Leon Mach, Ph.D.


Associate Professor in Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values




Ph.D. in Energy and Environmental Policy
University of Delaware (Newark, Delaware, USA)

M.A. in International Affairs
American University (Washington, DC, USA)

M.A. in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development
University for Peace (Ciudad Colon, Costa Rica)

B.A. in Economics and Political Science
McDaniel College (Westminster, Maryland, USA)


SFS 3020 Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values
(The School for Field Studies)

SFS 4910 Directed Research
(The School for Field Studies)

SFS 3000 Tourism and Tropical Island Ecosystems
(The School for Field Studies)

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Faculty Profile

I am interdisciplinary scholar with a passion for utilizing social science field research to improve lives and conserve ecosystems. As a professor, my main objective is to empower students with the tools they need to research what they love. Of all my accomplishments, I am most proud that my SFS students have presented their directed research at international conferences, published their findings in books and peer reviewed journals, and carry these experiences with them as they transition into graduate schools and environmental careers. The main goal of my research is to ensure the voices of all stakeholders are included in the creation and implementation of effective natural resource governance that works for people.
In Bocas del Toro, I continue to lead research initiatives geared towards elevating local voices and steering development in locally desirable and sustainable ways. My main research focus lies at the intersection of tourism and sustainable development. Under that umbrella, I have studied surf, Indigenous-led, protected area, peer-to-peer accommodation, party, and wildlife tourism. I have been awarded a Fulbright Scholar Award and a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to pursue surf tourism research. The latter has led to the creation of destination management organizations with diverse community participation in two surf destinations in El Salvador. I continue to advise both organizations towards achieving globally recognized sustainability certifications – a process which has facilitated infrastructure improvements to clean up rivers, collect and recycle trash, and ensure there are opportunities for local employment and advancement in tourism related careers.

Academics & Research

Professional affiliations

Founding Member, International Association of Surf Academics (2016 - present)
Co-Founder, SeaState LLC (2015 - present)
Associate Director, Center for Surf Research (2014 - present)
Advisory Board Member: Foster the Earth


Mach, L., Winner, C., Rojas, C., & Klemond, M. (2020). Protected area entry fees and governance quality. Tourism Management, 77.
Mach, L. & Vahradian, D. (2019). Tourists want to be spooked, not schooled: Sustaining Indigenous tourism in the Bastimentos Island National Marine Park. Journal of Ecotourism. (under second revision for special issue).
Mach, L. & Ponting, J. (2018). Governmentality and surf tourism destinations governance. Journal of Sustainable Tourism.
Mach, L., Ponting, J., Brown, J., & Savage, J. (2018). Riding waves of intra-seasonal demand in surf tourism: analysing the nexus of seasonality and 21st century surf forecasting technology. Annals of Leisure Research.
Scott, C., & Mach, L. (2018). The role of research and training institutions in tourism destination governance in Bocas del Toro. In D. Suman, & A. K. Spalding (Eds.), Coastal resources of Bocas del Toro, Panama: Tourism and development pressures and the quest for sustainability (pp. 105-132). Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami.
Mach, L. & Ponting, J. (2016). In Turner & Carcinelli (Eds.) Lifestyle Sports and Public Policy. Rutledge. (Accepted).
Mach, L. (2016). In Borne & Ponting (Eds.) Sustainability and Surfing. Rutledge. (Accepted).
Byrne, J., Mach, L., Taminiau, J., & Wang, Y. 2014. In J.Byrne, & YD. Wang, Secure and Green Energy Economies. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.
Mach, L. (2014). Dissertation, University of Delaware, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy.
Budishack, C., Sewell, D., Thomson, H., Mach, L., Veron, D., and Kempton, W. (2013). Journal of Power Sources. Volume 225, Pages 60-74. Available at: http://www.ceoe.udel.edu/windpower/resources/BudischakEtAl-AsPublished-Corrected.pdf
Mach, L. 2013. Peace and Conflict Monitor http://www.monitor.upeace.org/innerpg.cfm?id_article=967
Mach, L. 2009. MA Thesis Published Electronically by American University. Available at: http://www.american.edu/sis/gep/upload/Leon-Mach.pdf

Grants & Awards

Institute of International Education/Council for International Exchange of Scholars - Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award (Sri Lanka 2021-2022).
USAID Economic Competitiveness Project (Grant #075-2021) Sustainability Certification of Two Surf Destinations in El Salvador.


“Are locals invited to the party? Assessing the impact of party tourism on local stakeholders in Bocas del Toro, Panama.” The Caribbean International Tourism Conference, University of the West Indies, Barbados, December 11-13, 2019.
The Stoke Sessions: An international conference on the culture, history and politics of surfing and skateboarding, San Diego State University, April 21, 2023.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s symposium celebrating 20 years of integrative research at the Bocas del Toro Research Station, Earl S. Tupper Auditorium Panama City, March 27th, 2023.
World Indigenous Tourism Summit, Perth AU, March 13-16, 2023.
Southeast Environment and Recreations Research Conference, Ashville, NC, Mach 20-22, 2022.
Southeast Environment and Recreations Research Conference, Ashville, NC, Mach 20-22, 2022.