I am a social scientist specialising in wellbeing research among rural populations in developing countries, primarily those living alongside some of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. I have a diverse background spanning quite different, though now handily complementary disciplines, having spent several years each as an ecologist (specialising for some time in seabirds), nature reserve warden and also previously as an economist and chartered accountant.
Since November 2013 I have been working as a post-doctoral researcher on the project 'Ecosystem Services, Wellbeing and Justice: Developing Tools for Research and Development Practice', alongside Thomas Sikor and Adrian Martin at UEA. The project builds on the conceptual foundations laid by the study 'Just Ecosystem Management' to implement a practical research agenda to explore these issues among rural populations in northeastern Laos, living alongside the Nam Et Phou Louey National Protected Area, a montane forest home to 18 endangered species of large mammal including one of the largest populations of tigers remaining in Indochina. This 2 year research project is funded by the UK Government under the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation Program and involves the Wildlife Conservation Society, the National University of Laos, University of Copenhagen and the Nordic Agency for Development and Ecology (Nordeco).
I completed my PhD at UEA in October 2013, which explored changes in the wellbeing of rural populations living alongside tropical rainforests in the mountains of western Rwanda. For that study I used a broad conceptual approach to wellbeing to explore the impacts of both development and conservation policies on people’s lives, from the often overlooked perspective of rural people themselves. However rather than representing an ethnographic study, my PhD presented a mixed methods approach to the study of rural change to try to link rigorous qualitative study of individuals’ circumstances to the more clear-cut quantitative types of evidence of patterns and trends sought by policy makers. Please email for a pdf copy of the thesis.
Before my PhD research, previous projects had taken me to several areas where natural resource management has strong implications for local livelihoods: looking at fisheries in Alaska, wetland management in Belarus and in 2010 helping to monitor the Redirect PES prooject in Rwanda. These experiences fuelled my interest in the depth of social, economic and ecological understanding actually required to realise meaningful, sustained development for the rural poor at the same time as preserving important biodiversity. I am particularly interested in using household level wellbeing research as a tool to inform interventions to promote long-term rural development, agricultural sustainability and provision of ecosystem services, for which monetary valuations and financial mechanisms have become the mainstream.