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Department of Geography



Stephen Lezak

PhD Candidate, Gates Cambridge Scholar

Stephen studies the politics of climate change adaptation in rural communities and landscapes in Alaska. His research focuses on postcolonial governance and how narratives of Arctic environmental change—specifically around apocalypse, disasters, and frontiers—structure climate governance in the Arctic and elsewhere.

A full C.V. is available on my personal website.




  • 2019–Present: PhD Candidate, Scott Polar Research Institute
  • 2019–Present: Fellow, Rocky Mountain Institute
  • 2018–Present: Researcher and Lecturer, Oxford School of Geography & the Environment
  • 2020: Expert Reviewer, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group II, Sixth Assessment Report
  • 2017–2018: Geography Teacher, Notting Hill & Ealing High School, London
  • 2014–2015: Research Assistant, Oberlin College Department of Psychology


  • 2019–2024 (expected): PhD Polar Studies, University of Cambridge
  • 2016–2017: MSc Environmental Change & Management, Green Templeton College, University of Oxford (Distinction)
  • 2011–2015: BA Politics, Oberlin College (Honors)

Awards and scholarships

  • 2019: Gates Cambridge Scholar
  • 2019: Cambridge International Scholarship (declined)
  • 2016: Joan Doll Award, Green Templeton College, University of Oxford
  • 2015: Phi Beta Kappa, Oberlin College
  • 2015: Starr Award, Oberlin College Politics Department


Stephen studies the politics of climate-induced displacement and adaptation in Alaska, His work focuses on the process of planning and funding village relocation in the context of post-colonial governance and Indigenous futures.

Stephen's research also explores how ideas about frontiers and apocalypse shape discourses and decision-making in the Arctic. His work examines the political function of these boundaries in 21st century governance, e.g., the divide between Indigenous and settler, Holocene and Anthropocene, present and future, survival and extinction, rural and urban, and ice and water.

Before arriving at Scott Polar, Stephen's research addressed issues of environmental justice and climate psychology. His work at Oberlin College from 2014–2016 assessed the role of systems thinking as a psychological antecedent to climate change belief and risk perception. Beginning in 2017, Stephen studied with illegal, artisanal gold miners in Mongolia, investigating the interplay of culture and environmental governance.

He publishes across academic and popular outlets, and is a frequent speaker on topics of climate politics and environmental justice. He is also a Fellow at the Rocky Mountain Institute and was an Expert Reviewer for the IPCC's 6th Assessment Report on climate change. His recent non-academic writing appears in The New Republic, The Independent, High Country News, Emergence Magazine, MIT Sloan Management Review, and elsewhere. More information about his work is available at

Research grants

  • University Fieldwork Fund, University of Cambridge (2022)
  • Beatrice Shaw Fund Award, University of Cambridge (2020)
  • John Fell Fund Award, University of Oxford (2018)
  • ECM Dissertation Publication Prize, University of Oxford (2017)
  • CCFF Grant, Green Templeton College, University of Oxford (2017)
  • Environmental Change Institute Small Research Grant, University of Oxford (2017)
  • Jere Bruner Research Grant, Oberlin College (2015)
  • Jerome Davis Research Award, Oberlin College (2015)


For a list of non-academic publications, visit

Academic publications:

  • Lezak, S. and Rock, G. (under review) "Improving Climate Adaptation Governance for Indigenous Communities: Lessons from Alaska Native Villages," Pre-print available.
  • Lezak, S. (2023). "From Capacity Building to Capacity Sharing," Nature Sustainability.
  • Lezak, S. (2023). "Environmental Ethnography," Progress in Human Geography.
  • Lezak, S., Guido, V., and Natali, P. (2023). "Commodities Markets Are Broken. Responsible Supply Chains Can Fix Them." MIT Sloan Management Review.
  • Lezak, S., Wilson, C., Ansar, A., and Bazilian, M. (2022) "The Case Against Gold Mining." Environmental Research Letters.
  • Lezak, S., and Munkherderne, G. (2021) "The Social Lives of Abandoned Mines." In Mining Lifecycles in Central Asia and Mongolia, ed. Sternberg, T. London: Routledge.
  • Lezak, S. (2020) Book Review: Transnational Law and State Transformation: The Case of Extractive Development in Mongolia. Journal of Nomadic Peoples 24(1), 171-174.
  • Lezak, S., Cannon, C., & Koch Blank, T. (2019). Low-Carbon Metals for a Low-Carbon World: A New Energy Paradigm for Mines. Rocky Mountain Institute.
  • Lezak, S. (2019). Re-Placing the Desert in the Conservation Landscape: Charisma and Absence in the Gobi Desert, in Arid Land Systems: Sciences and Societies, eds. Troy Sternberg and Ariell Ahearn. Basel: MDPI, 53–64. Reprinted from LAND 8(1).
  • Lezak, S., Ahearn, A., McConnell, F., & Sternberg, T. (2019) "Frameworks for conflict mediation in international infrastructure development: A comparative overview and critical appraisal." Journal of Cleaner Production 239.
  • Lezak, S. (2019) Book Review: Mongolia Remade. Journal of Nomadic Peoples 23(1), 149-154.
  • Lezak, S. (2018) "Re-Placing the Desert in the Conservation Landscape: Charisma and Absence in the Gobi Desert." LAND 8(1), 3.
  • Ahearn, A., and Lezak, S. (2018) "The Mongolian Ger." In House Tour: Views of the Unfurnished Interior. Ed. Adam Jasper. Zurich: Park Books.
  • Lezak, S. & Thibodeau, P. H. (2016). Systems thinking and environmental concern. Journal of Environmental Psychology 46,143-153. (written up in The Washington Post)


  • Supervisor, BA course, "Geographies of the Arctic" (University of Cambridge)
  • Lecturer (instructor of record), BA course, "Climate Change in Western Alaska" (University of Alaska, Fairbanks)
  • Co-convenor, MSc/MPhil Module: Critical Ecologies: Alternative Visions of Environmental Community (University of Oxford)
  • Supervisor, BA course, "Living with Global Change" (University of Cambridge)

External activities

  • Reviewer, IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, Working Group II, Second Order Draft
  • Collaborator, Gobi Framework Research Team, University of Oxford
  • Collaborator, Oxford Programme on the Sustainable Future of Commodities and Infrastructure