UCL Anthropology


Human Ecology Research Group (HERG)

UCL Anthropology’s Human Ecology Research Group (HERG) focuses, on the one hand, on the impact of resource policy and management on people’s livelihoods, health and wellbeing, and on the other, on the impacts of changing resource use on the environment and biodiversity. Our research group uses the human ecological perspective, which emphasises interdisciplinarity to develop new understandings and narratives of people’s interactions with the natural environment and the impact of human activities on nature. We have a particular interest in developing methodologies for mixed methods, co-produced research on issues related to human-environment and multispecies relations.

HERG includes some 25 staff, postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers, drawn from such fields as social anthropology, ecology and demography, working on interactions of resource use, conservation, business and development:

  • in regions ranging from Amazonia, East, Central and West Africa to Europe, Central, South and South East Asia;
  • in ecosystems as varied as tropical rain forests, drylands, coastal and riverine wetlands and urban environments;
  • with a research focus ranging from single species interactions with people (e.g. great apes/large carnivores) through to broader themes such as bushmeat, fire management regimes, fishers and aquatic resources, pastoralists, corporate social responsibility, and international environmental initiatives (e.g., REDD+, carbon accounting and payments for wildlife conservation); and
  • with a particular interest in ecosystem and threatened species ecology, policy interventions, household economy and livelihood diversification, and the wellbeing of often marginalised peoples.
Who can join

All PhD students supervised by HERG staff are automatically enrolled and others working on related issues are welcome to do so. Students taking the Anthropology, Environment and Development MSc programme are also automatically members of HERG. Students are enrolled on the HERG site on Moodle, at the start of each term. This site includes a current news notice-board, funding opportunities, job offers, reading lists, links to outside organisations and seminars of interest.

For more information on current research themes and projects, please have a look at our staff and postgraduate student pages under the 'People' tab below.

What we do

Human Ecology is distinctive for its interdisciplinary nature, meshing both natural and social sciences approaches to the study of environment and development issues in both rural and urban settings. It aims to develop a better understanding of the way people impact on the natural world, and conversely of the way environmental policies and practices affect people’s welfare, livelihoods, land use and natural resource management.

The Human Ecology Research Group at UCL was set up by Anthropology staff in 1992. From our original focus on African rangelands and forests, the group has expanded its remit to encompass research into rural and urban populations in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Members of the group are directly involved in multi-disciplinary research using anthropological, ecological, historical, demographic and GIS data in the analysis of social factors influencing land use and environmental change. The group provides a forum for masters, postdoctoral and post graduate researchers from Anthropology and other Departments to share ideas and experiences relevant to the study of the way people use natural resources, and the ways environmental policies affect welfare and livelihoods.

HERG promotes information sharing and communication between researchers by providing a regular forum for research students as well as academics to present work in progress, to receive feedback and to develop ideas with other researchers and conservation professionals. As postgraduates have completed their research and gone on to professional roles outside UCL, the group has evolved into a broader association that includes individuals based in other institutes and agencies. HERG members share a keen interest and experience in the management and maintenance of the natural environment, and concern for understanding the role of key stakeholders, from households and local communities to local, national and international development, commercial and government agencies. Collaboration with national and international policy makers and practitioners is considered a priority by the group, given the very applied nature of the research area.

Past and current members of HERG are working with a range of national and international government agencies as well as with research institutes and other universities, NGOs, charitable organisations, and consulting companies involved in environment and development.


Current Staff Members

External Members (and former HERG PhD students)

Daniel Brockington
PhD (1998): Landloss and Livelihoods. The impacts of eviction on pastoralists moved from the Mkomazi Game Reserve, Tanzania
Current position: ICREA Research Professor, ICTA, UAB (Autonomous University Barcelona)

Rebecca Drury
PhD (2009): Identifying and understanding consumers of wild animal products in  Hanoi, Vietnam: implications for conservation management
MSc AED: Wildlife use by Ethnic Phnong, North East Cambodia
Current position: Manager, Biodiversity and Nature, Chronos Sustainability

Chloe Hodgkinson
PhD (2009): Tourists, Gorillas and Guns: Integrating Conservation and Development in the Central African Republic
Current position: Head of Learning and Partner Development at Fauna & Flora

Tatiana Intigrinova
PhD (2009): Land, people and post-socialist policies in southern Siberia
MSc AED (2003): Factors defining cattle Transhumance in ulus Khoito Gol, The Republic of Buryatia, Russia
Current position: Policy Advisor, Oxfam

Maurus Msuha
PhD (2009): Human impacts on carnivore biodiversity inside and outside protected areas in Tanzania
Current position: Director of Wildlife at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in Tanzania

Sahil Nijhawan
PhD (2018): Human-animal relations and the role of cultural norms in tiger conservation in the Idu Mishmi of Arunachal Pradesh, India
Current position: UKRI future Leaders Research Fellow, Institute of Zoology, ZSL London

Chris Sandbrook
PhD (2007): Tourism, conservation and livelihoods: the impacts of gorilla tracking at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
Current position: Professor of Conservation and Society, Geography Department, Cambridge University

Sian Sullivan
PhD (1998): People, plants and practice in drylands: sociopolitical and ecological dynamics of resource use by Damara farmers in arid north-west Namibia
Current position: Professor of Environment and Culture, Research Centre for Environmental Humanities, Bath Spa University
futurepasts.net | siansullivan.net

Gretchen Walters
PhD (2010): The Land Chief’s embers: ethnobotany of Batéké fire regimes, savanna vegetation and resource use in Gabon
Current position: Professor of Conservation and Development Practice, University of Lausanne, Switzerland


On this page you’ll find examples of PhD dissertations written by past members of HERG (since 2000), on topics ranging from the impacts of tourism, conservation and development projects; to the role of forest, dryland and aquatic resources in livelihoods; to investigations of land use management and change.

  • Christine Carter (2012) 

Tourism, conservation, development around a marine protected area in Kenya

  • Rafael Chiaravalloti (2017)

Local communities and conservation in the Pantanal wetland, Brazil

  • Helen Cross (2014)

The Importance of Small-Scale Fishing to Rural Coastal Livelihoods: A Comparative Case-Study in the Bijagós Archipelago Guinea Bissau

  • Sophie Haines (2011)

An ecology of politics: environment, sociality and development in southern Belize

  • Olivier Hymas (2016)

L’Okoumé, fils du manioc : Post‐logging in remote rural forest areas of Gabon and its long‐term impacts on development and the environment

  • Marie-Annick Moreau (2014)

"The lake is our office": Fisheries resources in rural livelihoods and local governance on the Rufiji River floodplain, Tanzania

  • Chris Sandbrook (2006)

Tourism, conservation and livelihoods: the impacts of gorilla tracking at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

  • Bjorn Schulte-Herbruggen (2012)

The importance of bushmeat in the livelihoods of cocoa farmers living in a wildlife depleted farm-forest landscape, SW Ghana

  • Gretchen Walters (2010)

The Land Chief’s embers: ethnobotany of Batéké fire regimes, savanna vegetation and resource use in Gabon

  • Andrew Williams (2007)

People cascades, land and livelihoods: Farmer and herder land-use relations in the Idodi rangelands, Tanzania

MSc in Anthropology, Environment and Development Dissertations