Sam Staddon


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Community-based approaches to conservation and environmental governance; development practices and practitioners; equality, gender, social inclusion and environmental justice; reflective and embodied learning; political ecology; Nepal, Scotland and beyond Email:

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Personal profile

Research Interests


Community-based approaches to conservation and environmental governance; development practices and practitioners; equality, gender and social inclusion and environmental justice; reflective and embodied learning; political ecology; qualitative research; Nepal, Scotland and beyond

Having trained in ecology and worked in conservation around the world for 10 years, I returned to academia to complete a PhD in the social sciences exploring community-based conservation in the forests of Nepal. My academic interests are driven by an attention to the politics of all decisions made about the environment, and the social structures and relationships which drive those decisions. My academic interests have evolved around a number of themes:

Equality, gender & social inclusion, and learning in Nepal’s environmental governance and development practice

I am interested in questions of ‘participation’, ‘empowerment’, ‘equality’ and ‘inclusion’ and what those terms mean in reality for marginalised rural communities at the receiving end of development interventions (having spent a year with two such communities in the hills of Nepal for my PhD). I am increasingly interested in the perspectives and challenges of practitioners involved in the design and delivery of these interventions (in the capital Kathmandu), and the potential of ‘reflective learning’ in shifting practices and projects to something more ‘transformatory’ for the most marginalised. This theme brings together my PhD, GCRF Fellowship, on-going research with collaborators in Nepal, a recent GCRF-SFC award, and convening of a conference session at POLLEN 2020.

‘Having a Blether’: Social relations in Scottish conservation

Through 5 years spent running a Masters fieldtrip to the Scottish Highlands I had the privilege of listening to a wide range of conservationists, land managers, NGOs and government authorities talk about their work, and I am fascinated by the social relations which drive conservation – including the importance of ‘having a blether’, as a conservationist once shared. I am particularly interested in the ‘informal’ spaces in which relations are built, the importance of particular personalities, and the relevance of past experiences and careers in promoting cooperation. I have conducted research into this theme independently, with collaborators through the ESCALE project, and through a number of conference sessions (including more broadly around the role of trust in environmental governance), and currently through a co-authored paper about the importance of listening in/for conservation.

Pedagogy and ‘fieldwork’

Having spent years living overseas conducting conservation work, I am intrigued by the importance of ‘fieldwork’ and embodied learning from/within a place. Connected to my teaching I have explored and written about student fieldwork at home in relation to energy use and about student fieldtrips to the global South. I am also interested in reflection on personal experiences more broadly, and the importance of positionality in learning and understanding – including with regard our own research topics.  

Ethics & Collaboration: A ‘Politics of Care’

My academic interests and engagements are driven by a ‘politics of care’ (cf. Askins & Blazek 2018 Soc. & Cult. Geog), encompassing colleagues, collaborators, students and research communities. I have long been interested in the ethics of research – including how we might ‘give back’ to the communities with which we conduct research, something I wrote about during my PhD. I have convened conference sessions and spoken about the ethics of global research funding, such as the GCRF, and as Chair of the School of GeoSciences Ethics & Integrity Committee am keen to promote sharing of good ethical practice. Given my early career outside of academia and in the natural sciences, I enjoy working in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary ways. Along with Clare Barnes we run the Edinburgh Environment and Development Network (a network of academics and practitioners) and in early 2020 an event on interdisciplinarity for environmental change research.



  • Course Organiser: Understanding Environment & Development (PGGE11187) (PGT)
  • Course Organiser: Nepal fieldtrip (PGGE11232) (PGT)
  • Director: MSc Environment & Development
  • Deputy Director of PGT
  • Chair of the Research Ethics & Integrity Committee


  • Nancy Chawawa: Why Do Smallholder Farmers Insist On Living In Flood Prone Areas? Understanding Self-Perceived Vulnerability And Dynamics Of Local Adaptation In Malawi (2018)
  • Tatianna Mello Pereira da Silva: Follow The Bottle:  Pet Recycling Economy And Waste Picker Empowerment In Brazil (2020)
  • Jiayen Lai: In pursuit of just forest governance: Unfolding the everyday practices of decision-making in Indonesia’s environmental impact assessment
  • Amitangshu Acharya: Political ecology of small things: the curious case of domestic water purifiers in Bhuj city, Gujarat, India
  • Jack Covey: Capturing multi-level bricolage in the design, implementation and outcome of the Forest & Farm Facility project, Ghana
  • David Tooby: The IUCN and the Shaping of Global Conservation Policy
  • Omar Saif: The role of trust in conserving biodiversity and reducing conservation conflict: A case-study in Nepal
  • Henry (Michael) Myers: Forest governance in Indonesia



PhD Human Geography University of Edinburgh (2012)

MSc Natural Resource Management (Distinction) University of Edinburgh (2006)

MSc Biodiversity & Conservation (Distinction) University of Leeds (2000)

BSc (Hons) Ecology & Environmental Science (First Class) University of Lancaster (1997)



Lecturer in Environment & Development University of Edinburgh (2017-present; 0.8FTE)

ESRC GCRF Postdoctoral Fellow University of Edinburgh (2017-2018; 0.5FTE)

Network Coordinator (PDRA) TEDDINET University of Edinburgh (2013-2016; 0.5FTE)

Teaching Fellow in Environment & Development University of Edinburgh (2012-2016; 0.2FTE)

Research Assistant (Ecology) Universities of Leeds, York (UK) & Wellington (New Zealand) (2004-2005)

Consultant Ecologist Environmental Advice Centre, UK (2003)

Research Coordinator (Forest Biodiversity Programme) Frontier, Tanzania (2001-2002)

Survey Assistant Somerset Environmental Records Centre, UK (1999)

Naturalist Guide Explorer’s Inn, Peru (1998)



Higher Education Association – Fellow (2020)

RGS-IBG Participatory Geographies Research Group – Ordinary Committee Member (2019-present)

ESRC GCRF Peer Review Group Member (2016-present)

Technical Advisory Committee Plan Vivo (2016-2018)



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