Juan’s research questions are oriented to understanding critical transitions: from regime shifts in ecological systems, to collective action in society. Currently he is focusing on the idea of cascading effects, or teleconnections, and how a critical transition in an ecosystem in the world can increase or decrease the likelihood of another ecosystem tipping over. He is developing mathematical models to explore the parameter space at which these transitions could be plausible (at Princeton University). He is also looking for empirical signatures of cascading effects on trade networks (at Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and rainfall transport dynamics (at Stockholm University). Juan is also interested in methods for identifying resilience surrogates, or good observables that can tell you how resilient a system is; as well as misperception of feedbacks and their consequences (e.g. poor governance strategies, conflicts, poverty & rigidity traps or market failures). He finds inspiration in complex systems science, and the use of mathematical models, networks and other computational methods to understand social and ecological complexity.
Juan earned his PhD in Sustainability Science from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, where he wrote a thesis assessing global patterns of regime shifts. Juan is an ecologist by training, and before joining SRC he worked as researcher at the Center for Development Studies at Los Andes University, the Department of Rural Studies at Javeriana University, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Colombia.
Juan is currently postdoctoral researcher also affiliated to the Beijer Institute at the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, and the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Juan is an active member of the Beijer Young Scholars, the Resilience Alliance Young Scholars, the Complex Systems Society, and the South America Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies (SARAS2).
Juan is also involved in outreach science initiatives, such as the Regime Shifts Database, where he has been main contributor of scientific synthesis intended for policy makers and the general audience. He is also interested on developing data explorers that facilitate the communication of scientific knowledge to the non-scientific audience. Juan is an avid climber and runner.
Awards and achievements:
Celinda Palm, MSc candidate
Research news | 2016-11-25
Amid rapid change, new Arctic Resilience Report identifies 19 tipping points and need to prepare for surprises
Research news | 2015-08-13
First Regime Shift Database helps researchers assess main global-level drivers of unwanted ecological transitions
Research news | 2014-11-24
Eleven Centre researchers contribute to a new global scientific synthesis on marine regime shifts
Research news | 2013-07-04
Centre PhD student Juan Carlos Rocha explains
2018 - Journal / article
The term tipping point has experienced explosive popularity across multiple disciplines over the last decade. Research on social-ecological systems (SES) has contributed to the growth and diversity of the term's use. The diverse uses of the term obscure potential differences between tipping behavior in natural and social systems, and issues of causality across natural and social system components in SES. This paper aims to cre...
2015 - Journal / article
Many ecosystems can experience regime shifts: surprising, large and persistent changes in the function and structure of ecosystems. Assessing whether continued global change will lead to further regime shifts, or has the potential to trigger cascading regime shifts has been a central question in global change policy. Addressing this issue has, however, been hampered by the focus of regime shift research on specific cases and t...
2015 - Journal / article
Marine ecosystems can experience regime shifts, in which they shift from being organized around one set of mutually reinforcing structures and processes to another. Anthropogenic global change has broadly increased a wide variety of processes that can drive regime shifts. To assess the vulnerability of marine ecosystems to such shifts and their potential consequences, we reviewed the scientific literature for 13 types of marin...
2012 - Book chapter
Ecosystem Management and Sustainability analyzes myriad human-initiated processes and tools developed to foster sustainable natural resource use, preservation, and restoration. It also examines how humans interact with plant, marine, and animal life in both natural and human-altered environments. Experts explain the complex ecosystem relationships that result from invasive species, roads, fencing, and even our homes—by addres...