School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences


Geoff Wells

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I am a doctoral candidate at the Global Change Institute, School of GeoSciences, at the University of Edinburgh, supervised by Dr Casey Ryan. I have also worked in community natural resource management programmes in various developing countries. Generally, I’m interested in quantitative and qualitative land use change science, procedural and technological innovations for applied local natural resource management, and the sociopolitical aspects of the use of science and technology in land-based sustainability programmes.



Current work

Broadly, my current work assesses and aims to improve the effectiveness of scientific analyses in global and national programmes which seek to change land use by small-scale farmers. This research mainly relies on empirical analyses of the performance of smallholder payments for ecosystem service (carbon agroforestry) programmes across the tropics.

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I seek to conduct interdisciplinary research on socioecological systems using a variety of methods including: field measurement of forests; quantitative modelling of land-based ecosystem services (e.g. carbon sequestration) and socio-ecological systems; participatory household- and community-level social and environmental data collection and analyses; and political ecology and science and technology studies (STS) methods.

I am carrying out my current research in collaboration with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) Sustainable Markets Group, the Plan Vivo Foundation, ECOTRUST, Uganda, and Cooperativa AMBIO, Mexico. My studentship is mainly funded by the UK NERC E3 Docotoral Training Partnership.

Other work and education

My previous work includes:

  • Consultancy work conducting quantitative modelling of greenhouse gas reductions in tropical carbon agroforestry projects
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  • Working as a research assistant at the University of Edinburgh investigating the monitoring of payments for ecosystem services, funded by the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation programme
  • At the International Institute for Environment and Development, coordinating and implementing community natural resources management projects in East African drylands, aimed at building community resilience to climate change
  • Working as a researcher on international treaties in the Australian Parliament’s House of Representatives Committee Office.
  • I am also part of a community of researchers and practitioners supporting the development and application of the Smallholder Agriculture Monitoring and Baseline Assessment (SHAMBA) tool - a free and simple way to assess changes in greenhouse gases from land use in tropical areas

    I have an MSc in Ecosystem Services (Distinction) from University of Edinburgh, and a BA in International Studies from the University of Canberra, Australia.

    At the University of Edinbugh, I conduct occasional teaching on under- and post-graduate courses, and I advise a number of MSc students on their dissertation research. I am also currently the postgraduate representative on the School of GeoSciences Research Ethics & Integrity Committee.

    Publications and outputs

    Academic papers

    Geoff J. Wells, Neil Stuart, Peter A. Furley, Casey M. Ryan, 2018. Ecosystem service analysis in marginal agricultural lands: A case study in Belize, Ecosystem Services, Volume 32, Part A, pp.70-77, [open access]

    Wells, G., Fisher, J.A., Porras, I., Staddon, S. and Ryan, C., 2017. Rethinking Monitoring in Smallholder Carbon Payments for Ecosystem Service Schemes: Devolve Monitoring, Understand Accuracy and Identify Co-benefits. Ecological Economics, 139, pp.115-127. [open access]

    de Nijs, P.J., Berry, N.J., Wells, G.J. and Reay, D.S., 2014. Quantification of biophysical adaptation benefits from Climate-Smart Agriculture using a Bayesian Belief Network. Scientific reports, 4, p.6682. [open access]


    The day to day workings of interdisciplinary research depend on project size (ESPA blog series, Feb 2018) [link]

    Bridging the two worlds of carbon forestry (IIED blog, April 2017) [link]

    The Paris Agreement, SDGs and simple local monitoring (IIED blog, Jan 2016) [link]

    Other reports

    Porras, I, Wells, G, Stephenson, C, Kazis, P (2016). Ethical carbon offsetting. Guidelines and lessons from smallholder and community carbon projects. IIED, London. [link]