UCL Anthropology


Paul Barnes

UCL Email: paul.barnes.14@ucl.ac.uk
Year of Start: 2015
Supervisors: Professor Katherine Homewood (UCL) and Dr Samuel Turvey (Institute of Zoology, ZSL)
Subject: Biological Anthropology
Fieldsite: The Cyclops Mountains, Papua

PhD Research

People, parks and Attenborough's echidna: The political ecology of conservation in the Cyclops Mountains, Papua

The dominant model of conservation throughout the 20th and 21st centuries has been the creation of protected areas and the use of charismatic 'umbrella' species to garner donor support and leverage funding for externally conceived conservation 'interventions' or 'projects'. Such conservation policies influence the lives of millions of people yet the separation of people and nature they often impose is increasingly challenged. Although there has been a broad shift in dominant opinion on how conservation should be implemented, the full spectrum of envisaged management prescriptions can still be seen today in contemporary conservation. This plurality of conservation policy can be seen throughout New Guinea; an island currently affected by rapid population growth and cultural change. These issues and policies are altering the social, political and economic circumstances of natural resource users and causing breakdown of traditional environmental taboos and management practises.

My doctoral research attempts to reconcile some of the contradictions found in contemporary conservation by providing a more nuanced, multi-scale understanding of conservation policies and their outcomes. It will use both national level reviews of existing literature throughout south east Asia and Melanesia as well as a detailed case study of the Cyclops Mountains Strict Nature Reserve, Papua Province, Indonesia. Novel methods will be used to understand the status of poorly understood, locally threatened biodiversity, and local ecological knowledge will be collated. This information will be placed into the wider context of global conservation policy through ethnographic research in the Cyclops Mountains, and systematic and other reviews of existing literature on protected areas and local knowledge.

Current Research

  • Research assistant working on a systematic review for the IMPACTS (Issues and Myths in Protected Area Conservation: Trade-offs and Synergies) project, funded by ESPA (Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation).
  • Ongoing ethnographic fieldwork with communities in the Cyclops Mountains, Papua.
  • Monitoring the Critically Endangered Attenborough's Long-Beaked Echidna. Working as a member of the Institute of Zoology and ZSL EDGE in collaboration with WWF Papua, LESTARI, BKSDA Papua and UNCEN this research combines local ecological knowledge and ranger patrol data to determine the current population status of Attenborough's echidna and a range of other threatened vertebrates.
  • Collection of indigenous and local knowledge about animals of the Cyclops Mountains.
  • Systematic review of Indigenous and local knowledge literature from Southeast Asia and Melanesia. Specifically, how this concept is represented in different research agendas, and how it interacts with conservation policy.

Research Interests

  • Political ecology of conservation and environmental issues
  • Human ecology and ethnoscience
  • Environmental anthropology and natural resource management
  • Indigenous and local knowledge
  • Social and ecological impacts of conservation policy
  • Biocultural diversity


  • Barnes. P. A., Copsey, J., Tatayah, V. (2013) An assessment of human attitude and behaviour towards the Critically Endangered Rodrigues fruit bat. Report to Rodrigues Regional Assembly, Government of Mauritius. (Report)
  • Barnes, P. A. (2013) An investigation into human attitude and behaviour towards Pteropus Rodricensis (Rodrigues Fruit Bat). (MSc Thesis)
  • Barnes, P. A. (2012) Monitoring Marine Invasive Species in the River Thames, London: Assessing risk and prioritising species for a citizen science based approach to monitoring. (Report)

Presentations & Conferences

Amphlett, C., Nijhawan, S., Barnes, P. A., Marino, A., Chiaravalloti, R. (2016)Social Ecological Systems Student Conference. Hosted by Anthropology, University College London, England. 7th April 2016. (Co-Organiser)
Barnes, P.A. (2016)People, parks and Attenborough's echidna: The Political Ecology of the Cyclops Mountains, Papua, Indonesia. Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society London Student Conference, London, England. 26th April 2016. (Presentation)
Barnes, P. A. (2015)Battitude: Human Fruit Bat conflict in the West Indian Ocean. 7th Annual Bristol Zoological Society Symposium, 'Saving wildlife together: Conflict, co-existence & conservation'. 11th February 2015. (Poster)
Barnes, P. A. (2013)An investigation into human attitude and behaviour towards Pteropus Rodricensis(Rodrigues Fruit Bat). ICCS Student Conference, Imperial College London, UK. September 2013. (Presentation)
Barnes, P. A. (2013)Endemic Flora of Jordan. Kew, London, England. March 2013. (Presentation)
Barnes, P. A. (2012)Power to the People: Empowering local people for sustainable conservation. Zoological Society London, UK. December 2012. (Poster)
Aberdeen, S., Barnes, P. A., Chan, C., Pollard, C., Spooner, F. (2012)Thames of Change: Strategy for early detection and rapid assessment of invasive benthic invertebrate species. Zoological Society London, UK. October 2012. (Presentation)

Education History

  • 2014 - present. PhD Candidate, Anthropology, UCL and Institute of Zoology, ZSL
  • 2012 - 2013. MSc Conservation Science, Imperial College London
  • 2005 - 2008. BSc (Hons) Environmental Sciences, University of Brighton

Honours, Awards & Funding

  • Private Donor: Population status and trends of the critically endangered Zaglossus attenboroughi (Attenborough's Long-beaked echidna) in The Cyclops Mountains, Papua Province, Indonesia. Co-I and Fieldwork Lead (PI: Nisha Owen, ZSL EDGE), December 2016 - Current
  • Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong (OPCFHK): Monitoring Monotremes: Establishing a conservation evidence base for long-beaked echidnas in Papua. Co-I and Fieldwork Lead (PI: Nisha Owen, ZSL EDGE), July 2014 - October 2015
  • UK Government Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). PhD Studentship

Additional Information

  • Member of the Human Ecology Research Group (HERG)
  • Member of the Social Ecological Systems Reading Group (SESRG) and the interactions between humans and natural systems reading group
  • Part-time director and consultant for Conservation Consultancy Ltd.
  • Founder and contributor of Conservation Blog (www.conservationblog.co.uk)