ICCS Research

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Research Themes

Our research is focussed around three themes: understanding resource user incentives, accounting for social-ecological system dynamics and planning for effective and socially just conservation. The first theme addresses the drivers and motivations behind human behaviour towards the environment, the second theme addresses the feedbacks between individual behaviour and the wider social and ecological system within which they are embedded, the third theme addresses how best to design, implement and evaluate interventions to alter human behaviour and hence slow the rate of biodiversity loss. Our fourth, cross-cutting theme concerns building capacity for conservation.

Theme One

Understanding resource user incentives

Here at ICCS, understanding resource user incentives lies at the core of what we do. This theme addresses the drivers of biodiversity loss and the factors that motivate humans’ behaviour towards the environment. Understanding the social, economic, cultural and political contexts in which decisions are made is critical to developing effective interventions, for these complexities influence & incentivise unsustainable resource use at all levels. Such an approach also requires recognition and understanding of the social norms, values and belief systems that underpin societies, as resource use decisions are rarely made in isolation of these systems or without a degree of social acceptability. When addressing resource user incentives ICCS always collaborates with practitioners and policy makers to enhance understanding, in doing so we ensure our research remains relevant and that results support the development of robust conservation strategies that truly tackle the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss.

When understanding what motivates human behaviour, ICCS believes in an interdisciplinary approach. We adopt and adapt learning from fields such as economics, public health, marketing and psychology and apply robust scientific methodologies to answer our questions. Recent examples of our work include using Brand Attachment analysis to understand the motivations of rhino horn and ivory consumers in Vietnam, employing the Unmatched Count Technique to profile illegal resource users in Cambodia and Discrete Choice Experiments to understand societal value placed on environmental well-being in a No Net Loss Biodiversity offset project in Uganda.

Current members of the group working on this theme include:

Alegria Olemdo Castro | Dan Challender | Diogo Verissimo | E.J.Milner Gulland |Emiel de LangeHannah Sackey | Hollie Booth| Laur Kiik | Melissia Arias | Michael t'Sas RolfesMunib Khanyari | Rodrigo Oyanedel | Stephanie Brittain | William Arlidge | Vian Sharif  

 

Photo: Hollie Booth
Photo: Hollie Booth

Programmes under this theme include:

Exploring the effective use of celebrities in wildlife demand reduction: changing perceptions of pangolins in Vietnam 

The Oxford Martin Programme on The Illegal Wildlife Trade

Information Transfer and the Effectiveness of Behaviour Change Strategies in Conservation 

Bushmeat hunting and trade dynamics in northern Ghana

World-Making Encounters: How Nationalists and Conservationists Meet amid Burma’s Kachin War

Tackling Small-Scale Illegal Fishing in Chile

Why eat wild meat?

Framing multidisciplinary approaches to bycatch mitigation: illustrations from commercial and small-scale fishery case studies

 

Theme Two

Planning for effective and socially just conservation

Changing human behaviour is at the heart of conservation practice but the most effective means of achieving this can depend hugely on the local economic, political and historical context, as well as social institutions, norms and beliefs. Yet, despite the challenge of negotiating such complexity, the design of many conservation interventions remains based on expert opinion and experience, often under the guise of ‘best practice’. Although, in certain contexts, this can be beneficial and help to reduce the initial costs associated with intervention implementation, such an approach can also encourage a reliance on status quo solutions, which may not be appropriate in every context.   

At ICCS, much of our research focuses on supporting practitioners to develop evidence-based conservation interventions through the investigation of the drivers and motivations behind natural resource use (see Theme 1) and the application of empirical and modelling-based predictive methods to assess the likely impacts of interventions. Such predictive approaches allow for comparisons to be made between the likely outcomes of multiple credible intervention options and enable interventions to be tailored to the local context. Recent examples of this approach include an assessment of different options for REDD+ benefit sharing in Cambodia and an investigation of anti-poaching interventions in Uganda.

researchDespite repeated calls for greater use of evidence in conservation, rigorous assessment of the impacts of conservation programmes remains the exception rather than the norm. As such, there is currently a lack of authoritative evidence on which interventions offer the most effective routes to tackling conservation problems. At ICCS, much of our research aims to address this issue by adding to the evidence base on which policy makers and practitioners can draw, as well as working with practitioners to design and implement quantitative assessments of their impacts. Recent or current examples include the assessment of the impact of public health initiatives on the conservation of mountain gorillas in Uganda, an assessment of livelihood-focussed interventions in West Africa, an evaluation of community monitoring in Madagascar and a rapid review of the cost-effectiveness of different anti-poaching interventions.

In addition to the behavioural impacts of conservation programmes, it is equally important to have an understanding of the impacts on human well-being. ICCS has collaborated on the recent development of guidelines for practitioners on evaluating the social impact of their programmes and much of our research focuses on supporting practitioners to ensure that conservation interventions are not only effective, but also socially just.

 

Current members of the group working on this theme include:

Alegria Olemdo Castro | Dan Challender | Diogo Verissimo | E.J.Milner Gulland | Emiel de Lange |Emilie Beauchamp | Hannah Sackey | Henry Travers | Hollie Booth | Julia Baker | Laur Kiik | Melissia Arias | Michael t'Sas Rolfes | Mirjam Hazenbosch Munib Khanyari | Rodrigo Oyanedel | Stephanie Brittain | Tom Clements | William Arlidge | Vian Sharif     

 

Programmes under this theme include:

Exploring the effective use of celebrities in wildlife demand reduction: changing perceptions of pangolins in Vietnam

The Oxford Martin Programme on The Illegal Wildlife Trade

Information Transfer and the Effectiveness of Behaviour Change Strategies in Conservation

Bushmeat hunting and trade dynamics in northern Ghana

World-Making Encounters: How Nationalists and Conservationists Meet amid Burma’s Kachin War

Measuring impacts of conservation interventions on human wellbeing and the environment in Northern Cambodia

Sustainable Land Use for Smallholder Farming Communities in Papua New Guinea.

Tackling Small-Scale Illegal Fishing in Chile

Why eat wild meat?

Framing multidisciplinary approaches to bycatch mitigation: illustrations from commercial and small-scale fishery case studies

 

Theme Three

Accounting for social-ecological system dynamics

A social-ecological approach to biodiversity conservation believes that effective conservation requires an understanding of the social processes that drive change, how people and

the environment interact and how conservation decisions change these interactions.  Understanding these systems, the linkages between them and what influences the behaviours of actors in the system, can enable us to make conservation decisions which are more likely to succeed.

Importantly, systems thinking means accepting unpredictability and uncertainty, and acknowledging a multitude of perspectives. ICCS employs social-ecological approaches across a range of scales from understanding what influences the behaviours of fishers locally, through to developing methodologies to assess conservation projects at regional and national scales.

Social-ecological systems are difficult to measure in reality as they are highly complex and constantly evolving. Evaluations can therefore be difficult, if not impossible, in some cases in the real world. ICCS therefore often utilises modelling as a way to best reflect our understanding of the real world. Computer models can then be used to account for uncertainty and identify, for example, where unintended feedbacks might occur, or where changes in environmental indicators might not represent reality. By adopting different approaches, across a range of scales, ICCS aims to use robust theoretical frameworks to account for complexities in social-ecological systems to provide a basis for improved conservation decision making.

Current members of the group working on this theme include:

Alegria Olemdo Castro | Cecilia Larossa | Dan Challender | Diogo Verissimo | E.J.Milner Gulland | Emiel de Lange |Emilie Beauchamp | Hannah Sackey | Henry Travers | Hollie Booth | Joseph PooreJulia Baker | Laur Kiik | Melissia Arias | Michael t'Sas Rolfes | Mike BurgassMirjam Hazenbosch Munib Khanyari | Rodrigo Oyanedel | Stephanie Brittain | Tom Clements | Thomas Pienkowski | William Arlidge | Vian Sharif     

 

Programmes under this theme include:

Exploring the effective use of celebrities in wildlife demand reduction; changing perceptions of pangolins in Vietnam

The Oxford Martin TNC Climate Partnership

The Oxford Martin Programme on The Illegal Wildlife Trade

Information Transfer and the Effectiveness of Behaviour Change Strategies in Conservation

Bushmeat hunting and trade dynamics in northern Ghana

World-Making Encounters: How Nationalists and Conservationists Meet amid Burma’s Kachin War

Measuring impacts of conservation interventions on human wellbeing and the environment in Northern Cambodia

Development and use of environmental indicators to inform international policy

Sustainable Land Use for Smallholder Farming Communities in Papua New Guinea.

Tackling Small-Scale Illegal Fishing in Chile

Why eat wild meat?

Mental health in a conservation landscape: psychological dynamics of living in proximity to primates in western Uganda

Our Projects

Details of specific projects that members of the group are currently working on (as well as previous projects) can be found in the Projects section.

 

See a map of where we work here