Students on this Masters are automatically affiliated to, and participate in, the Human Ecology Research Group with its long record of fostering outstanding postgraduate and postdoctoral research.
Staff and students have carried out a diverse range of research programmes and projects all over the world.
Common themes include: Resource use; livelihoods; poverty; biodiversity; conservation; development; corporate social responsibility; demography; migration & mobility; environmental change. All this research has been carried out in forests; wetlands; drylands; cloud forests; marine areas; urban and peri-urban areas... read more
Current staff members (also members of HERG)
Marc Brightman is Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. His previous posts include: ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellow at ISCA, Oxford University (2009-10), Early Career Fellow in Social Anthropology of Environment, Conservation and Development at Oxford Brookes University (2008-10), and Postdoctoral Laureate at the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris (2007-8). His doctoral research (2002-7) was on Amerindian leadership in the Guiana region of Amazonia, and was based on fieldwork carried out among the Trio, Wayana and Akuriyo of southern Suriname and French Guiana. He has since begun to focus more closely on the political importance of the transformation of the environment, and on indigenous Amazonian forms of property, and he has recently begun to investigate these in the context of the emergence of new forms of property occurring through the evaluation of environmental services, particularly in the context of UN-REDD. He has conducted further research on the indigenous peoples’ movement, and his holistic approach to native Amazonian politics and power has stimulated his interest in the political role of music and ritual, and in the relationship between art objects, social space and group solidarity.
I obtained my PhD investigating the management and impacts of community-led fisheries enhancement in Lao PDR in 1999. As a Post Doc at Imperial College London and a social development consultant to MRAG ltd, my interest in the human ecology of living aquatic resource use and management led to my working in many parts of the world on DfID research projects (Lao PDR, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand , the Caribbean, and West Bengal) both as a Principal Investigator and a short term consultant. This work focused on understanding the human/environment interactions of many different systems including Inland Fisheries Enhancement Systems; Marine Protected Areas; Riverine Reserves and Irrigated Farmer-managed Aquatic Systems. With a strong interest in Action Orientated Research, an important feature of this work has been ensuring a wide range of counterparts are actively engaged in projects, from individual households within rural communities through to government staff. I have continued much of this work after joining UCL in 2004 and, most recently, have been conducting research on the importance of ricefield aquatic biodiversity to rural livelihoods in Lao PDR.
I work on the interaction of conservation and development, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and with a special focus on pastoralist peoples in drylands, among other groups and ecosystems. I research the implications of natural resource policies and management for local people's livelihoods and welfare, and the implications of changing land use for environment and biodiversity. I convene the Human Ecology Research Group which brings together staff and postgraduates working on environment and development issues.
In collaboration with colleagues from other UK, international and African research institutions I am working on several programmes aiming to shape more environmentally and socially sustainable policy and practice in African drylands. These include acting as PI for the ESPA programme framework grant “Biodiversity, Ecosystem services, Social sustainability and Tipping points”, (with ZSL, ILRI, ATPS) http://www.ucl.ac.uk/best; co-PI for the NERC-DEFRA funded Valuing Nature Network programme “Capturing differentiated experience of change to ensure pro-poor ecosystem service: interventions are fit for purpose” ( With Imperial, ZSL, LSE); and co-I in the ESRC/DFID collaborative programme “Measuring complex outcomes of environment and development interventions” (with Wildlife Conservation Society and Imperial)
2011-16: Hunter-Gatherer Resilience Past present and future adaptations to a world in transition. Although hunting and gathering has been the longest and most diverse bio-cultural adaptation in humanity’s existence, we know very little about the ways in which hunter-gatherers have adapted to pressures and maintained their resilience. While the number of hunter-gatherers that have disappeared is unknown, the consequences of their extinction are evident in humanity’s current low genetic diversity, and in the uneven distribution of languages, where 95% of the world’s languages are spoken by only 6% of the world’s population. Diminishing genetic and linguistic diversity is matched by diminishing biodiversity. Since the remaining hunter-gatherers live in some of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots this project will explore the relationships between these key areas of diversity for humanity’s general resilience in a period of rapid natural, social and technological change. Leverhulme Trust Resilience Research Programme Grant over 5 years (2011-2016). RP2011-R-045. £1,700,000.
2011-16: ‘Extreme’ Citizen Science (ExCiteS). The core objective of this project is the creation and development of a research group that focuses on ‘Extreme’ Citizen Science (ExCiteS) – the theory, methodologies, techniques and tools that are needed to allow any community to start its own bottom-up citizen science activity, regardless of the level of literacy of the users. The aim is that by the end of the grant, the interdisciplinary ‘Extreme’ Citizen Science research group at UCL will be recognised in the UK and internationally as leading this area. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Challenging Engineering Award: (AB). £1,000,000.
2013-14: Developing geographic information systems for non-literate users. ESRI will support the ExCiteS group to develop a stand-alone GIS application for use by non-literate users - focusing on hunter-gatherers in the Congo Basin. ESRI. US$150,000
2011-12: The socio-cultural and legal patterns of organisation of indigenous peoples and their impact on the rights of women and children: A case study in the Republic of Congo. UNICEF. ($133,000)
2012: Capturing differentiated experience of change to ensure pro-poor ecosystem service interventions are fit for purpose. Valuing Nature Network/Natural Environment Research Council Grant. (One year 2012).
After an undergraduate degree in Anthropology my PhD in Demography at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine focused on the demographic dynamics of rural Malian populations with different production systems. I integrated anthropological approaches to both data collection and interpretation in order to understand the key factors influencing the diversity of demographic outcomes in these isolated rural populations. Such a mixed methods approach to understanding demographic issues has been a major dimension of most of my subsequent research.
My early research interests in the demography of nomadic pastoralists were oriented around the dynamics of Tuareg populations in Mali from 1981-2001 – both before and after they were involved in a forced migration and sedentarisation as a result of conflict. I have considerable experience of field data collection (both quantitative and qualitative) in Mali, Senegal and Burkina Faso under a range of conditions: illiterate pastoral nomads, large agricultural villages, poor and more wealthy areas in small towns and capital cities and I have also undertaken more limited research in East Africa, Mongolia and have analysed Palestinian demographic data. I focus on issues such as health behaviour, marital and reproductive decision making, the impact of migration on those left behind as well as trying to understand the determinants of different patterns of demographic dynamics in poor, rural African populations and the interplay between development and demography. My research is currently orientated around unpacking the mismatch between the concepts used in survey data collection and respondents’ own ideas about what is important and their daily realities.
I am also involved in two research projects in West Africa: in Senegal a collaboration with Nathalie Mondain of the University of Ottowa is examining the consequences of migration to Europe for the families left behind in a small town; in Burkina Faso I am involved in a long term collaboration with the Ouagadougou Population Observatory hosted by the ISSP at the University of Ouagadougou, investigation issues of demography, health and well-being amongst the urban poor