Professor Caroline Upton

Dr Caroline UptonProfessor in Human Geography

Contact details

  • Telephone: 0116 252 3824
  • Email:
  • Office: Bennett Building F64b

Personal details

External activities

  • Associate Editor Society and Natural Resources
  • Fellow of Royal Geographical Society/ Institute of British Geographers
  • Member, International Association for Study of the Commons (IASC)
  • Member, Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit, University of Cambridge


I completed my doctoral research in Geography at the University of Cambridge in 2004 and spent two years there as a lecturer and research officer prior to joining the Geography Department at Leicester in 2006.

In my research I am concerned with exploring dynamic interactions between policy, practice and rural livelihoods in the context of debates around environmental governance, environmental justice, ecosystem services and climate change adaptation. I am also interested in diverse concepts of nature and environment and their relationships with identity, conservation & land use. I have worked on these issues particularly amongst pastoralist communities and in post-Soviet spaces, especially Mongolia.  More recent work has been undertaken amongst pastoralist and sedentary communities in Kenya and Kazakhstan, often drawing on insights from political ecology.

I am heavily involved in a three-year Darwin Initiative funded project in Mongolia, ‘Values and Valuation: New Approaches to Conservation in Mongolia’. This project explores the application of the ecosystem services concept among local pastoralist populations, including development of pilot payment for ecosystem services schemes in rangelands, and with specific reference to contested aspects of value and valuation.

Other ongoing/recent work has addressed the following themes:

  • Endogenous and donor-driven evolution of resource management institutions among pastoralists
  • Evolution of land tenure regimes, especially in post-Soviet contexts, and links between land reform, land inequality and poverty
  • Collective action, social capital and emergent civil society in post-Soviet contexts
  • The poverty/conservation nexus, with reference to resource governance around Protected Areas and community-based resource management
  • Values and valuation of nature and ecosystem services
  • Pastoral livelihood strategies, adaptation and activism

Recent research projects and publications have often adopted an interdisciplinary perspective, through collaboration with colleagues in anthropology and conservation biology. Publications in preparation include articles written collaboratively with activists and policy makers.

Current and recent research projects

  • Principal Investigator: Values and Valuation: New Approaches to Conservation in Mongolia
    This three year interdisciplinary study will generate policy and practice relevant knowledge of values of ecosystem services amongst pastoralist communities, their contributions to biodiversity and livelihoods and conservation strategies. It will explore new participatory methods and approaches to issues of value and valuation, especially around cultural services.
  • Principal Investigator: Community, Place and Pastoralism: Nature and Society in Post-Soviet Central Asia (Leverhulme Trust, 2010-2012)
    Leverhulme Mongolia Report
  • Co-Investigator: East African Great Lakes Observatory (EAGLO). ESPA Programme Framework Grant, 2010-2012 (joint DFID/ ESRC/ NERC).
  • Co-Investigator: Sustainable Water and Roses from Naivasha, Kenya. Swiss COOP, 2012-2014
  • Co-Investigator: Feasibility Study: Sustainable Water and Roses from Naivasha, Kenya. Swiss COOP, 2011.
  • Principal Investigator: ‘Common Ground’? Identity, Activism and the Global Pastoralists’ Movement. British Academy Project Grant, 2009-2010.
  • Principal Investigator: Mining and Resistance: New Struggles on Mongolia’s Pastoral Commons. RGS-IBG Small Research Grant, 2007-2008.
  • Principal Investigator: ‘Development and Change: Institutional Innovation and Mongolian Pastoralism’. British Academy Small Project Grant, 2006.

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School of Geography, Geology and the Environment
Bennett Building
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T: 0116 252 3933

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