Maria Claudia Lopez

Maria Claudia Lopez

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Associate Professor
Department of Community Sustainability


Maria Claudia Lopez is an Associate Professor in the Department of Community Sustainability. Her research uses multiple methods, including field experiments from behavioral economics, institutional analysis, econometrics, ethnography, and participatory research, to understand how rural communities can collaborate successfully in the management of commonly-held natural resources. She has done research in Colombia, Spain, Peru, Costa Rica, USA, Bolivia, Rwanda, Uganda and Brazil. 

Since coming to MSU she has been part of an interdisciplinary team studying the impacts of hydropower in the Brazilian Amazon, as well as possible alternatives to bring energy to communities off-the-grid without the environmental and social impacts of dams. The work from these two projects has been published in journals such as PNAS, Global Environmental Change and World Development. Because of the work she and her team are doing she received the 2024 Distinguished Partnership Award for International Community Engagement and Research. 

She has also examined how the Flint water crisis impacted the food system in Flint, Michigan, and she is currently working on a project exploring how to create water users’ groups in Michigan.

She is one of the editors-in-chief of the International Journal of the Commons.

She is a devoted graduate and undergraduate mentor and because of that her students nominated her for Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award, of which she was the recipient in 2022 from the Michigan State Graduate School.  

Before coming to MSU, Maria Claudia was an assistant professor in her home country, Colombia. Maria Claudia is an economist specializing in natural resources management, environmental economics, institutions, experimental economics and collective action with a master's in rural development from the Universidad Javeriana in Colombia, and a PhD in Resource Economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She also completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship working with Elinor Ostrom at the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University on issues of governance, common property, and institutional analysis.  


We produced a 3 minute trailer on our work installing microgrids: 


Related work: