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Dr Rebecca Ellis

Formerly at Lancaster University

Rebecca Ellis

Research Interests

My research draws upon the disciplines of Social Anthropology, Science and Technology Studies and Cultural Geography to explore how we, as humans, come to know, relate to and respond to non-human entities such as the multitude of organisms making up the planet’s biodiversity. This has involved working with Amazonian indigenous communities, UK amateur naturalists and laboratory and field scientists in the fields of taxonomy, biodiversity and bioinformatics. This mix of contexts has allowed me to observe and sometimes understand very different ways of knowing and engaging with the world and the intersections which lie between these differences continue to excite me. Currently, I am particularly interested in probing further into what it might mean to engage with entities - organic and inorganic - which lie beyond the realm of human experience either because they are difficult to sense or because they exist before or after our presence on the planet. This kind of research is sometimes quite abstract and also raises key questions for academia and a wider public with an urgent and practical interest in the environment. Working in an interdisciplinary research centre like Lancaster Environment Centre and collaborating across the University with colleagues in computing, sociology, medicine and art has also opened my research out into different directions which are reflected in the research projects below.


Selected Publications

Ellis, R. (forthcoming) "Dark Taxa: Blank Spaces for Biosemiosis"

Ellis, R. (forthcoming) “Quiet Matter: labour, loss and a message from cryptic diversity”

Mackenzie, A., Waterton, C., Ellis, R., Frow, E., McNally, R., Busch, L. & Wynne, B. (2013) “Classifyng, Constructing and Identifying Life: Standards as Transformations of the Biological” Science, Technology & Human Values

Waterton, C., Ellis, R. and Wynne, B. (2013) “Barcoding Nature: Shifting Taxonomic Practices in an Age of Biodiversity Loss”, CESAGen Genetics and Society Book Series, Routledge

Ellis, R. (2011) “Jizz and the Joy of Pattern Recognition: virtuosity, discipline and the agency of insight in UK naturalist arts of seeing” Social Studies of Science Vol 41 (6) pp. 769-790

Ellis, R., Waterton, C., and Wynne, B. (2009) “Taxonomy, Biodiversity and their Publics in 21st Century DNA Barcoding”. Public Understanding of Science  Vol. 19 (4): 497-512

Ellis, R. and Waterton, C. 2005, “Caught between the cartographic and the ethnographic imagination: the whereabouts of amateurs, professionals and nature in knowing biodiversity”, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Vol. 23/5, pp. 673-693

Ellis, R. and Waterton, C. 2004, “Environmental citizenship in the making: the participation of volunteer naturalists in UK biological recording and biodiversity policy”, Science and Public Policy, April 2004, Vol. 31/2, pp. 95-101


Current Projects

  • Citizens Transforming Society: Tools for Change(CaTalyST):a ‘Petri dish’ for the
    promotion of interdisciplinary research in citizen-led social innovation


  • Understanding and Managing Energy Usage in Future Networks EPSRC funded



Past Projects

‘Taxonomy at a Crossroads: Science, Policy and Publics in Biodiversity’:

‘Amateurs as Experts: Harnessing New Knowledge Networks for Biodiversity’Biodiversity’:

‘Databases, Naturalists and the Convention on Biological Diversity’Biodiversity’:


Research Groups


Current PhD Supervision

Emily Adams: Understanding and Managing Honey Bee Health in the UK: Beekeeping Knowledge and Engagement with Science and Policy (ESRC-NERC funding)

Rachael Carrie: Towards Sustainable River Management: combining biological indicators and local environmental knowledge to monitor and manage river integrity in Belize (ESRC-NERC funding)

Niklas Hartmann: Ecosystem Services - studying how a concept transforms ecological theory, research practice and human-environment relations

Jonnet Middleton: The Age of Mending: The art of disruptive innovation for new economies of mending

Anne Toomey: Community science as a tool for engagement in conservation practice: Understanding how different ways of knowing can translate into better ways of doing in Madidi National Park, Bolivia



Previous PhD Students

Jodie Chapel: Biopiracy in Peru: Tracing Biopiracies, Theft, Loss and Traditional Knowledge(ESRC funding)

Amy Fowler: Citizen Science and local climate change: an interdisciplinary approach to public participation and the formulation of data sets to model Urban Heat Island effects (ESRC-NERC funding)

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  • Short Documentary Film

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesFestival/Exhibition/Concert

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