Starling Resources, as a senior project manager on a number of projects concerning collaborative land-use planning, forestry policies, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), ecosystem restoration, sustainable peatland management, agroecology, and community-based economic development. She holds a Master’s degree in International Affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University in New York, with a focus on Environmental Policy Studies for Southeast Asia.

In her spare time, she enjoys training capoeira, traveling, hiking, and pottery.

PhD Candidate

Myriam completed her engineering degree in fisheries and environment at the National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia (INAT) in 2013. Just after her graduation, she joined the Sea Around Us as an intern, working on the catch reconstructions of certain Mediterranean and Arab countries. In 2014 Myriam started her MSc program in Resource Management and Environmental Studies (RMES), specializing in Fisheries, under the supervision of Prof. Daniel Pauly. In 2016, she transferred to the Ph.D. program. She is currently completing her Ph.D., thesis which focuses on the marine ecosystems and fisheries management in data-poor countries, mainly countries of the Southern Mediterranean and the Arabian Peninsula region.