He is currently focusing on the idea of cascading effects or teleconnections; how a critical transition in an ecosystem in one part of the world can increase or decrease the likelihood of another ecosystem tipping over in another part of the world. He is developing mathematical models to explore the parameter space at which these transitions could be plausible (at Princeton). He is also looking for empirical signatures of cascading effects on trade networks (at MIT) and rainfall transport dynamics (at Stockholm University).
Rocha is also interested in methods for identifying resilience surrogates, or good observables that can tell you how resilient a system is; as well as misperception of feedback and their consequences (ie. poor governance strategies, conflicts, poverty & rigidity traps or market failures). He finds inspiration from complex systems science and the use of mathematical models, networks and other computational methods to understand social and ecological complexity.
Rocha earned his PhD in Sustainability Science from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, where he wrote a thesis assessing global patterns of regime shifts. Rocha is an ecologist by training and before joining SRC he worked as researcher at the Center for Development Studies at Los Andes University, the Department of Rural Studies at Javeriana University, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Colombia. Rocha is an active member of the Beijer Young Scholars, the Resilience Alliance Young Scholars, the Complex Systems Society, and the South America Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies (SARAS2).
Rocha is also involved in outreach science initiatives, such as the Regime Shifts Database, where he has been the main contributor of scientific syntheses intended for policy makers and a general audience. He is also interested on developing data explorers that facilitate the communication of scientific knowledge to the non-scientific audience.
Rocha is also an avid climber and runner.
Awards and achievements:
Research news | 2020-02-03
Limited data and statistics on food availability in Ghana and Burkina Faso still produced insights that could boost sustainable resource management
Research news | 2019-12-19
Expansion of agriculture in Latin America has come at the cost of losing vast areas of forest. A new study brings together and compares case studies of land use change from the region
Research news | 2018-12-20
New study reveals hidden links and potential domino effects between tipping points in climate, ecosystems and societies
Research news | 2018-10-30
Six ways inequality affects our environment and vice versa
2020 - Journal / article
Achieving sustainable development goals requires targeting and monitoring sustainable solutions tailored to different social and ecological contexts. A social-ecological systems (SESs) framework was developed to help diagnose problems, identify complex interactions, and solutions tailored to each SES. Here we develop a data-driven method for upscaling the SES framework and apply it to a context where data is scarce, but also ...
2019 - Journal / article
Climate change, financial shocks, and fluctuations in international trade are some of the reasons why resilience is increasingly invoked in discussions about land-use policy. However, resilience assessments come with the challenge of operationalization, upscaling their conclusions while considering the context-specific nature of land-use dynamics and the common lack of long-term data. We revisit the approach of system archetyp...
2018 - Journal / article
Regime shifts are large, abrupt, and persistent critical transitions in the function and structure of ecosystems. Yet, it is unknown how these transitions will interact, whether the occurrence of one will increase the likelihood of another or simply correlate at distant places. We explored two types of cascading effects: Domino effects create one-way dependencies, whereas hidden feedbacks produce two-way interactions. We compa...
2018 - Journal / article
Rising inequalities and accelerating global environmental change pose two of the most pressing challenges of the twenty-first century. To explore how these phenomena are linked, we apply a social-ecological systems perspective and review the literature to identify six different types of interactions (or “pathways”) between inequality and the biosphere. We find that most of the research so far has only considered one-directiona...