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Current Postgraduate Research Students

James Fraser supervises 2 postgraduate research students. Some of the students have produced research profiles, these are listed below:

Student research profiles

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Dr James Fraser


LEC Building

Lancaster University


Lancaster LA1 4YQ

United Kingdom

Tel: +44 1524 592196


Research overview

James is broadly interested in contemporary and historical interactions between institutional and agro-ecological dimensions of natural resource management in the global tropics, and their relationship to the wider ‘sustainability’ and ‘resilience’ of social-ecological systems.

James was trained in Development Studies and Anthropology, and has since become more interdisciplinary through field collaborations with Biologists and Soil Scientists. 

He uses both qualitative and quantitative methods and is interested in developing interdisciplinarity in research and teaching.


James’ doctoral and post-doctoral research focused on relationships between small-scale farmers and Anthropogenic Dark Earths in Central Amazonia (Brazil) and the Upper Guinea Forests of West Africa (Liberia). 

Anthropogenic Dark Earths are high-fertility carbon-rich soils formed through intensive depositions of charred and fresh organic material by forest inhabitants throughout the global humid tropics. Commentators suggest that these human-made soils could provide models for more sustainable agriculture.

James was lead researcher in Liberia for an ESRC funded project led by the Universities of Sussex and Cornell which has revealed hitherto unknown yet extant African Dark Earths across West Africa. This post-doctoral research with the Loma of North-Western Liberia examined the historical-political ecology of African Dark Earth formation; institutional and gender aspects of their usage, and calorific efficiencies in food production. Collaborators in soil science and botany examined biophysical dimensions of these soils and the diversity of plants and trees associated with them.

James’ Leverhulme funded doctoral research with Amazonian peoples in Brazil examined the historical ecology, knowledge and practice of annual and perennial crop cultivation in dark earths. He collaborated with a botanists and soil scientists at the National Amazonian Research Institute in Manaus to investigate soil fertility and agrobiodiversity.

James' masters research focused on fair trade and the coffee crisis in Nicaragua.

He is currently developing a research project on the ‘African Green Revolution’ in Mozambique.


James contributes to several undergraduate and postgraduate modules and is convener for:

LEC 322 Environment, Society and Politics in Amazonia (taught with Luke Parry & Jos Barlow)

LEC 331 Food and Agriculture in the 21st Century (taught with Rebecca Whittle & Katerina Psarikidou)


James is on the LEC Interdisciplinary PhD Panel 

James is a pro bono consultant for the NGO Solidaridade Mozambique

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