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Project Team

The Project Team:

Social Anthropology:

Dr David Sneath (Principal Investigator)


Research interests: Pastoralism; land use and the environment; decollectivisation and post-socialist social transformations; political culture and economic institutions in inner Asia; and the anthropology of development.





Dr Barbara Bodenhorn (Senior Research Associate - part-time)


Research interests: ‘Fourth World’ politics (environmental and other); anthropology and economic relations; names and naming; grass-roots organisational processes; decision-making; gender; temporary communities of knowledge: science and other expertises.

My most recent work in Alaska and with forest communities in Mexico explores the environmental knowledge of adolescents, the ways in which this influences their sense of community identity, and the ways in which local organization fosters such identity.


Dr Richard Irvine (Project Coordinator, Research Associate)


I am interested in exploring how people understand their environment in time, and the factors which shape the perception of risk.

My current research takes as its focus a particular British landscape (the East Anglian fenlands), exploring it from an ethnographic and historical perspective. The Fens are a place where the Protestant Work Ethic has been inscribed on the landscape; labour cuts drainage ditches to bleed the peat, and creates productive land where once there was only feckless and lazy swamp. Or, to listen to the story another way: labour attempts to impose man’s will on God’s dominion, with disastrous consequences for humans and for other species. The Fens remain a contested environment, represented variously as a natural flood barrier, a carbon sink, a key element in Britain’s food security, and a tourist attraction. My work explores how wetland is enclosed as a resource, and examines the politics that surround the kind of resource that it becomes.

I am also interested in the ways that children explore their local surroundings and how they re-articulate environmental knowledge through play and storytelling; during 2014 I carried out collaborative work with schools in South Cambridgeshire, and during 2014-2015 I worked with schools in the Cambridgeshire Fenlands and the Norfolk Broads.


(PhD student)

Jonathan Woolley

Research Interests: Europe; Land Management and the Environment; Eco-Activism; Political Economy; Paganism and Neo-Druidry; The Anthropology of Experience; Materiality.

My PhD research focuses on the interchange between land and labour in East Anglia; how working in a particular landscape shapes both the people and the places concerned. I am also conducting a subsidiary research project on the role of sustainability discourses in the grassroots campaign against shale gas extraction in the United Kingdom.

From August 2014-August 2015, I carried out fieldwork in the Broadland region of Norfolk working with land management professionals, with a view to understanding how their experience of the land shapes their attitude towards environmental issues more broadly.


Libby Peachey (Project Administrator)


I am co-ordinating the work of this and other research projects both on environmental and Inner Asia related themes.

I am also currently studying environmental management and am particularly interested in senses of connectedness to place.




Faculty of Education

Dr David Whitley (Co-Investigator)


I am co-investigator for the Pathways to Understanding Climate Change project, coordinating the Education Faculty’s input and working closely with Elsa Lee.

I am particularly interested in the way the arts offer different forms of understanding and engagement with the natural world. I have contributed to debates about the teaching and dissemination of poetry in a variety of different contexts, including co-editing Poetry and Childhood (2010), collaborating with the University of the West Indies on the teaching of Caribbean poetry and recently becoming principal investigator for the Poetry and Memory research project. I have published articles on the work of poets with strong environmental affiliations, such as Ted Hughes, William Wordsworth, and Derek Walcott. I have also written extensively about ecological aspects of film, particularly children’s cinema. My most recent book is an ecocritical study of Disney animation, The Idea of Nature in Disney Animation: from Snow White to WALL•E (2012).


Dr Elsa Lee (Research Associate)


 My research interests include learning and researching in and through Environmental Education and Education for Sustainable Development, and Citizenship Education. I completed my PhD in Education at the University of Bath in 2013 and have since been working on this research project as a postdoctoral researcher. This interdisciplinary project has led me to literature on child development, globalization, place, imagination and ethnography. I am also interested in intergenerational learning and informal learning. In research I am keenly aware of ethical considerations and am interested in developing current trends in research with children through participatory approaches to strengthen and foreground ethics in research. I am committed to the principles of widening participation in Higher Education and am excited by its potential benefits for individuals, institutions and society.  


Cambridge Interdisciplinary Research on the Environment is a group that was initiated following a successful AHRC Network grant within Social Anthropology which created an interdisciplingary netwook on Climate Histories. Following the success of this network an interdisciplinary seminar series was funded by CRASSH from 2011–2016 to continue work on this theme. This series was co-convened by the Departments of Social Anthropology, Geography, and the Engineering Department's Centre for Sustainable Development.

The series brought together people from a range of academic and non-academic backgrounds including the sciences, arts, humanities, and social sciences, and those working within policy, industry, activism, education, and media and continues as an occasional series hosted at the Mongolia & Inner Asia Studies Unit.

The connections and networks made through the discussions in this series formed the backdrop against which some funding bids were developed and the projects that resulted are also featured on this site.