Personal profile

Research overview

I graduated in Agriculture (an interdisciplinary, applied degree) from the University of Aberdeen then combined travel and study. A year as an exchange student in Mexico (tropical food production) was followed by a MSc in Animal Science at the University of Manitoba in Canada (enjoying the wilderness of NW Ontario). In Australia I completed a PhD combining endocrinology, agriculture and reproductive ecology. I then returned to Africa, completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Rhodes University in South Africa. I wanted to stay in the country at that time of political transition, and took up a position at the University of Transkei in 1996. There my research became more interdisciplinary and included participatory approaches to explore integrated development and conservation options. As Acting Dean of Research from 2002-2004 I was responsible for developing themes for the University’s rural development research strategy.

In 2004 I returned to UK to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Banchory, Scotland. I joined the University of St Andrews in 2006 to help establish the Sustainable Development Programme. I now work on knowledge and sustainable development (including learning for sustainability, research modes); governance of natural resources (including multi-level collaboration, global North-South links, roles of community); and sustainability in practice (recently golf and tree health). I am exploring integrative analysis and novel links across these different fields, drawing on my experiences across the natural and social sciences. Much of my recent work involves gathering together academics, practitioners and policy makers in innovative ways to co-design collaborative solutions to specific sustainability challenges.

Research interests

  • Sustainable development (especially in context of integration of biodiversity conservation and development goals) 
  • Biodiversity conflicts and biosecurity 
  • Interdisciplinary, participatory knowledge production and exchange
  • Learning for sustainability
  • Sustainability in golf

Other expertise

Research management; curriculum development; coordination of interdisciplinary groups for research and teaching.

Future research

I will continue to explore the theory and practice of sustainable development, particularly the tensions between biodiversity conservation and human development that manifest in practice, such as in biodiversity conflicts and biosecurity. At a global scale, neoliberalism, globalisation and the contemporary forms of capitalism are creating pressures at local levels that are difficult to address and I am pursuing concepts and practices of multi-level governance for more effective and participatory community scale responses to sustainability issues. Global challenges frame the UN SDGs and some of my research offers constructively critical perspectives on policy, education and practice in different contexts: especially Scotland, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. 

Industrial relevance

Much of my research is highly relevant to industry, government and the nonprofit sector since all need to address the aspirations and practices of sustainable development. My research ranges from theoretical to practical - most has impact at some level.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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