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Conservation Research Institute


Project 9: (July Only) Investigating alternative scenarios for the sustainable post-covid recovery of the nature-based tourism industry in small island states 
Supervisors: Dr Chris Sandbrook and Dr Sophia Cooke

The covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the nature-based tourism industry around the world. This has in turn undermined local livelihoods and many conservation programmes which rely on tourism income. The impacts have been particularly severe in many small island states (SIDS), which are often highly dependent on the tourism industry. 

As the pandemic (hopefully) recedes, countries around the world are facing difficult decisions about how to rebuild their economies. Options include trying to return to the pre-covid situation, cutting red tape to allow rapid economic growth at the expense of natural resources, or using this moment to pivot to a more sustainable economic model. Nations around the world are in effect running real time experiments as they attempt different approaches and monitor their outcomes. 

The Galapagos Islands, part of the state of Ecuador, are dependent on tourism for the livelihoods of over 80% of the islands’ ~35,000 residents. The industry collapsed last year, with severe impacts on the local economy and ecology, as many people switched to fishing and other extractive activities to get through the crisis. Tourism is now slowly returning but is nowhere near pre-covid levels. At the invitation of the governing council of the Galapagos (CGREG), UCCRI researchers Chris Sandbrook and Sophia Cooke are working with collaborators in the UK and Ecuador to develop possible scenarios for the post-covid recovery of the Galapagos. This is being done under a one year project funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund. Part of the project involves collating information on experiences elsewhere around the world that might be relevant to the Galapagos, and feeding this information into the scenario development and policymaking process for the islands. 

The main objective of the proposed UCCRI summer internship will be to carry out a literature review (of both published and ‘grey’ literature such as websites and reports) of how nations and areas that are particularly dependent on nature-based tourism have been responding to the covid crisis. There will be a particular focus on SIDS, which are most relevant to the Galapagos situation. The findings will be written up in a report to feed into the Galapagos project, and may also be used as the basis for a published academic paper, on which the intern would be an author. The internship will involve searching for relevant materials online, reading those materials, extracting key information and then summarising it through the analysis of emerging themes. It may also be possible for the intern to get involved in other activities around the project, depending on how the project is progressing.  

The ideal intern will have a strong interest in the social dimensions of conservation and will possess excellent written communication skills. Some familiarity with qualitative content or discourse analysis would be an advantage. The key contact person for the internship will be Chris Sandbrook, from the Department of Geography, who is the principal investigator on the GCRF project. There will also be considerable interaction with Sophia Cooke (Kings College / Geography) and other collaborators from outside the University of Cambridge. It may also be possible to interact with the team working on a related CCI-funded project looking at sustainable finance for conservation landscapes in the post-covid world.