Key Research Interests and Expertise

Conservation and development, forestry, protected areas, market-based conservation, ecosystem services, environmental justice, environment and conflict.

Research Groups: Global Environmental Justice


 Current and Recent Research Activities


2016-2017 Land-use intensification in forest-agriculture frontier landscapes

This ESPA funded synthesis led by myself asked how agricultural intensification shapes the changing trade-offs between land use, ecosystem services and poverty alleviation. This involved an interdisciplinary working group of experts with strong engagement with key policymakers and practitioners in organisations working on agriculture, conservation and development.

2016-2018 IMPACTS: Issues and Myths in Protected Area Conservation: Trade-offs and Synergies

Led by Emily Woodhouse (Anthropology, UCL) this project convened an interdisciplinary expert Working Group who worked collaboratively to review and synthesise the current state of knowledge on the social and environmental outcomes of protected areas. It carried out a systematic and global review of a variety of different quantitative and qualitative evidence types including from the academic literature, non-academic reports, and ESPA projects, and used innovative narrative synthesis methods to analyse and present the results. The review identified circumstances under which positive relationships emerge between (poverty alleviation) and environmental (ecosystem services) outcomes of protected areas: what works, where, how and why?

2015-2017 Why should ecosystem services be used for poverty alleviation?

This research aimed to find the answer to a fundamental question: why should ecosystem services be used for poverty alleviation? Ecosystem services do not automatically benefit poor people, but have been demonstrated to accrue to better-off and more powerful actors, and although many environmental interventions continue to take place in settings characterised by entrenched poverty, its the demand and pressure from the non-poor on ecosystem services is predicted to rise in coming decades. It is a particularly timely question for the conservation community, because of active debates about the 'new conservation' and the ethical principles underpinning conservation practice.

2016-17 Developing a framework and tools for enhancing equity and justice in protected area management

This 12-month project with Kate Schreckenberg (King’s) and Phil Franks (IIED) responded to the demand expressed by the CBD and the IUCN World Parks Congress that protected areas should be managed equitably. The project drew on two completed ESPA projects, which explored the concepts of equity and justice in the context of ecosystem services, to develop a framework for enhancing equity and justice in protected area management (at site and systems levels). The framework was validated through fieldwork at three sites in East Africa and a regional workshop in Nairobi.

2015-2019 Academic-Activist Knowledge Co-Production for Environmental Justice

Funded by the International Social Science Council. I am Co-I, with project led by Leah Temper (Barcelona) and Ashish Kothari (Kalpavriksh). This project emphasizes and dissects processes of knowledge production and resistance formation against “extractivism” and towards transformative sustainability from the ground-up, with the assumption that therein lies the greatest potential for action and agency towards dealing with environmental and social crises today

2013-2016 Conservation, Markets and Justice: a comparative study of local and global conceptions.

Research project funded by ESRC, for which I am Principal Investigator. We are trying to better understand local conceptions of environmental justice in the context of market-based and more traditional biodiversity conservation interventions, in case sites in China, Tanzania and Bolivia.

2013-2016 Ecosystem Services, Wellbeing and Justice.

Research project funded by NERC/ESRC/DfID under the Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation programme. Led by Thomas Sikor, this research builds on our previous conceptualisation of environmental justice, in particular by introducing recent thinking about human wellbeing. Field research is in Laos.

2010-2014  Climate Change and Forests in the Congo Basin: Synergies between Adaptation and Mitigation

Research project funded by African Development Bank.  Co-Investigator, working with CIFOR(lead) and Stockholm Environment Institute .  This is an action research project to promote, support and investigate projects to reconcile adaptation and mitigation in selected research landscapes in the Congo basin, with particular focus on sites in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Rwanda.

2010-2014  Combining REDD, PFM and FSC certification in South-Eastern Tanzania

Working with Esteve Corbera at the Autonomous University, Barcelona, we are working on a pilot REDD project, led by the Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative. UEA/UAB are supporting components on governance, social impact assessment and benefit sharing. Funded by NORAD.

2010 – 2012  Just Environmental Management

Funded by the NERC/ESRC/DFID  programme on Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation. Exploring socio-ecological trade-offs in ecosystem management, through an environmental justice perspective. Case studies in China, India and Albertine Rift. Led by Thomas Sikor.

2008-2012  Reconciling Conservation and Development through Direct Payments for Conservation in Rwanda

Principal Investigator, funded by European Research Council. This project was an experimental Payments for Ecosystem Services research project operating in a montane rainforest in southwest Rwanda. Key partners were the Rwanda Development Board, Wildlife Conservation Society Rwanda, and National University of Rwanda.

2008-2009  Lessons learnt in community based conservation and transboundary natural resource management in the greater Virunga landscape of the Albertine Rift

Consultancy projects in Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Funded by International Gorilla Conservation Programme and Buffett Foundation.

2008-2009  Recognising and supporting Community Conserved Areas.

Small project in Rwanda, Principal Investigator, funded by IUCN/CENESTA.  This involved a survey of indigenous and community conservation areas in Rwanda, and development of a proposal for supporting BaTwa indigenous groups.

2005-2008  Conservation partnerships in Rwanda: building capacity for managing protected areas.

Principal Investigator, funded by MacArthur Foundation’s regional programme for the Albertine Rift.

Research Student Supervision

I welcome enquiries from those interested in research in environment and development, especially those interested in:

  • ecosystem services approaches
  • environmental justice
  • payments for ecosystem services (incl. REDD)
  • biodiversity conservation in the global South
  • environment and conflict
  • agricultural intensification


I am currently supervising the following research students:

Eric Opou: Communication for development: study of REDD+ in Cameroon

Agatha Nthenge: Community forestry in Kenya

Marianne Kuusipalo: social impacts of ‘voluntary’ relocation for gas extraction in Mozambique.

Anni Valkonen: Understandings, practices and power plays around the notion of tenure security. Examining the land policy development and implementation process in Madagascar.

Liz Chidley: The evolution of the indigenous peoples movement in Indonesia

Ruth Pinto: Discourse and politics of mangrove restoration in Indonesia

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