Samantha Cheng

Research Assistant Professor
Asst Research Professor (FSC)


Samantha Cheng is a population geneticist and conservation scientist, with experience both in the field working in tropical coral reefs, cephalopod fisheries and seafood sustainability, and in the policy sphere, engaging with diverse stakeholders in organizations, governments and academic institutions to develop evidence-based solutions for conservation and human well-being outcomes.

Cheng's research aims to improve understanding of the process of using scientific evidence in conservation planning and decision-making using a multi-disciplinary approach by systematically examining the role of evidence, methodology, interactions and stakeholders to determine effective pathways from information to action to outcome. Additionally, she is exploring the role that data science and technology play in improving the use of evidence in conservation. She runs two apps that facilitate and democratize evidence uptake ( and use machine learning ( to help find evidence that matters.

Cheng is associate director of Conservation Evidence, Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. At CBO, Cheng contributes to research on the public value of conservation, specifically from products of specific mechanism to move from evidence to outcomes, knowledge partnerships. 

Cheng is a former Fulbright Fellow to Indonesia and was formerly at the National Center for Ecological Anlaysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and received her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles.


PhD, University of California-Los Angeles, 2015

BA, Scripps College, 2009

Google Scholar

Research Interests

- Process of evidence-informed decision-making in conservation

  • Examining public values of conservation outcomes

- Causal linkages between improved ecosystems and human well-being

- Application of novel technology methods to improving conservation practice

  • Machine-learning and data visualization to optimize evidence synthesis
  • Genomic methods for examining spatial and temporal population structure in marine fisheries

Research Group

Center for Biodiversity Outcomes



Willette DA, Cheng SH, Greenberg JA, Barber PH. 2018. Rethinking solutions to seafood fraud. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 16(9): 499-500.

Simmonds SE, Chou V, Cheng SH, Rachmawati R, Calumpong HP, Mahardika GN, Barber PH. 2018. Evidence of host-associated divergence from coral-eating snails (genus Coralliophila) in the Coral Triangle. Coral Reefs 37(2): 355-371.

Cheng SH, Augustin C, Bethel A, Gill D, Anzaroot S, Brun J, DeWilde B, Minnich RC, Garside R, Masuda YJ, Miller DC, Wilkie D, Wongbusarakum S, McKinnon MC. 2018. Using machine learning to advance synthesis and use of conservation and environmental evidence. Conservation Biology. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.13117

Westgate MJ, Haddaway NR, Cheng SH, McIntosh EJ, Marshall C, Lindenmayer DB. 2018. Software support for environmental evidence synthesis. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2(4):588. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-018-0502-x (link)


Willette, D. A. and S. H. Cheng. Delivering on seafood traceability under the new U.S. import monitoring program. Ambio DOI: 10.1007/s13280-017-0936-4. (link )

Cheng, S. H., S. Ahlroth, S. Onder, P. Shyamsundar, R. Garside, P. Kristjanson, M. C. McKinnon and D. C. Miller. 2017. What is the evidence for the contribution of forests to poverty alleviation?: A systematic map protocol. Environmental Evidence 6:10. DOI: 10.1186/s13750-017-0088-9. (link )

Miles, M. C., S. Cheng and M. J. Fuxjager. 2017. Biogeography predicts macro-evolutionary patterning of gestural display complexity in a passerine family. Evolution 71(5):1406-1416. DOI: 10.1111/evo.13213. (link )

Willette, D. A., S. E. Simmonds, S. H. Cheng, S. Esteves, T. L. Kane, H. Nuetzel, N. Pilaud, R. Rachmawati and P. H. Barber. 2017. Using DNA barcoding to track seafood mislabeling in Los Angeles restaurants. Conservation Biology 31(5):1076-1085. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12888. (link )


Althor, G., M. McKinnon, S. H. Cheng, C. Klein and J. E. Watson. 2016. Does the social equitability of community and incentive based conservation interventions in non-OECD countries, affect human well-being? A systematic review protocol. Environmental Evidence5:26. DOI: 10.1186/s13750-016-0078-3. (link )

McKinnon, M., S. H. Cheng, S. Dupre, J. Edmond, R. Garside, L. Glew, M. B. Holland, E. Levine, Y. J. Masuda, D. C. Miller, I. Oliveira, J. Revenaz, D. Roe, S. Shamer, D. Wilkie, S. Wongbusarakum and E. Woodhouse. 2016. What are the effects of nature conservation on human well-being? A systematic map of empirical evidence from developing countries. Enviornmental Evidence 5:8. DOI: 10.1186/s13750-016-0058-7. (link )


McKinnon, M. C., S. H. Cheng, R. Garside, Y. J. Masuda and D. C. Miller. 2015. Sustainability: Map the evidence. Nature 328(7581):185-187. (link )


Anderson, F. E., A. Bergman, S. H. Cheng, M. S. Pankey and T. Valinassab. 2014. Lights out: The evolution of bacterial bioluminescence in Loliginidae. Hydrobiologica 725(1):189-203. DOI: 10.1007/s10750-013-1599-1. (link )

Bottrill, M., S. H. Cheng, R. Garside, S. Wongbusarakum, D. Roe, M. B. Holland, J. Edmond and W. R. Turner. 2014. What are the impacts of nature conservation interventions on human well-being: a systematic map protocol. Environmental Evidence 3:16. DOI: 10.1186/2047-2382-3-16. (link )

Cheng, S. H., F. E. Anderson, A. Bergman, G. N. Mahardika, Z. A. Muchlisin, B. T. Dang, H. P. Calumpong, K. S. Mohamed, G. Sasikumar, V. Venkatesan and P. H. Barber. 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. DOI: 10.1007/s10750-013-. (link )

Muchlisin, Z. A., B. Zulkarnaini, S. Purnawan, A. Muhadjier, N. Fadli and S. H. Cheng. 2014. Morphometric variations of three species of harvested cephalopods found in northern sea of Aceh Province, Indonesia. Biodiversitas 15(2):142-146. DOI: 10.13057/biodiv/d150205. (link )

Book Chapters


Barber, P. H., S. H. Cheng, M. V. Erdmann, K. Tenggardjaja and . Ambariyanto. 2011. Evolution and conservation of marine biodiversity in the Coral Triangle: insights from stomatopod Crustacea. Pp. 129-156 In: Held, C., S. Koenemann and C. D. Schubart eds., Phylogeography and Population Genetics in Crustacea. CRC Press. ISBN: 9781439840733.

Working Papers


Cheng, S. H., J. E. Robinson, N. Cox, D. Biggs, A. Olsson, M. Mascia and M. McKinnon. 2017. Evaluating the effectiveness of international wildlife trade programs and policies on species conservation and livelihoods: an evidence map. Working Paper 1:Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science, Conservation International, Arlington, VA.


Spring 2019
Course Number Course Title
BIO 493 Honors Thesis
Fall 2018
Course Number Course Title
BIO 492 Honors Directed Study


Editorial Board, Environmental Evidence

Professional Associations

Collaboration for Environmental Evidence

Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) Working Group on Evidence-Based Conservation

Cephalopod International Advisory Council