Matthew Luskin

Sumatra headshot

I am a broadly trained ecologist working at the nexus of land use change, wildlife ecology, and ecosystem health and my dissertation focused on understanding indirect and cascading impacts Southeast Asia’s deforestation and palm oil crisis. My research program developed out of my long commitment to Southeast Asia and its people, having spent years living there over the last decade. This extended immersion fostered a depth of understanding, which in combination with early work on the direct impacts of palm oil, allowed me to turn my investigations towards the more complex and indirect pathways in which land use change and hunting affect ecosystem health and function. This ground-up approach also pushed me to be strongly question-driven and often taken me outside any one discipline. My projects have used an interdisciplinary approach and draw heavily from my early studies of both Economics and Geography, and I employ a range of methods including biophysical and ecological measurements, social science methods such as interviews and monitoring wildlife trade, as well as direct and indirect wildlife monitoring, such as tracking and remotely triggered camera traps. The main outcome of my dissertation is a forthcoming publication describing the cryptic degradation of protected forest in the region due to palm oil. I believe these findings will change our perceptions of, and approach to, conservation in the region, and my ongoing work continues to explore the cascading impacts of land use change on wildlife, food webs, and ecosystem health.

Full CV

Profile overview: 

Matthew Luskin is a wildlife ecologist and conservation biologist specializing in how land use change in Southeast Asia affects remaining forest ecosystems and food webs.


PhD Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

UC Berkeley (anticipated May 2016)

Dissertation: Cascading impacts of oil palm plantations on Southeast Asia’s remaining forests

Distinctions: Distinguished Graduate Student Lecture, 2015

BA Economics and Geography/Environmental Science

UCLA (2008)

Distinctions: magna cum laude, highest honors

Awards, Fellowships, and Grants

PI: National Geographic Society, the Committee for Research and Exploration

      * $13,000 initial (2013), $10,000 extension (2014)

Fulbright to Indonesia, U.S. Dept of State & the Indonesia Research Fellowship ($18,000)

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program  ($121,500, 2010-2015)

Philomathia ($40,000, awarded in 2014 and 2015)

PI: Columbus Zoo Conservation Grant ($5,000)

PI: ZGAP Species Conservation $2,500

PI: LA Zoo Conservation Grant ($2,100)

Notable experiences and skills

  • 30 months fieldwork experiencein Indonesia, Malaysia, Fiji, and Tahiti. Methods employed include: biophysical and ecological measurements; interviews; monitoring wildlife trade; direct and indirect wildlife monitoring; SMART patrol design; big data management; big data analysis.
  • Experienced user of R statistical software and multivariate statistical methods, including hierarchal modeling and solving models using maximum likelihood and Bayesian approaches, advanced regression approaches, and working with biodiversity-specific indexes and analyses.
  • Advanced occupancy and density estimation(solving with either Bayesian or max likelihood) and single and multi-species models for single or multiple seasons and/or sites and spatial capture recapture
  • 13 months project field manager in Sumatra: hired, trained, and managed three 12-person field teamsto conduct tiger camera trap program. Worked extensively with regional and local NGOs and national parks.
  • Other software: fluent in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, proficient in ArcGIS.
  •     Proficent in Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Malay, Spanish

Publications (links available here)


  1. Luskin, M.S., Christina, E.D., Kelley, L.C. & Potts, M.D. 2014. Modern hunting practices and wild meat trade in plantation landscapes of Sumatra, Indonesia.Human Ecology 42(1): 35:45.
  2. Luskin, M. S., & Potts, M.D. 2011. Microclimate and habitat heterogeneity through the oil lifecycle.Basic and Applied Ecology, 12, 540–551.
  3. Luskin, M.S. 2010. Flying foxes prefer to forage in farmland in a tropical dry forest landscape mosaic in Fiji.Biotropica, 42(2): 246–250.

In revision or awaiting final acceptance

  1. Harrison, R.D., Sreekar, R., Brodie, J.F., Brook, S.,Luskin, M.S., O’Kelley, H., Rao, M., Scheffers, B., & Velho, N. Impacts of hunting and wildlife trade on Asian tropical forests. Conservation Biology.
  2. Carlson, K, ,Gaskell, J.C., Bennett, E.M., Gibbs, H.K., Walker, N., DeFries, R., Garrett, R.D., Giam, X., Iles, A.,Luskin, M.S., Mandle, L., & C. Kremen. Agricultural supply chain structure and embodied ecosystem services. Ecology and Society.
  3. Luskin, MS., Ke, A., The bearded pig. In Melletti, M., & Meijaard, E. (Eds). Ecology, Evolution and Management of Wild Pigs and Peccaries. Implications for Conservation. Cambridge University Press (anticipated publication in 2016).
  4. Luskin, MS., Linkie, M., Meijaard, E., Ke, A. 2016.Sus barbatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: e.T41772A10559190. (invited contribution)

Other publications: 8. Lavelle, D., H.S. Sardiñas, E.J. Blitzer, K.Z. Weinbaum, M.S. Luskin & J.S. Brashares. 2011. Book review of Nature’s Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation and Food Sovereignty by I. Perfecto, J. Vandermeer, & A. Wright. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 86, 3, 220-221.

Manuscripts in preparation

Luskin, M.S., Gibson, L. & Potts, M.D. Assessing the empirical research on land sparing agricultural production strategies to conserve tropical forest biodiversity. Being resubmitted

Luskin, M.S., Sun, I.F., & Wright, S.J., Brashares, J.S., M.D. Potts. Apparent competition between palm oil and forest trees drives forest degradation.

Luskin, M.S., & Wright, S.J. Contingent impacts of hunting and agricultural subsidies on wildlife.

Luskin, M.S., Tobler, M., Linkie, M., Wibisono, H. Sumatran tiger occupancy and density does not track prey availability.

Luskin, M.S., Tobler., M., et al. early stages of prep. Island-wide occupancy mapping of Sumatra’s wildlife.

Teaching experience

Fall 2015 Graduate Student Instructor for “Conservation Biology” at UC Berkeley. Department of Integrative Biology; 75 students, Professor Steve Beissinger
 Spring 2015 Graduate Student Instructor for “Conservation Biology in Working Landscapes” at UC Berkeley. Department of ESPM; 30 students, Professor Claire Kremen
Fall 2012 Graduate Student Instructor for “Biology and Geomorphology of Tropical Islands” at UC Berkeley. This is a field-based class taught in French Polynesia (Moorea and Tahiti). The curriculum includes the fundamentals of field research, marine and terrestrial ecology, geomorphology, biodiversity sampling, invasion biology, animal behavior, and oceanography of reefs and islands.


Matthew Potts, Associate professor at UC Berkeley (510) 642-5580;
Thomas Gillespie, Associate professor at UCLA (310) 825-1818;
Claire Kremen, Professor at UC Berkeley (510) 643-6339;
Justin Brashares, Associate professor at UC Berkeley (510) 643-6080;

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