Santos, Maria

Maria J. Santos


Maria J. Santos is an Assistant Professor at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. She was a postdoctoral researcher at the Spatial History Project and the Bill Lane Center for the American West, at Stanford University, and also at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley after completing her PhD work at CSTARS. Her research focuses on understanding the impacts of anthropogenic change on species and ecosystem distributions, and how are they mitigated by conservation. To answer these questions she focus on the what (species and ecosystems), when (time), where (space), how (conservation actions) and why (policies and drivers) of conservation action. Her research incorporates field methods, GIS, remote sensing, statistical modeling, historical archival research and conservation planning.

Her current work focus on reconstructing global conservation history(ies) with a focus on sustainability science. This program aims at understanding how successful conservation has been through the reconstruction of the timeline of conservation land acquisition and linking it to change detection of vegetation and climate, and human decisions.

At her previous postdoctoral work, Maria was investigating the conservation history of California ( She also worked with historical ecological data to assess whether small mammals, vegetation, and climate synchronously shifted their elevation ranges in the Sierra Nevada of California. She was using historical data on mammal presence and abundance, historic vegetation maps and remote sensing retrieved modern land cover maps.

Maria’s dissertation was on “Conservation Planning of Oak Woodlands in Portugal and California: a Multidisciplinary Approach”. Her dissertation compared conservation strategies in two Mediterranean ecosystems in Portugal and California using meso-carnivores as indicator species. This research highlights the importance of incorporating socio-economic factors, land use history, animal habitat use patterns, spatial and temporal descriptions of landscape condition and structure for designing and assessing effective conservation strategies.


2005 – 2010     Ph.D. Ecology University of California, Davis

2001-2003       MSc. Environmental Sciences and Policy Northern Arizona University

1992-1998       BSc. Biology for Wildlife Resources Universidade de Lisboa

Research Interests

• I am interested in using geospatial technologies and filed measurements to understand the interactions between species and their environment, their change and how can we make informed conservation decisions. 
• Terrestrial ecosystems, climate, species-environment interactions, biogeography, and conservation biology.

• Using remote sensors, including hyperspectral, and multi-spectral to answer ecological questions of change in time and space in a continuum from historic to current to future species-environment dynamics.


Maria J Santos PhD

Assistant Professor

Department of Innovation, Environmental and Energy Sciences,

Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Contact Info:

Email:  M.J.FerreiraDosSantos(at)