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Past Group Meetings




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Thursday 6th November 2014

Zac Baynhem-Herd, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, chaired by Daniel Simpson - Who on Earth cares? Explaining variation between the world's nations in levels of conservation concern and investment.

There is wide variation in the extent to which different nation states invest in environmental protection, and to which their citizens exhibit concern for it. Traditionally, much of this variation has been attributed to differences between nations in wealth. However, the relationship between environmentalism and wealth is a complex one, and it is increasingly apparent that other factors are also involved. We review the largely economic hypotheses that have been developed to explain global variation in broad environmentalism and assess whether they explain useful variation in the more specific area of biodiversity conservation. We also include in our analysis a number of other cultural, historical and social factors besides wealth, which may also play an important role in explaining the variance regarding who 'cares' about nature conservation.


Thursday 24th April 2014


Michael Vine, Social Anthropology
Precarious Forms: Social Ecologies of Endangerment in North-western Mexico 

The loss of biodiversity, the mass extinction of species, and the precarious state and fate of the world’s oceans are widely agreed to be crucial political, technical, and otherwise social issues in the twenty-first century. Within this context, the Gulf of California has emerged as a shifting signifier of abundance and fragility, of disaster and salvation, of hope, nostalgia, and fear—an inextricably material and discursive form. For my doctoral research, I propose to interrogate the social production of endangerment, extinction, and other modes of precariousness in and around the Gulf. By examining ethnographically the practices of place-making that bring the region into being, I will ask how certain objects come to matter as things of concern, care, and contestation—that is, as precarious forms. In turn, I will ask how the idea and objects of endangerment are reconfiguring social relations and practice in north-western Mexico and beyond. Working with scientists, activists, and local communities, I intend to tackle these questions with regards to the materiality, morality, and temporality of endangerment as it is variously inhabited and experienced across multiple scales of knowledge, sentiment, and social life. In this presentation, I will introduce my proposed research and theoretical framework for interdisciplinary discussion. 


Thursday 19th March 2014

Katy Jeary, first year PhD student in the Geography Department: Modelling the landscape: can trade-offs between agricultural development and biodiversity conservation be minimized in the Murchison-Semliki region of Uganda?

As global demand for food and land grows there is increasing pressure to convert tropical forests to agriculture. Although an important source of food and income that accounts for over 50% of GDP in
developing countries, agriculture is also a major driver of biodiversity loss.  As the majority of biodiversity exists outside protected areas, it is critical we find ways of maximizing both agricultural output and biodiversity across a variety of land uses. Several mechanisms and framings for the reconciliation of agricultural production and biodiversity conservation have been proposed: land 

sparing and land-sharing; the sustainable intensification of agriculture, the Green Economy and market-based mechanisms, to name a few. But local level impacts, the wider enabling environment and barriers to implementation have been little investigated. In the Murchison-Semliki landscape of Uganda, an area within the East African Albertine Rift that is experiencing increasing food and timber demand, rapidly decreasing forest cover and the recent development of an oil industry, a considerable concentration of projects have been initiated aiming to either conserve forest habitats or increase smallholder agricultural production, or both. Integrated landscape approaches, growing in popularity in recent years, have been proposed as a way of assessing how competing land uses and multiple interventions can be balanced across broad areas. But how useful are they when data is 

scarce, how user friendly are they and do outcomes have applicability to real life i.e. present governance structures, market dynamics and stakeholder preferences? This presentation will introduce some of these topics and outline the proposed research to investigate how agent-based landscape modelling might guide decision making, explore and minimise the trade-offs between biodiversity conservation and agricultural development, and ultimately improve outcomes for smallholder farmers and forest biodiversity.

Thursday 30th January 2014

Anca Serban, first year PhD, Geography Department: Why are younger countries worse for conservation?

Our meeting will be based on the recently released article by Hershfield et al: "National Differences in Environmental Concern and Performance Are Predicted by Country Age". 

There are obvious economic predictors of ability and willingness to invest in environmental sustainability. Yet, given that environmental decisions represent trade-offs between present sacrifices and uncertain future benefits, psychological factors may also play a role in country-level environmental behavior. Gott’s principle suggests that citizens may use perceptions of their country’s age to predict its future continuation, with longer pasts predicting longer futures. Using country- and individual-level analyses, we examined whether longer perceived pasts result in longer perceived futures, which in turn motivate concern for continued environmental quality. Study 1 found that older countries scored higher on an environmental performance index, even when the analysis controlled for country-level differences in gross domestic product and governance. Study 2 showed that when the United States was framed as an old country (vs. a young one), participants were willing to donate more money to an environmental organization. The findings suggest that framing a country as a long-standing entity may effectively prompt proenvironmental behavior. 


Thursday 12th December 2013

What do conservationists think about re-wilding?

Huge areas in Europe’s countryside are becoming abandoned. From a nature conservation standpoint, the land abandonment represents both a huge threat and at the same time a huge opportunity to reclaim at least some of all the wild lands and wilderness areas that Europe lost during the past centuries. This could be the biggest opportunity ever for wildlife and wilderness in Europe. And what is also really interesting is that this might very well turn out economically much more profitable than the previous, outcompeted ways of using those same lands now trying to survive on subsidies. For more details about the initiative please see:

We are one of CCI's ten conservation partners based in Cambridge, UK.

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About Us

UCCRI is an Interdisciplinary Research Centre, with a network of over 150 researchers from all 6 Schools of the University of Cambridge. The Institute supports multidisciplinary research on biodiversity conservation and the social context within which humans engage with nature. It works from a base in the David Attenborough Building, which is designed to enhance collaboration and the sharing of perspectives across organisational and disciplinary boundaries. Find out more...

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