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Melissa Leach is the Director of the Institute of Development Studies. Between 2006 and 2014 Melissa directed the ESRC STEPS (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability) Centre. She originally trained as a geographer (MA Cambridge) and social anthropologist (PhD London).

Over the last thirty years she has been closely involved both in ethnographic fieldwork, speaking four African languages, and in extensive interdisciplinary research. This has engaged anthropology with historical, ecological and science and technology studies approaches, as well as working with foresters, agricultural and medical scientists.

She has led and managed many large, interdisciplinary research programmes involving multi-country teams. Her work has forwarded new perspectives in several fields, including the anthropology of environment and development; gender-environment relations; the environmental entitlements approach to institutions and natural resource management, environmental and forest history and challenging 'received wisdoms' about environmental change.

Melissa's recent work has explored the politics of science and knowledge in policy processes linked to environment and health; addressing vaccine controversies, scientific uncertainties, citizenship and public engagement; cultural and political dimensions of vaccine delivery; medical research trials, emerging infectious diseases, and ecology-health linkages.


  • –present
    Director, Institute of Development Studies