The Digital Conservation Governance Lab is an interdisciplinary research group working to generate novel and creative insight to help conservation assure its relevance and impact in the 21st century. The lab's identity is founded on the belief that important applied insights lie at the interfaces of the natural and social science and of theory and practice. We generate richer conceptualisations of the actor, policy and management landscape of conservation and how this varies across time and space.

Our research focuses on three key themes:

  1. Theory development to support better conservation practice
    We draw on conceptual tools in the environmental social sciences to produce richer understandings of key concepts in conservation. We have examined the role of non-humans in the production of conservation institutions and modalities of action (see Jepson et al 2011) and extended understanding of the historic, cultural and political facets that govern human-wildlife relations (Barua forthcoming). We have conceptualised extinction and rediscovery as a bio-cultural phenomena rather than ecological and scientific events and produced typologies of each (see Ladle and Jepson 2008, Ladle et al 2011) and lastly we have developed a theory of flagship species agency (Jepson and Barua in review; Barua review).
  2. The governance of conservation across space and time
    Through a range of case studies we examine how, by whom and by what space and territory is governed in conservation. We pay attention to the rise and fall of modes of conservation over time. Our focus has been on NGOs, particular policy mechanisms and landscapes and governance of birds, large mammals, forest resources and freshwaters. In terms of governance across space we examine the role of NGOs in producing the spatial regimes of conservation (see e.g. Jepson and Whittaker 2002, Jepson and Canney 2003, Barua in review) and how NGOs build, maintain extend their influence with more powerful governance actors and the politics, opportunities and tensions this produces (Jepson 2005). A particular focus is revealing how international policy approaches (e.g. FSC certification, REDD+, Flegt) interplay with, and are modified by, local context and socio-political institutions (Buckingham et al 2011, Mulyani and Jepson in press) and how specifics of society and place can inform culturally attuned modes of conservation governance (Jepson et al 2011, Jepson 2010, Barua and Jepson 2010, Barua et al 2011).
  3. New trends and governance futures
    A newer theme of the lab concerns the implications of new technologies and the practices they produce for the future of conservation science and practice. So far our engagements in this area have been discursive and applied. We have convened and presented at symposia on biodiversity technologies, notably the UK's first meeting on Mobile computing, citizen science and conservation recording in February 2011 and a session titled "Tools as change agents: Technology-inspired future visions" at the 2012 Biodiversity Institute Biodiversity Technologies Symposium. More specifically we are interested in identifying attributes of technologies that could transform the modality of conservation and generate novel solutions to age-old problems One example is the concept of opti-hunting (Jepson 2012a&b) as an alternative vision for governing migratory bird hunting and second is the conceptual design (Together with Profs Willis and Roberts) of a smartphone app able to automated the identification and recording of biodiversity sound as one means to overcome the date deficit in biodiversity monitoring.

People and their Research Projects

  • Dr Paul Jepson
    Lab Leader, Course Director, MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management
  • Dr Maan Barua
    Postdoctoral Researcher - The political ecology of human-elephant interactions in India
  • Ricardo Correia
    Visiting Research Associate
  • Cheli Cresswell
    DPhil Research Student - Using big data and citizen science to map geographic and temporal trends in human-elephant conflict in Asia
  • Anna Hushlak
    DPhil Research Student - From virtual space to physical place: mobilising the affordances of communication technologies for biodiversity conservation
  • John Mittermeier
    DPhil Research Student - Cultural value and biodiversity conservation: harnessing the power of 'big data' to quantify the cultural importance of species
  • Chung-Han Yang
    MPhil Research Student - Environmental NGO engagements with the Chinese mining and oil industry

In addition a number of MSc students conduct their dissertation research with the lab.

Past Lab Members and Associates

  • Dr Kathleen Buckingham
    Research Officer, World Resources Institute
  • Jon David
    DPhil Research Student
  • James Erbaugh
    MPhil Research Student - The formalization of smallholder timber production in northern Central Java: governmentalization beyond the political forest
  • Dr Richard Ladle
    Visiting Professor, Institute of Biological and Health Sciences, Federal University of Alagoas, Brazil
  • Mari Mulyani
    DPhil Research Student - The interplay between the REDD+ mechanism and forest-related institutions in Indonesia
  • Dr Meredith Root-Bernstein
    Career Development Fund Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
  • Jonas Schoenefeld
    MPhil Research Student - The role of environmental groups in EU climate change policy-making
  • Maria Szauer
    MPhil Research Student - The Role of the Mass Media in the Disaster Management Political Agenda, in Colombia : a case studies of the 2010-2011 La Niña floorings
  • Rob St.John
    Musician, writer and photographer

Featured Lab Publications

Research and Concept Notes and Digital Native Media