The Conservation Governance Lab is an interdisciplinary research group working to generate novel and creative approaches to assure the relevance and impact of conservation in the 21st century. The lab's identity is founded on the belief that significant applied insights lie at the interfaces of natural and social science, and of theory and practice. We work to generate richer conceptualisations of the actor, policy and management landscape of conservation, to further academic theory on conservation policy and practice, to strengthen conservation governance across space and time, and to develop a new generation of technologically-mediated conservation metrics. Our research revolves around long-term engagement with protected areas, wildlife trade and forest policy, human-nature interactions and re-wilding.
The lab focuses on three central themes:
- Theory Development to Support Better Conservation Policy and Practice
We draw on conceptual tools from the environmental social sciences to produce richer understandings of key concepts in conservation. This includes: examining the role of non-humans in the production of conservation institutions and networks of action and extending understandings of the historic, cultural, and political facets that govern human-nature relations (Barua 2013a&b; Jepson et al 2011; Jepson forthcoming), conceptualising extinction and rediscovery as a bio-cultural phenomena rather than as ecological and scientific events, and producing theories of avoided extinction (Ladle and Jepson 2008) and flagship species action (Jepson and Barua 2014) including typologies of extinction and rediscovery (Ladle et al 2011). In bridging theory development with conservation in practice, we are currently designing a new protected areas framework, which draws on the concepts of 'asset' and 'value' (Caldecott and Jepson 2014). The intention of this framework is to restate the policy case for protected areas while enabling enhanced risk management and new investment as well as guiding a new generation of protected area metrics.
- Exploring Conservation Governance across Space and Time
Through a range of case studies, we examine how, by whom and by what space and territory is governed in contemporary conservation. We pay particular attention to the rise and fall of modes of conservation over time and space, drawing linkages between past, present and future practices. A recent focus has been on revealing how international policy approaches (e.g. FSC certification, REDD+, FLEGT) interplay with, and are modified by, local context and socio-political institutions (Buckingham and Jepson 2013; Mulyani and Jepson 2014). Follow up research is exploring how the specifics of society and place inform culturally attuned modes of conservation governance (Jepson 2010; Barua and Jepson 2010; Jepson et al 2011b; Jepson, forthcoming). We also investigate the role and tactics of non-governmental organisations in producing the spatial discursive and institutional regimes of conservation and the associated questions of accountability, impact and innovation (Jepson and Whittaker 2002; Jepson 2005; Barua, forthcoming).
- Mobilising Technological Affordances and Re-envisioning Conservation 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. This is inspired by the recognition that the information affords the possibility for new and innovative approaches to governing ever increasing pressures on Earth systems in a rapidly changing world. The conservation movement needs to be at the forefront in driving and shaping technological change so as to integrate conservation agendas into today's information revolution. Our research addresses four inter-locking questions: 1) How are conservation actors engaging with emerging forms of technology for citizen engagement and technologically-mediated environmental governance (Ashlin and Ladle, 2006; Jepson et al forthcoming; Hushlak, DPhil); 2) How can emerging computational techniques and 'big data' be combined to produce 'new generation' tools that will empower situated actors to engage in human-wildlife interaction (Correia, Post-Doc; Mittermeier, DPhil); 3) How can the affordances of biodiversity informatics, 'big data' and citizen science be mobilised to develop spatial conservation planning and decision support tools that capture and metricise forms of cultural value (Creswell DPhil); and 4) What might revolutionary change in conservation governance look like and does articulating such visions serve a purpose? (Jepson 2012).