Dr. Bilal Butt is an Associate Professor in the School for Environment & Sustainability at the University of Michigan, and a faculty affiliate of the:

Science Technology and Public Policy Program
African Studies Center
Graham Sustainability Institute


Dr. Bilal Butt is people-environment geographer with regional specialization in sub-Saharan Africa and technical expertise in geospatial technologies (GPS, GIS & Remote Sensing), ecological monitoring and social-scientific appraisals.

His general research interests lie at the intersection of the natural and social sciences to answer questions of how people and wildlife are coping with, and adapting to changing climates, livelihoods and ecologies in arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa.  His current projects investigate:

(1) the spatiality of livelihood strategies (resource access and utilization) among pastoral peoples under regimes of increasing climatic variability and uncertainty;

(2) the nature of the relationships between wildlife and livestock in dry land pastoral ecosystems of East Africa;

(3) violent and non-violent conflicts over natural resources;

(4) how mobile information technologies such as cell phones influence natural resource management strategies among pastoral peoples in dry lands;

(5) the genealogy of poaching and anti-poaching narratives on the African continent and how technological objects have come to symbolize the solutions to one of the biggest conservation challenges, and;

(6) how emerging infectious epizootic diseases continue to proliferate in dryland regions of the world.

His publications can be accessed through Google Scholar and ORCID.


2017 – Present: Associate Professor of Environment and Sustainability School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan
2011 – 2017: Assistant Professor of Natural Resources & Environment School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan
2017 – Present: Faculty Affiliate, Department of Environmental Studies and Community Development at Kenyatta University.
2012 – 2014: Research Associate Center for Sustainable Dryland Ecosystems and Societies, University of Nairobi
2011: Research Associate, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin, Madison
2011: Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin, Madison
2008 – 2010: National Science Foundation Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin, Madison
2008 – 2009: Honorary Fellow Land Tenure Center, Nelson Institute of Environment Studies, University of Wisconsin
2004 – 2007: Graduate Fellow People, Livestock and Environment Theme, International Livestock Research Institute
2002 – 2003: Consultant People, Livestock and Environment Theme, International Livestock Research Institute


2008 – 2011: Postdoc (Geography & Ecology) University of Wisconsin, Madison
2002 – 2007: PhD (Geography) Michigan State University
2000 – 2002: MA (Geography) Michigan State University

Selected grants, awards and honors

2018: A Peoples History of the Maasai Mara: Indigenous Knowledge and Local Practices Prior to national Parks in Kenya. (PIs: B. Butt and J. Muriithi)
2016: NSF CAREER: Situated Resilience and the New Geographies of Wildlife-Livestock Relationships (PI: B. Butt)
2015: Transforming Sustainability Education and Case-Based Teaching (PIs: A. Agrawal, R. Hardin)
2015: MCubed 2.0 Novel Sensor Packages and Big Data Algorithms for the Understanding of Wildlife and Livestock Interactions in the Semi-arid Ecosystems of East Africa (co-PIs: M. Johnson-Roberson, J. Abernathy and B. Butt)
2013: African Studies Research Initiative – Technologies of Conservation Governance & State Surveillance in Kenya’s Protected Areas (PI: B. Butt)
2013: MCubed – Unintended Consequences of Technology in Development (co-PIs: B. Butt, O. Adunbi, and J. Pal)
2012: NSF Research Starter Grant, Division of Biological Infrastructure – Understanding savanna vegetation dynamics in East Africa under different off-take methods and precipitation regimes (PI: B. Butt)
2011: University of Michigan SEED Grant – Science, Practice, and Public Participation: Natural Resource Monitoring in African Protected Areas (PI: B. Butt)
2008: Gill Chin Lim Award for Outstanding Dissertation in Global Studies, International Studies and Programs at Michigan State University
2007: NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Division of Biological Infrastructure (PI: B. Butt)
2005: NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement, Geography and Regional Science
2005: Compton Foundation Fellowship for Peace and Security Studies (PI: B. Butt)