Professor Caroline Upton

Professor in Human Geography

Profile

Professor Upton has worked extensively with pastoralist communities in Kenya and Mongolia, as well as with smallholders in Kenya and South-east Asia. She explores dynamic interactions between knowledges, technologies, policy and practice in the context of debates around conservation and climate change resilience/ adaptation. Research interests include diverse understandings, values and ontologies of nature and environment and their relationships with identity, livelihoods & land use. Recent work under UK Space Agency programmes in Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan examines ways in which pastoralists use and benefit from climate data and the potential role of satellite data in risk and pasture management strategies. 

Research

Key areas of research focus on local responses to environmental change; resilience; sustainable livelihoods; conservation practices and politics in diverse geographical contexts. I have worked extensively with pastoralist communities, particularly in Mongolia and Kenya, as well as with smallholders in Kenya and South-east Asia. I am concerned with exploring dynamic interactions between knowledges, technologies, policy and practice in the context of debates around conservation and climate change resilience/ adaptation. I am interested in diverse understandings and ontologies of nature and environment and their relationships with identity, livelihoods & land use. I draw on theoretical approaches from political ecology to explore institutions and adaptation, environmental justice, knowledges and resource governance. I have extensive experience of working as a PI and Co-I in interdisciplinary teams including with ecologists, Earth Observation/ Remote Sensing (EO/RS) specialists, agricultural economists, livelihood/ development specialists and modellers. Funders include the UK Space Agency, GCRF, Darwin Initiative, Leverhulme Trust, NERC, ESRC and AHRC.

Publications

Holstead, K., Funder, M. and Upton, C. (2021). Environmental governance on the street: Towards an expanded research agenda on street-level bureaucrats. Earth System Governance, 9: 1-5.

Upton, C. (2020). Political ecologies of resource governance: ontologies, agency and practice. In Nunan, F. (Ed). Governing renewable natural resources: theories and frameworks. Routledge: London. pp. 145-162.

Harrison, M. et al. (2020). Tropical peatlands and their conservation are important in the context of COVID-19 and potential future (zoonotic) disease pandemics. PeerJ 8:e10283 DOI 10.7717/peerj.10283.

Thornton, S, Sentiana, E., Yoyo, K., Dudin, Yulintine, Harrison, M, Page, S. and Upton, C. (2020). Towards biocultural approaches to peatland conservation: the case for fish and livelihoods in Indonesia. Environmental Science and Policy 114: 341-351.

Upton, C. (2019). Conserving Natures? Co-producing payments for ecosystem services in Mongolian Rangelands. Development and Change 51(1):224-252.

Kairu, A., Upton, C., Huxham, M., Kotut, K., Mbeche, R., and Kairo, J. (2018). From shiny shoes to muddy reality: understanding how meso-state actors negotiate the implementation gap in Participatory Forest Management, Kenya. Society and Natural Resources 31(1):74-88.

Upton, C. and Kimaren, S. (2018). Resilient pastoralism: towards sustainable futures in rangelands. ESRC/ AHRC GCRF Indigenous Engagement, Research Partnerships and Knowledge Mobilisation Case Study. 

Upton, C. (2017). Contesting development: Pastoralism, mining and environmental politics in Mongolia. In Watts, M. and Horowitz, L. (Eds).  Grassroots environmental governance: Community engagements with industrial development.  Routledge. London.

Upton, C. (2014). Communities, culture and commodification: Mongolia’s new resource politics. Inner Asia 16: 252-274.

Upton, C. (2014). The new politics of pastoralism: identity, justice and global activism. Geoforum 54: 207-216.

Supervision

I have supervised over 10 PhD students to successful completion across a range of topics including critical geographies of the Mongolian wildlife trade; REDD+ and Governmentality; ecosystem services and wetland conservation in Kenya; More-than-human geographies of conservation in Botswana; and fisheries assemblages and livelihoods in Indonesia. In the future I am interested in supervising PhDs on the following broad themes: Environmental geographies of Net Zero; Environmental Justice/ Just Transitions; Political Ecology; Environmental knowledges and values (esp. in pastoralist communities); Conservation politics and practices; Environmental Governance and activism.

Teaching

  • Year 1: GY1422 Introducing Leicester Geographies;
  • Year 1 GY1413 Human Geography Fieldcourse: Dynamics of People and Place;
  • Year 2: GY2411 Critical Geographies of Environment and Development;
  • Year 3: GY3411 Contemporary Environmental Challenges;
  • Postgraduate: GY7411 Contemporary Critical Geographies; GY7713 Environmental Futures.

Media enquiries

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