School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences

Dr. Janet Fisher

Senior Lecturer in environmental social sciences

Email: and Tel: +44(0)131 650 5097

Geography and the Lived Environment, Drummond Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP (Room 22.D - Drummond Library (Annexe))

I am an environmental social scientist interested in the links between environmental change, environmental management and human development. I have two strands of research. In the first, I use ecosystem services concepts (that focus on the various benefits humans derive from nature) to do interdisciplinary work with natural and social scientists, to understand how the environment supports human wellbeing. In the second research strand, I am interested in understanding how the increasing use of ecosystem services concepts and associated policies, which are often market-based, are changing conservation practice.

One of my core interests is in developing understanding of the links between ecosystem services and human wellbeing and poverty. My postdoctoral work at Edinburgh University was within a multidisciplinary team focused on developing new conceptual approaches to the nexus between services and wellbeing. A number of aspects of this conceptual work are being investigated more empirically through our project, ACES, which examines the rural development implications of various forms of land use change in Mozambique. I am also involved in global synthesis work through the ESPA Frontiers project, looking at changing relationships between people, agriculture and ecosystem services in agricultural/forest mosaic landscapes.

[Janet Fisher]

Another strand of my research focuses upon the uptake and implications of ecosystem services concepts in conservation practice in the global south. Through a collaborative project with a number of scholars of environmental justice at the University of East Anglia, we are examining how conservation practitioners justify and promote pro-poor governance of ecosystem services. In parallel, we are examining how different schools of thought in political philosophy and environmental ethics also provide justification for pro-poor environmental governance. Through this, we aim to bring more discussion of philosophy and ethics into considerations of ecosystem services and human wellbeing. See the WhyESPA project page for more details.

These interests build directly on my PhD, which analysed how tropical forest conservation interest groups adopt ecosystem services concepts and the implications these have for their priorities, the arguments they engage in, and their practice - how they do conservation. As part of this, I studied the uptake of policy mechanisms such as Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) by conservation organisations. Through fieldwork in Uganda, I took a particular focus on the implications that PES involves for local people. I analysed the implications of conditionality and monetary incentives, looking particularly at distributional equity, adaptability and flexibility under a contractual approach, and the temporal sustainability of PES. See my PhD page for more information. More recently, projects within this strand of work on conservation debates and practice have examined perspectives on markets in conservation, and debates about the so-called New Conservation. In early 2017, we launched the Future of Conservation Survey, which has now been taken by around 9000 conservation practitioners in ~180 different countries.

Current Research Projects

ACES Livelihoods and Land Use Change in Mozambique (Funded by ESPA)

WhyESPA: Why should ecosystem services be used for poverty alleviation? Establishing the ethical foundations of ESPA (Funded by ESPA)

ESPA Frontiers: Land-use intensification in forest-agriculture frontier landscapes: effects on ecosystem services and poverty alleviation (ESPA-Frontiers) (Funded by ESPA)

Completed Research Projects

Rethinking Environment and Development in an Era of Global Norms: An Exploration of Forests and Water in Nepal, Sudan and Uganda, and Stage 2 grant: Exploring international politics of justice on carbon forestry and hydropower (ESRC/DFID Development Frontiers Grant)

Streamlining Monitoring in Smallholder Payments for Ecosystem Services: (Funded by ESPA)

Key Research Interests

• Ecosystem Services

• Human wellbeing and poverty alleviation

• Payments for Ecosystem Services

• Conservation Policy and Priorities

• Integrated Conservation and Development

• Tropical Forest Policy and REDD+

• Land Use Intensification

• Ecological and Environmental Economics

• Q Methodology

• Deliberation in Environmental Policy

Qualifications and Career:

Oct 2013 - date: Chancellor's Fellow (GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh)

Jun 2012 - Sept 2013: Lecturer - Environmental Social Science (Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter)

Feb 2011 - Mar 2012: Postdoctoral Research Associate (GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh)

2011 PhD in International Development (University of East Anglia)

2007 MSc Environment and International Development (Distinction; University of East Anglia)

2003 BSc Biology and Geography within the Natural Sciences programme (First Class; University of Durham)


Please see my publications page for more information. Many of these are published open access. Feel free also to contact me for a copy.

Please also view my Google Scholar and LinkedIn profiles and contact me - Email: and Tel: +44(0)131 650 5097