Prospective Students

More about Ph.D. Programs:

Affiliated Graduate Programs

Professor Ardoin has a joint appointment in the Graduate School of Education (GSE) and the Woods Institute for the Environment. She advises PhD students through the GSE as well as through her affiliation as a core faculty member and faculty director of the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER).

Broadly, Professor Ardoin’s scholarship focuses on human/nature interactions, with an emphasis on environmental learning as an avenue to engage people in sustainable environmental practices. One of her research interests is on the role of place connections in encouraging and supporting pro-environmental behaviors, community engagement, and conservation commitments, more broadly. Professor Ardoin and members of her Ardoin Social Ecology lab examine environmental and sustainability-related issues and behaviors through a social science lens, applying theoretical approaches from social psychology, sociology, and anthropology to consider individual and collective engagement in a range of environmental challenges.

Professor Ardoin seeks graduate students (and, at times, postdoctoral scholars) who are curious and passionate about social ecology, informal and community-based education, and the environment. Related to new and ongoing research projects, she is interested in working with graduate students or postdoctoral fellows with a focus on: community-based conservation and community-based research; integrated social-ecological systems (SES); environmental learning in everyday life; environmental behavior and sustained environmental practices; civic participation and engagement related to the environment; sense of place, place research, and connection to place; and resilience theory. Professor Ardoin also has active research in perceptions of climate change and climate change education, interpretation, and communication; nature-based tourism; awe, inspiration, curiosity, hope, and optimism as related to nature connection; and research/practice partnerships. Opportunities exist for students with expertise in qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods approaches.

If you are interested in either of the Ph.D. programs, please read below for more details. The following programmatic descriptions and accompanying FAQs should answer many of your initial questions; we also provide information on where to go for further information, should you not find the appropriate details here.

For overarching information about the Graduate School of Education (GSE) Ph.D. program, visit the Stanford GSE Admissions website or contact the admissions office staff at; they can provide details related to deadlines, basic prerequisites, and the various courses of study. They also offer webinars and in-person information sessions on the GSE overall as well as the admissions process specifically. For information on the PhD program in science education, please contact Professor Jonathan Osborne or Professor Bryan Brown. In addition to Professor Ardoin, other faculty members with interests in informal education, learning ecologies, the development of interest, and lifelong learning include: Professor Brigid Barron, Professor Shelley Goldman, and Professor Ari Kelman.

For information about E-IPER, please visit the home page or the PhD admissions page. The admissions site provides details related to timelines, prerequisites, and the courses of study as well as how your areas of interest might fit with work being conducted at Stanford. Note that E-IPER offers admissions webinars. For general information about the E-IPER Ph.D. program, please contact E-IPER assistant director of student services, Ai Tran ( As of the 2022-23 academic year, I will be advising students in the new Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, where I am a founding faculty member.

If your questions are still not addressed by the following materials, please email Kirsti Wagner at Please be advised that, because of the volume of messages, you may receive a standardized response.

If you are a current Stanford student and interested in working with our lab, please contact Kirsti (, and we will be back in touch with information on available openings.


Research Overview

Professor Ardoin’s professional background is in environmental conservation and sustainability, parks/protected areas, nonprofit management, human dimensions of resource management, museums/informal science education, and environmental education/interpretation. At the broadest level, her research focuses on human/nature interactions with an interest in community engagement in the environment, broadly conceptualized. Working internationally as well as domestically, she examines environmental issues, opportunities, conflicts, and behaviors through a social science lens, specifically social psychology, sociology, and anthropology.

Most of Professor Ardoin’s work takes place at the community scale and in informal and/or community settings such as museums, parks, and nature centers. She collaborates with environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) such as World Wildlife Fund and the National Audubon Society; informal environmental education providers, such as the California Academy of Sciences and NatureBridge; and government agencies, such as the National Park Service, California State Parks, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among others. Her work with those groups relates to community-based conservation; facilitating environmental behavior and supporting longer-term environmental practices; and studying the effect of environmental conservation efforts on dimensions such as resilience, place connections, social-ecological systems integration, and community engagement. (Please note that her work does not primarily focus on K-12 education.)

In addition to her own work, Dr. Ardoin supervises and runs the Ardoin Social Ecology Lab. Her graduate students, postdocs, and affiliates comprise this group and their work focuses on human/nature interactions, with a social-ecological lens. Lab members examine environmental issues and behaviors, using theoretical frames from social psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology. The Social Ecology Lab holds regular meetings on research in environmental education and learning, environmental behavior and decision-making, and sense of place. Recent topics have focused specifically on the use of social norms in conservation interventions, engaging communities in collective environmental actions, operationalizing connectedness-to-nature measures, and theorizing research/practice partnerships as well as collaborative decision-making frames.

The Social Ecology lab group meets weekly throughout the academic year. PhD students and postdoctoral fellows attend lab meetings regularly as part of their scholarly training. Through lab, students and postdoctoral fellows receive and provide mentoring; lab members also build and are exposed to a range of research approaches, study designs, topics, and skillsets.

Several areas in which Dr. Ardoin has active research projects include:

Environmental Behavior and Practices

Motivations for and barriers to environmental behavior; nature-based tourism as a motivator for environmental behavior and sustained environmental practices over time; avenues to and opportunities for community engagement in environmentally related practices, including an interest in social network analysis of how behaviors are connected throughout communities; and the motivations for and barriers to engagement in community-level environmental efforts such as watershed collaboratives, land trusts and, more broadly, social movement theory related to larger-scale environmental engagement.

Environmental Learning in Everyday Life

The ways in which everyday life intersects with people’s motivations to care about the environment (or not); how environmental concern develops through interactions with daily-life activities such as purchasing food, commuting, spending time with family and friends; how everyday life activities, and learning through these activities, motivates sustained environmentally friendly practices in daily life. Settings for this work include farmers markets, commute clubs, and neighborhood gathering sites, among others.

Sense of Place

Exploring the formation of the human relationship with places and the conditions under which those connections may or may not support environmentally related practices, particularly when sustained over time; maintenance of longer-term place connections as well as the effects of short-term, ephemeral connections, transience, and uprootedness on place attachment; the interaction of dimensions of place including psychological, sociocultural, biophysical, and political-economic; and place connections in urban environments as well as the built environment.

Evaluation of Environmental and Conservation Initiatives

Development of metrics and measures, particularly for social strategies (e.g., education, leadership, capacity building); adaptive management related to environmental evaluation; and the relationship between conservation planning and evaluation.

Environmental Philanthropy

Trends in environmental philanthropy, particularly as related to social science (e.g., capacity building, education, community-based) initiatives; the impact of philanthropic decision-making on conservation efforts; the relationship between philanthropy and the broader conservation agenda among ENGOs.