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Conservation Research Institute



Eszter currently studies water management interventions for better supply in and around small towns of Northern India and Nepal. Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow. Research Associate, Sidney Sussex College. Eszter studies the political ecology of environmental management interventions, particularly for conservation, and is interested in the geopolitics of knowledge production.


My research interests are varied. I started research in field ecology and moved into environmental law and policy-making in Australia, focusing on community-based natural resource management. My underlying motivation for engaging in these disparate fields was the common theme of the research-implementation and theory-practice 'gap' in conservation and environmental management, and for unpacking the issue of responsibility for environmental conservation and governance modes for sustainability initiatives more widely.

My PhD focused on these issues in the context of agriculture in the European Union and Hungary, where I drew from political ecology approaches to studying environmental management interventions, to probe how international ideas of rurality and conservation intersected with the cultural and political economies of a post-socialist state. The tensions and divergences between policy goals and discourses that can be widely ascribed as neoliberal, and their implementation through state agencies through tools of surveillance and auditing were investigated through a series of grounded ethnographies with farmers and government agencies, to ascertain how farming practice as well as farmers themselves have had to change as a result of European expectations and laws - as well as how the European project has aided in the strengthening of more traditional notions of the nation-state, as in the case of Hungary.

I am currently a postdoctoral research associate on the ESPA-funded project on the Political Economy of Water Security in the Himalayas with Dr Bhaskar Vira, wherein we critically examine small town urbanisation processes, links between rural and urban spaces, and how these intersect with water supply and livelihoods across a number of case study towns in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand in Northern India, and in Nepal.


Key publications: 

Ojha, H., Kovacs, E., Devkota, K., Neupane, K.R., Dahal, N. and Vira, B., 2019. Local experts as the champions of water security in the Nepalese town of Dhulikhel. New Angle: Nepal Journal of Social Science and Public Policy.

Jucker, T., Wintle, B.C., Shackelford, G.E., Bocquillon, P., Geffert, J.L., Kasoar, T., Kovacs, E., Mumby, H.S., Orland, C., Schleicher, J., Tew, E.R., Zabala, A., Amano, T., Bell, A., Bongalov, B., Chambers, J.M., Corrigan, C.M., Durán, A.P., Duvic-Paoli, L.-.A., Emilson, C.E., Emilson, E.J.S., Silva, J.F.D., Garnett, E.E., Green, E.J., Guth, M.K., Hacket-Pain, A.J., Hinsley, A., Igea, J., Kunz, M., Luke, S.H., Lynam, W., Martin, P.A., Nunes, M.H., Ockendon, N., Pavitt, A., Payne, C.L.R., Plutshack, V., Rademacher, T.T., Robertson, R.J., Rose, D.C., Serban, A., Simmons, B.I., Tayleur, C.M., Wordley, C.F.R. and Mukherjee, N., 2018. Ten-year assessment of the 100 priority questions for global biodiversity conservation. Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology, v. 32, p.1457-1463. doi:10.1111/cobi.13159.

Rose, D.C., Sutherland, W.J., Amano, T., González-Varo, J.P., Robertson, R.J., Simmons, B.I., Wauchope, H.S., Kovacs, E., Durán, A.P., Vadrot, A.B.M., Wu, W., Dias, M.P., Fonzo, M.M.I.D., Ivory, S., Norris, L., Nunes, M.H., Nyumba, T.O., Steiner, N., Vickery, J.A. and Mukherjee, N., 2018. The major barriers to evidence-informed conservation policy and possible solutions. Conservation letters, v. 11, p.e12564-. doi:10.1111/conl.12564.

Kovács, E.K. and Pataki, G., 2016. The participation of experts and knowledges in the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Environmental Science & Policy, v. 57, p.131-139. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2015.12.007.

Kovacs, E.K.K., Kumar, C., Agarwal, C., Adams, W.M., Hope, R. and Vira, B., 2016. The politics of negotiation and implementation: a reciprocal water access agreement in the Himalayan foothills, India. Ecology and Society: a journal of integrative science for resilience and sustainability, v. 21, p.37-47.

Kovács, E., Kelemen, E., Kalóczkai, Á., Margóczi, K., Pataki, G., Gébert, J., Málovics, G., Balázs, B., Roboz, Á., Krasznai Kovács, E. and Mihók, B., 2015. Understanding the links between ecosystem service trade-offs and conflicts in protected areas. Ecosystem Services, v. 12, p.117-127. doi:10.1016/j.ecoser.2014.09.012.

Kovács, E.K., 2015. Surveillance and state-making through EU agricultural policy in Hungary. Geoforum, v. 64, p.168-181. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.06.020.

Lundquist, C.J., Báldi, A., Dieterich, M., Gracey, K., Kovács, E.K., Schleicher, J., Skorin, T., Sterling, E.J. and Jonsson, B.G., 2015. Engaging the conservation community in the IPBES process. Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology, v. 29, p.1493-1495. doi:10.1111/cobi.12630.

Kovacs, E.K., Crowther, M.S., Webb, J.K. and Dickman, C.R., 2012. Population and behavioural responses of native prey to alien predation. Oecologia, v. 168, p.947-957. doi:10.1007/s00442-011-2168-9.

Teaching and Supervisions

  • Lecturer, Part 1A & 1B papers, The University of Cambridge
  • Guest Lecturer, Qualitative research methods, Corvinus University of Budapest
  • Supervision Tutor, Part IA, University of Cambridge, 2011 -

Other Professional Activities

  • EKLIPSE Co-chair in Expert Working Group on Understanding Farmer Uptake: What measures deliber biodiversity through the Common Agricultural Policy? 2017 -
  • Co-convenor, Political Ecology Reading Group, Department of Geography, The University of Cambridge 2014-2015, 2015-2016-
  • President, Cambridge University Australia and New Zealand Society 2012
  • Green Officer, Sidney Sussex College MCR 2009-10, 2010-11
  • 1sts Women's Fencing team, University of Cambridge, 2008-9, 2009-10
Postdoctoral Research Associate

Contact Details

Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Place
01223 - 333399


Departments and institutes: 
Research keywords: 
European agricultural areas