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Environment, Resources and Conflict

Organisational unit: Research Group

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Organisation profile

The Environment, Resources, and Conflict research group brings together researchers from different fields of economics to study important issues in environmental economics, conflict studies, and the nexus between the two. It is a young and expanding group within the School of Economics that builds on insights from experimental and behavioural economics – which the School is renowned for – and from empirical and theoretical work in environmental and resource economics – which a growing number of School members are focusing on.

Many of our members run experiments in the lab or in the field, but we also employ micro- and macroeconometric data, data from historical documents, and formal theoretical models in our research. Current research projects in the group include investigating the interaction between environmental policy, energy and natural resource use; the role of natural resources in economic growth and development; how the environment and natural resources contribute to conflict; the economic roots of violent and nonviolent conflict; group identity and within- and between-group dynamics; the effects of discriminatory and affirmative-action rules; group and individual behaviour in costly contests; the origins of industrial actions; and group bargaining and coordination. 

Much of our research is of great policy relevance and is very interdisciplinary. Members collaborate closely with researchers at UEA’s School of International Development, the Centre for Competition Policy (CCP), and the Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Sciences (CBESS). Our researchers work in partnership with academics from the UK and the rest of Europe, North America, and Africa, as well as a number of non-academic organisations. Our members have an excellent record of successful grant applications from institutions such as the ESRC, the European Commission, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Research Council of Norway.

We have a number of enthusiastic research students who are pursuing their PhD on topics related to our group.

Finally, we organise an informal Away Day in which we bring together researchers from different Schools at UEA, including Economics, International Development, Psychology, Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communications, and Law.


PhD Study

This year we are prioritising proposals for PGR studies in two areas of Environment, Resources and Conflict; Coastal Ecosystem Valuation and Illegal Wildlife Trade.

PhD studentship in Coastal Ecosystem Valuation

The framework of ecosystem services is providing a new understanding into the values and functions of natural resources, and can strengthen communities’ efforts to achieve sustainable development goals. While extensive research and engagement efforts have been devoted to promoting the ecosystem services framework as a tool for sustainable growth (MA 2005, UKNEA 2011, UKNEA-FO 2014, WAVES 2015), the analysis of coastal ecosystem services is still an under-researched area. Improvements in this field are both necessary, since coastal ecosystems are under increased stress, and desirable, as the impact of their potential loss on local communities are likely to be particularly large. Mangroves, for example, are a complex coastal habitat that provides a set of alternative ecosystem services that may be damaged by uncontrolled human development, with negative impacts on both national carbon stocks and the livelihood of local communities.

The objective of this research is to investigate the nexus between mangroves ecosystem services and communities’ well-being in close collaboration with local partners in Colombia, within the framework of the Bridge Colombia Network.

The student will review existing work on mangrove functioning, ecosystem services, management practices aiming to identify key challenges that local communities face to control and maximize mangrove benefits. The research will benefit from knowledge exchange with local Bridge Colombia partners (e.g. INVEMAR, Universidad de los Andes, etc.).  Drawing upon existing mangroves knowledge and stakeholders’ preferences, the student will develop, test and analyze different bio-economic models that can help identifying alternatives management and policy options. The student will apply a variety of valuation techniques as well as different econometric approaches to understand the complex relationship between human wellbeing and ecosystem services.

You are welcome to contact Corrado Di Maria (C.Di-Maria@uea.ac.uk) to hear more about the topic or discuss.


PhD Studentship in Illegal Wildlife Trade

The illegal trade in wildlife is estimated to be worth over $20billion per year, making it the fourth most important illegal trade behind narcotics, human trafficking and counterfeiting. Over-exploitation of wildlife can lead to extinction, impacts on non-target species, as well as fuelling organised crime. The international community has recognised the urgent need to enhance the evidence base for effective decision-making in this area, and that an interdisciplinary approach is required.

This project aims to identify the attributes that characterise species in demand. For this, an interdisciplinary suite of research methods would be required in order to predict those species that are likely to be in demand and therefore potentially threatened in the future. The wildlife trade involves a diverse range of markets including fisheries, timber, medicines, foods, horticulture and exotic pets. This studentship should primarily focus upon the trade in live animals and plants for the exotic pet and horticultural trades.  However, it could consider factors such as the direct economic impact of this industry, the attitudes and beliefs surrounding illegal trade and/or the implications for development and international co-operation.

You are welcome to contact Mike Brock (Michael.Brock@uea.ac.uk) to hear more about the topic or discuss.


PhD Studentship in Economics of Culture

The Environment, Resources, and Conflict Group at the School of Economics in the University of East Anglia welcomes applications for PhD studentships with a focus on the economics of culture. PhD topics could be in the areas of quantitative textual analysis, culturomics, empirical or experimental approaches to cultural differences and cultural tensions, economic history, or other related fields.

The School has recently formed a partnership with the Norwich Business School and School of Computing Science to support research in big data and computational methods in social sciences.

PhD Studentship in Conflict and Refugee Pathways

There is ongoing debate on what type of migration is justifiable from the point of view of countries of destination, with distinctions being drawn between ‘genuine refugees’ fleeing conflict and economic migrants aiming primarily for European destinations.  Yet, less is known about how individuals genuinely fleeing conflict shape their choice of destination once they have set out on a lengthy journey. Their pathway often involves the crossing of numerous borders until requesting asylum in specific destinations.  Arguably, there are changing expectations and priorities shaped along the migrant route, by both the local conditions encountered on the way and the groups and networks built during migration.  One factor in the long trajectory of refugee flows is certainly security and access to asylum, but economic opportunities and constraints further add to the decision of settlement in alternative destinations. 

This research project will build on the information gathered through the IOM Flow Monitoring System.  It investigates the choices made by migrants before settling as refugees, where fleeing conflicts or persecution are the main reasons for leaving their origin. The project emphasises the economic conditions and motivations behind the decision to settle in alternative destinations, as driven by personal circumstances, labour market conditions, as well as questions of security and social networks.  The methodological approach would involve microeconometric data analysis and an inter-disciplinary perspective, possibly including an element of qualitative work and interviews, focussed around reception centres and transit areas for recent refugee flows in Europe.

The University of East Anglia (UEA) has been awarded ‘University of Sanctuary’ by The City of Sanctuary, an organisation which promotes action to support refugees and asylum seekers. This project will also benefit from exchanges within UEA’s Migration Research Network. You are welcome to contact Liliana Harding (liliana.harding@uea.ac.uk ) to hear more about the topic.

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