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Jacob Phelps supervises 1 postgraduate research students. If these students have produced research profiles, these are listed below:

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Dr Jacob Phelps

Senior Lecturer in Tropical Environmental Change and Policy

Jacob Phelps

LEC Building



Research overview

Jacob is an environmental social scientist dedicated to identifying strategies to protect tropical biodiversity.  He leads the Conservation Governance Lab, which explores institutional, policy and legal responses to leading environmental challenges, such as illegal wildlife trade and wildfire.  He draws on a wide range of methods and approaches, and is active in the science-policy interface, including through CITES and IUCN.  Jacob has worked in the Neotropics and across Southeast Asia.  Until August 2015, he was a Scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Indonesia.

PhD supervision

• Conservation rule breaking • Governance of wildlife trade and illegal resource access • Conservation law and criminology • Social and policy dimensions of Indonesian peatland fires and haze • How ecosystem service concepts/valuation are understood and used by policy makers, prosecutors and judges

Research Interests

Jacob's current research addresses the governance of key environmental challenges: 

  • Governing biodiversity loss through conservation litigation. Jacob lead the Defra-funded WILDS Project researching the design of environmental lawsuits as a strategy for governing issues such as illegal wildlife trade and deforestation.  This work draws on conservation, geography, economics, law and activism. it is being levered to support a lawsuit in Indonesia that will be the first case of its kind globally.
  • Governing illegal wildlife trade: Jacob has ongoing resaerch on the diverse interventions used to govern wildlife resources, and especially efforts to reduce illegal wildlife trade.  This broad-ranging work includes interviews with people arrested for wildlife crimes in Nepal; assessments of the sustianability of aquarium fish trade in the Philippines, and market-surveys of illegal orchid trade in Southeast Asia.   He has a particular interest in wildlife farming, in which threatened species might be farmed to support conservation while providing a legal and sustainable source of wildlife for consumers.

  • Governing hydropower through EIAs. Nepal is developing >700 hydropower projects, decisions about which are primarily governed via Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA). However, it is an “open secret” that EIAs are rarely implemented with negative socio-environmental outcomes. Funded by the British Council, Jacob and Greenhood Nepal are exploring the EIA governance. 

  • Governing Indonesian peatland wildfires. Indonesia is suffering fromincreasingly frequent, uncontrolled mega-fire events that yield profound social, environmental and economic burdens. Jacob collaborates in ongoing work on the governance of policy responses to wildlife fires. This includes a current review of the institutional design of 60 different interventions to address wildfires across Indonesia.  Jacob and his colalborators are also evaluating the outcomes of a fire prevention programme that has been implemented across 10 villages in Indonesia, to explore how bundles of interventions shape fire outcomes.

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