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Political ecologies and conservation

Research in this area centres around the various politics - material and symbolic - of socially constructed natures. While the technologies and epistemic concerns of conservation science are a key interest, the group covers a broad set of geographies, fields, sites, and theoretical approaches. Research within the group draws on historical and contemporary accounts, as well as engaging with new materials and texts, such as digital media. Many group members are active in the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and contribute to policy and practice outside of the university.

Research projects

Research projects currently being undertaken on this theme include:

Exploring economic reformation and the Sustainable Development Goals in a post-Covid Galápagos

Exploring economic reformation and the Sustainable Development Goals in a post-Covid Galápagos

Galápagos is a unique archipelago, a World Heritage Site and one of the most important conservation areas in the world. Prior to the pandemic, these factors were attracting >250,000 tourists per year. Our project aims to support Galápagos decision makers by identifying sustainable recovery options and facilitating a shift toward the knowledge economy and away from tourism reliance.

Building more large dams: A review of opinions

Building more large dams: A review of opinions

This research investigates the economic, social and environmental impact of dams in the Global South. It includes the carrying out a statistical study of the effect of dam construction on socio-economic activity in the area around the dam using a unique combination of satellite imagery and dam location and construction data. Interviews in India have also been undertaken, and document analysis of existing dams and dams currently under construction.

Sustainable finance for Conservation Landscapes in the post-COVID world

Sustainable finance for Conservation Landscapes in the post-COVID world

Our project will explore sustainable financing for conservation in the post-COVID19 context. The coronavirus pandemic has significantly disrupted traditional conservation finance models relying on private market flows. The results will contribute towards developing sustainable finance alternatives for conserving multi-functional landscapes that deliver positive outcomes for both people and nature.

The World Commission on Dams twenty years on: revisiting the debate on large dams

The World Commission on Dams twenty years on: revisiting the debate on large dams

As part of the wider FutureDAMS consortium (a Global Challenges Research Fund project on linkages between water, energy, food, and the environment, we are investigating the legacy and impacts of the World Commission on Dams (WCD).

Rights to nature in post-crisis Europe: Tracing alternative political ecologies to the neoliberal environmental agenda through the study of emerging environmental movements

Rights to nature in post-crisis Europe: Tracing alternative political ecologies to the neoliberal environmental agenda through the study of emerging environmental movements

In this project, we aim to document and analyse the impacts of neoliberal attempts to exploit non-human nature in post-crisis Europe and the increasing opposition of emerging environmental movements. We focus on the alternative policy approach based on social needs and environmental justice that these movements demand. Following a political ecology approach the questions we aim to answer are: what kind of nature and thus society do these emerging movements wish to produce and for whom? Which alternative democratic systems are being proposed that could ensure more equal access to nature and more socially just distribution of environmental costs and benefits? What are the commonalities between localized struggles?

Ecosystem Services, Ecological Restoration and Conservation Strategy

Ecosystem Services, Ecological Restoration and Conservation Strategy

This project explores these issues, analysing changing ideas about ecosystem services and ecological restoration in conservation. Key questions are: 1) How are ideas about ecosystem services and ecological restoration influencing conservation strategy? 2) How can change in biodiversity and ecosystem services over long time frames and larger areas be assessed? 3) What are the implications of dynamic biophysical processes in restoration projects for conservation strategy?

Conservation and Ecosystem Services in the New biodiversity Economy (CESINE)

Conservation and Ecosystem Services in the New biodiversity Economy (CESINE)

The aim of this research is to analyse how biodiversity conservation in Europe is being reconstructed around the measurement of the economic values of nature. Our case study is the UK: a country providing a relevant context for our research given its key role at both EU and global levels in the emerging biodiversity economy. The analysis is focused on two prominent policies: payments for ecosystem services and biodiversity offsets.

Ghost Species: Geographies of Absence and Extinction

Ghost Species: Geographies of Absence and Extinction

What does it mean to be a 'ghost species'? This project explores the idea that there is a spectre haunting conservation policies in the twenty-first century: the spectre of absence. Drawing on the recent 'spectral turn' in the humanities and social sciences, this project brings something new to debates about extinction, de-extinction, and restoration.

The Political Economy of Water Security, Ecosystem Services and Livelihoods in the Western Himalayas

The Political Economy of Water Security, Ecosystem Services and Livelihoods in the Western Himalayas

This project aims to study the ways in which small towns in hill and mountain regions of South Asia depend on springs, streams and rivers in their surrounding catchments for the supply of water.

Land Use Change and African-Palaearctic Migrant Birds

Land Use Change and African-Palaearctic Migrant Birds

This project explores the social, economic and policy drivers of land use change in the Sahel that may be associated with population declines in Palaearctic-African migrant birds.

Building Capacity to Alleviate Human-Elephant Conflict in North Kenya

Building Capacity to Alleviate Human-Elephant Conflict in North Kenya

This project aims to enhance the conservation and management of Kenya's second largest elephant population (over 5,000 animals) and the ecosystem they inhabit through the implementation of an integrated and sustainable community based approach for alleviating human-elephant conflict (HEC), a serious issue in Africa.

Earlier projects