I am an ecological and environmental anthropologist. Broadly, my research addresses questions of social-ecological system (SES) complexity, the emergence of sociocultural and biophysical elements within SESs, and the interactive processes linking these elements, but from the unique, and often neglected, perspective of the people living within these complex systems. My expertise lies in the study of local environmental knowledge (LEK), also referred to as traditional or indigenous knowledge, and how this knowledge is used to sustain livelihoods and households in rural southern and east Africa. I am interested in how people use their LEK, grounded in multi-scalar, historic and contemporary political, economic, and cultural contexts, to respond and adapt to on-going social and ecological changes, and how their actions, in turn, change the environment.
As an ecological anthropologist, I continue a tradition of innovative and interdisciplinary research that is data-grounded but ethnographic, and complementary to work done by colleagues on systems modelling, land use and resource management and conservation, and climate change resilience. My research deepens our theoretical understanding of human contributions to, and maintenance of, the biodiversity and ecosystem services upon which all life depends. In the Anthropocene, this knowledge is increasingly important as we approach planetary limits of land use and freshwater scarcity, and mitigate those boundaries already crossed like global climate change and biodiversity loss. In the applied arena, my work addresses issues of household well-being, adaptation to global climate change, resource management and governance, and species conservation.