Research: Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Conservation
Conservation Governance Laboratory
The Conservation Governance Lab is an interdisciplinary research group working to generate richer conceptualizations of how conservation actors build, extend and legitimate their influence. The lab's identity is founded on the belief that important insights lie at the interfaces of the natural and social science and of theory and practice. To this end, lab members collectively explore the efficacy of social science theory and analytics for generating novel and useful insights on questions relating to conservation governance.
The following themes and larger goals are currently exciting us:
- The implications of the assembly of web-inspired technologies and practices, mobile computing, network databases and platforms for biodiversity science and policy.
- Understanding the interplay of new network and market-based policy instruments (e.g. FSC, REDD+) with local socio-political institutions (e.g. quanxi, clientelism).
- Conceptualising the policy and management implications of the transition from a focus on the species or habitat as the unit of intervention towards a focus on managing relations, specifically managing the relations within which a species resides such that species can coexist in human dominated landscapes.
- The theoretical and practical debates surrounding dialogue-based science communication; democratic and transparent science-based policy; and the use of new technologies, games and the creative arts in enhancing the public understanding of the environment.
- Whether conservation as an institution and movement is losing touch with transformations in culture and society and, if so, how to reconnect and reengage.
Our thinking on these topics is rooted in ecology and conservation biogeography but informed by frame analytics, governmentality, actor-network theory, animal geography and science and technology studies.
- Dr Paul Jepson
Lab Leader, Course Director, MSc in Nature, Society and Environmental Policy
- Maan Barua
Graduate Research Student - The political ecology of human-elephant interactions in India.
- Kathleen Buckingham
Graduate Research Student - Managing green gold: reconfiguring bamboo management for sustainability and to what extent certification creates an arena for change.
- Jon David
Biodiversity Modeller, BioFresh Project.
- Lucy Erickson
Researcher, BioFresh Project: The role of new technologies and gaming in engaging with environmental issues.
- Mari Mulyani
Graduate Research Student - The interplay between the REDD+ mechanism and forest-related institutions in Indonesia
- Gillian Petrokofsky
Graduate Research Student - Plant Sciences, Oxford
- Rob St.John
Communications and Project Co-ordinator, BioFresh Project
- Tom Turnbull
Researcher, BioFresh Project: The sociology and politics of database enrolment.
- Dr Richard Ladle
Senior Visiting Research Associate
Current and Recent Research Projects
- Biodiversity of freshwater ecosystems: status, trends, pressures and conservation priorities (BioFresh) (2009-present)
BioFresh is creating a data portal and federated network of interoperable freshwater databases to enable new forms of scientific analysis and a stronger evidence base for policy. We are leading on the communications and dissemination work-package and on the development of a climate vulnerability index for freshwater ecosystems. Our communication work is currently engaging with theoretical and practical debates surrounding dialogue-based science communication; democratic and transparent science-based policy; and the use of new technologies and the creative arts in enhancing the public understanding of the environment.
- A market-led response to domestic bird trade in Indonesia (2005-2009)
This Darwin Initiative project explored the practices and networks associated with the hugely popular pass-time of keeping and competing songbirds in Indonesia. It tested the efficacy of a certification-based approach to governing the negative conservation of bird-keeping and sought to amplify the 'wildlife trade' policy frame by adding ideational elements relating to social practices and livelihood impacts relating to the trade of wild birds.
- The Political Ecology of Human-Elephant Relationships in India
The Asian elephant is a cultural icon and an endangered species. Less than 40,000 elephants survive in the wild, and the creature is threatened by loss and fragmentation of its habitat. Competition between people and elephants for space and resources has escalated, and in India alone c.400 people are killed every year. Crops worth US$ 1 million are damaged annually, and nearly 500,000 families across the country are affected. Current research on human-wildlife conflict is largely informed by the ecological sciences, whilst governance of these landscapes is largely a socio-political issue. Strategies for conservation have failed to work on the ground, partly because community enrolment in the conservation assemblage is incomplete, and the agency, capacities and effects of elephants are given scant attention in conservation policy.
This research project seeks to develop theoretical perspectives in animal geography and challenge and enhance conservation practice through three strands of engagement:
- Examining how human-elephant encounters co-produce practices and mappings of elephant conservation
- A closer look at how social orderings of space influence the politics of human and elephant co-inhabitation of landscapes
- Rethinking elephant conservation policy and its impacts on the rural poor
This research has been funded by the University of Oxford Clarendon Fund, Felix and Wingate Scholarships, with external support from the Elephant Family, UK.
Can computer games aid conservation?
- Research Note: Top Ten "Games for Nature" Tips [PDF: 320KB]
Lucy Erickson, December 2011
- Research Note: Top Ten "Need to Know" Digital Games for Nature [PDF: 345KB]
Lucy Erickson, December 2011
Selected Recent Publications
- Veríssimo, D., Barua, M., Jepson, P., MacMillan, D.C. and Smith, R.J. (2011) Selecting marine invertebrate flagship species: widening the net. Biological Conservation.
- Ladle, R.J., Jepson, P., Malhado, A.C.M., Jennings, S. and Barua, M. (2011) The causes and biogeographical significance of species rediscovery. Frontiers of Biogeography.
- Jepson, P., Jennings, S., Jones, K.E. and Hodgetts, T. (2011) Entertainment value: should the media pay for nature conservation? Science, 334(6061): 1351-1352.
- Jepson, P. and St.John, R. (2011) Going with the flow. Special feature: Freshwater Ecology: The BioFresh Programme. Public Service Review: European Science and Technology, 13: 134-137.
- Jepson, P., Barua, M. and Buckingham, K. (2011) What is a conservation actor? Conservation and Society, 9(3): 229-235.
- Buckingham, K., Jepson, P., Wu, L., Rao, I.V.R., Jiang, S., Liese, W., Lou, Y. and Fu, M. (2011) The potential of bamboo is constrained by outmoded policy frames. Ambio, 40(5): 544-548.
- Barua, M., Root-Bernstein, M., Ladle, R.J. and Jepson, P. (2011) Defining flagship uses is critical for flagship selection: a critique of the IUCN climate change flagship fleet. Ambio, 40(4): 431-435.
- Jepson, P., Barua, M., Ladle, R.J. and Buckingham, K. (2011) Towards an intradisciplinary bio-geography: a response to Lorimer's lively biogeographies of Asian elephant conservation. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 36(1): 170-–174.
- Barua, M. (2010) Whose issue? Representations of human-elephant conflict in Indian and international media. Science Communication, 32(1): 55-75.
- Barua, M., Tamuly, J. and Ahmed, R.A. (2010) Mutiny or clear sailing? Examining the role of the Asian Elephant as a flagship species. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 15(2): 145-160.
- Ladle, R.J. and Jepson, P. (2010) Origins, uses, and transformation of extinction rhetoric. Environment and Society: Advances in Research, 1: 96–115.