Biodiversity in the UK Overseas Territories

This Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship commenced in May 2019 in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford.

In this project, I examine the governance of biodiversity in the fourteen ecologically and culturally diverse UK Overseas Territories. From Antarctic peninsulas to tropical islands, these are some of the world’s most unique wildlife havens, boasting over 94% of the UK’s biodiversity.

South Georgia, one of the UK Overseas Territories in the South Atlantic. Photo: NASA

In this project, I am seeking to understand the complex networks of scientific, government and civil society organisations that participate in governing nature. Through this research, I will capture and conceptualise the social work that is involved in responding to environmental change, and thereby open up new avenues for thinking about transformations towards sustainability.

Positioned at the intersection of human geography, and science and technology studies, this research will apply careful empirical analysis and cutting-edge theoretical insight to address fundamental questions related to the way that human societies know and act with respect to environmental change.

The UK Overseas Territories

The UK Overseas Territories are 14 landmasses distributed across the world that are under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United Kingdom. They demonstrate a wide diversity of governance arrangements, some being permanently inhabited by large populations – such as the Cayman Islands – and others being inhabited by transient populations of scientific researchers – such as the British Antarctic Territory.

Tristan da Cunha, one of the UK Overseas Territories in the South Atlantic. Photo: NASA

Significantly for this research, the UK Overseas Territories are very rich in wildlife. Between them, they boast a large number of endemic species – animal and plant species that are found nowhere else in the world; the territories are host to significant populations of breeding birds and turtles; but, this wildlife also presents a significant governance challenge.

It is the challenges of governing nature in these unique places that I will explore in this fellowship research.