Dr Erik Meijaard has been working on the intersection of South-East Asian conservation science and practice since the early 1990s. His academic background is in environmental sciences and tropical ecology and he has a PhD in biological anthropology. Much of Erik’s research work has focused on the island of Borneo, with orangutans and pigs as primary research objects.
In 2011, Dr Meijaard initiated the Borneo Futures – Science for Change programme that implements research with a specific goal of changing public perceptions and policies on land and natural resource-use and wildlife conservation in Borneo. The studies conducted under this programme range widely from evolutionary and taxonomic studies to land-use optimisation and community forest management. Communication of research findings through newspaper articles has had tangible impacts on Indonesian policies. In 2017, Erik set up the IUCN Oil Palm Task Force, which he chairs.
Dr Meijaard has collaborated with the University of Kent since 2006, primarily through research with Dr Matthew Struebig. This concerned studies of oil palm and biodiversity, bat conservation and biogeography, climate change, species distribution modelling, and community forest management.
Other collaborations have focused more on the social sciences including recent studies of the social welfare and poverty impacts of oil palm development and certification, and community forestry. An interesting collaboration with Dr Rajindra Puri and others resulted in a paper recently being published that brought together anthropologists and conservation scientists. Erik is currently co-supervising one PhD student at Kent working on the effectiveness of orangutan conservation.
Dr Meijaard is currently engaging in the study of several research topics: ungulate (banteng and giant forest hog) and squirrel taxonomy; effectiveness of orangutan conservation strategies and financing; biodiversity, environmental and social impacts of community forest management; global mapping and comparison of vegetable oil crops; and improved management of oil palm and oil palm planning for biodiversity benefits. He is also addressing the broader agenda of sustainable development, including the ethical issues that this brings up.