Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development in Southwest China

University of Wisconsin-Madison NSF IGERT China Program

Michelle L. Olsgard


  • B.S. Environmental Science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN
  • M.A., Environmental Studies, University of California-Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Ph.D. (in progress), Geography, University of Colorado at Boulder, CO


  • Fulbright IIE, 2008-2009
  • University of Wisconsin NSF IGERT Associate Award, 2007, 2008
  • NSF East Asian Pacific Summer Institute Award, 2007
  • Association for Asian Studies Small Grant, 2007
  • University of California Pacific Rim Mini Grant, 2007
  • University of California-Santa Cruz, ENVS Departmental Award, 2006, 2007
  • Dean’s List, Dept. of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, 2000–2002
  • University of Notre Dame Athlete of High Academic Achievements Award, 1999, 2001-2002
  • Big East Honors Academic All-Star Team Honoree, 1999-2002


    Contemporary Tibetan livelihoods across the Tibetan Plateau depend extensively on harvests of Cordyceps sinensis, a rare fungus endemic to the region at altitudes of 3500-5000m that is highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine and international biomedical research. Rising market demand is causing more Tibetans to harvest and the sustainability of this critical resource remains unknown. Using ethnographic and ecological methods, namely participant observation interviews, and transects, my research explores how C. sinensis harvesting practices in NW Yunnan interact with resource viability, and how its economic integration both influences, and is influenced by, local socio-environmental processes. I aim for this work to inform C. sinensis management strategies that best foster resource and Tibetan livelihood security.


  • Olsgard, M. (in review) Exploring the rush for ‘Himalayan Gold’: Tibetan yartsa gunbu harvesting in NW Yunnan and considerations for management. Title of Edited Volume Unknown. T. Myatt and B. Dotson, Ed. International Seminar for Young Tibetologists Conference Proceedings, London, 2007.
  • McIntyre, P.B., Olsgard, M., and E. Michel. 2006. Top-down and bottom-up controls on periphyton biomass and productivity in Lake Tanganyika. Limnology and Oceanography, 51(3): 1514-1523.

Teaching and Research Experience

  • University of California-Santa Cruz Environmental Studies Teaching Assistant (Santa Cruz, CA)
  • University of Wisconsin NSF IGERT Research Associate (Yunnan, China)
  • Cornell University Research Assistant Guanare, Venezuela)
  • NSF-REU NYANZA Project Biology and Limnology Teaching-Assistant Kigoma, Tanzania)
  • NSF-REU NYANZA Project Student Researcher (Kigoma, Tanzania)
  • University of Notre Dame Aquatic Biology Lab Assistant (Notre Dame, IN)
  • University of San Diego Aquatic Biology Lab Assistant (San Diego, CA)
  • Columbia University’s Biosphere 2 Center Student Researcher (Oracle, AZ)


  • Appointed Member of Board of Advisors for International Seminar for Young Tibetologists, 2007-2009
  • Languages: Chinese (intermediate proficiency); Standard Tibetan, German, Spanish (low proficiency)

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