Samantha Cheng

Visiting Scientist

Samantha Cheng, Ph.D. is an interdisciplinary conservation scientist whose research draws from the biological, social, and computer sciences, to understand connections between nature and human well-being in global coastal communities, the drivers of marine biodiversity, and build tools and assessments for evidence-based conservation decisions. She has over 10 years of experience working in conservation science, particularly in using population genetics and genomics to investigate drivers of diversification in marine ecosystems of Southeast Asia and California. In particular, she specializes in examining evolution and conservation genetics of cephalopods. She has also worked extensively in the policy sphere – partnering with government agencies, conservation non-profits, multilateral institutions, and foundations to systematically evaluate the impact of conservation on ecological and social outcomes. Recent work in this arena include assessments of the links between forests and poverty alleviation, the impact of wildlife trade, and links between conservation and human well-being. Dr. Cheng currently runs two online, open access tools to facilitate assessing and accessing evidence for conservation decision making: 1) Colandr (, a machine-learning assisted platform for evidence synthesis; and 2) The Evidence for Nature and People Data Portal (, an interactive exploration portal for evidence on links between nature and people. Most recently, Dr. Cheng was the founding co-director of the Conservation Solutions Lab, a multi-institutional initiative aimed to design evidence-informed approaches to community engagement in biodiversity conservation. She holds a Ph.D. from University of California, Los Angeles, and a B.A. from Scripps College.



[Selected Publications]

Cheng, S.H., Macleod, K., Ahlroth, S., Onder, S., Perge, E., Shyamsundar, P., Rana, P., Garside, R., Kristjanson, P., McKinnon, M.C., Miller, D.M. (2019). A systematic map of evidence on the contribution of forests to poverty alleviation. Environmental Evidence 8(1)

Willette, D.A., Cheng, S.H., Greenberg, J., Barber, P.H. (2018). Rethinking solutions to seafood fraud. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 16(9): 499-500.

Cheng, S.H., Augustin, C., Bethel, A., Gill, D., Anzaroot, S., Brun, J., DeWilde, B., Minnich, R.C., Garside, R., Masuda, Y.J., Miller, D.C., Wilkie, D., Wongbusarakum, S., and M.C. McKinnon. (2018). Using machine learning to advance synthesis and use of conservation and environmental evidence. Conservation Biology. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/cobi.13117

Westgate, M.J., Haddaway, N.R., Cheng, S.H., McIntosh, E.J., Marshall, C., and D.B. Lindenmayer. (2018) Software support for environmental evidence synthesis. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2(4): 588.

Simmonds SE, Chou V, Cheng SH, Rachmawati R, Calumpong HP, Mahardika GN. (2018). Evidence of host-associated divergence from coral-eating snails (genus Coralliophila) in the Coral Triangle. Coral Reefs: 1-17

Willette DA, Cheng SH. (2017). Delivering on seafood traceability under the new U.S. import monitoring program. Ambio.

Willette DA, Simmonds SE, Cheng SH, Esteves S, Kane TL, Nuetzel H, Pilaud N, Rachmawati R and Barber PH. 2017. Using DNA barcoding to track seafood mislabeling in Los Angeles restaurants. Conservation Biology. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/cobi.12888

Cheng SH, Robinson JE, Cox N, Biggs D, Olsson A, Mascia M, McKinnon M. 2017. Evaluating the effectiveness of international wildlife trade programs and policies on species conservation and livelihoods: a systematic map. Conservation International Working Paper.

Althor G, McKinnon MC, Cheng SH, Klein C, Watson J. 2016. Systematic Review Protocol: Does the social equitability of community and incentive based conservation interventions in non-OECD countries, affect human well-being? Environmental Evidence 5(26). DOI: 10.1186/s13750-016-0078-3

McKinnon MC, Cheng SH, Butterfield R, Dupre S, Edmond J, Garside R, Glew L, Holland MB, Levine E, Masuda YJ, Miller DC, Oliveira I, Revenaz J, Roe D, Shamer S, Wilkie D, Wongbusarakum S, Woodhouse E. (2016) What are the effects of nature conservation on human well-being? A systematic map of empirical evidence from developing countries. Environmental Evidence 5(8): 1-25

McKinnon MC, Cheng SH, Garside R, Masuda YJ, Miller DC. Map the evidence. Nature 528: 185-188

Cheng SH, Anderson FE, Bergman A, Mahardika GN, Muchlisin ZA, Thuy DB, Calumpong HP, Mohamed KS, Sasikumar G, Venketesan V, Barber PH. (2014) Molecular evidence for co-occuring cryptic lineages within the Sepioteuthis cf. lessoniana species complex in the Indian and Indo-West Pacific Oceans. Hydrobiologia 725(1): 165-188

Anderson FE, Bergman A, Cheng SH, Pankey MS, Valinassab Y. (2014) Lights out: the evolution of bacterial bioluminescence in Loliginidae. Hydrobiologia 725(1): 189-203

Barber PH, Cheng SH, Erdmann MV, Tenggardjaja K, Ambariyanto (2011) Evolution and conservation of marine biodiversity in the Coral Triangle: Insights from stomatopod Crustacea in Phylogeography and Population Genetics of Crustacea in Crustacean Issues: CRC Press