Professor Robert Fish

Professor in Human Ecology,
Deputy Director of Division (People) - Human and Social Sciences
+44 (0)1227 816315
Professor Robert Fish


Professor Robert Fish is an environmental social scientist with research interests in the social and cultural dimensions of natural resource management. He has a particular specialism in the study of rural and agricultural systems. 

Professor Fish's work is distinguished by its interdisciplinary, participatory and problem-centred focus, as well as by direct intervention in the policy process. In recent years, he has played a prominent role in developing the social and cultural aspects of ecosystem-based approaches to natural resource management, as well as in advancing a social science perspective to policy interests in the valuation of nature. 

Professor Fish was a co-ordinator of the NERC-led Valuing Nature Programme (2015-2020) and a founding lead editor of the British Ecological Society Journal People and Nature: a journal of relational thinking. 

By training, Professor Fish is a human geographer. He was awarded a first class BSc (Hons) degree in Geography from Coventry University in 1995 and a PhD from the University of Leicester in 2000. Rob has held junior research fellowships in the Universities of Nottingham and Lancaster and been a Lecturer in Human Geography at the Universities of Nottingham and Exeter. 

Professor Fish joined the School in 2015 from the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter, where he was a Senior Research Fellow in Environmental Policy and Management.

Professor Robert Fish is a member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology

Research interests

Professor Fish has led and worked on a range of research council, government and commercially-funded projects exploring how people imagine, value and manage the natural world in the context of a range of salient rural environmental agendas. 

A significant body of Rob's research has been on agri-environmentalism, including work on: catchment sensitive farming and diffuse pollution; the sustainable intensification of agriculture; and biosecurity and disease control. More generally, he has a serious interest in understanding how interactions with rural natural environments are related to questions of human well-being. 

Professor Fish has researched widely the cultural dimensions of these relationships as part of his broader interest in ecosystem-based approaches to natural resource management and the valuation of nature. Current work includes contributing to a major ERC study exploring the cultural and well-being aspects of peoples’ interactions with woodland biodiversity. 

Since all of Rob's work has a strong public and stakeholder element to it, he has written widely on the theory and practice of participatory and deliberative approaches in research and policy, including developing guidelines for Government. In this policy context, he also led a UK-wide public dialogue initiative on the natural environment in Britain that provided technical evidence for the Government’s 25 year Environment Plan. 

Funders for Professor Fish's empirical research include UKRI (ESRC, NERC, AHRC), government (DEFRA, BIS), arms-length environmental organisations (Environment Agency) and business companies (Southern Water). Rob has also co-led two ESRC Seminar Series programmes considering different facets of sustainable agriculture and ecosystem management. 


  • GEOG3001: People, Place and Environment
  • GEOG5003: Sustainable Landscape Planning
  • GEOG5002: Critical Approaches in Geography


Professor Fish is interested in supervising students for projects that encompass the theories, methods and concerns of environmental social science and the related fields of environmental and cultural geography, human and political ecology and environmental sociology.


  • Tina Hillar Conservation conflict: A hurdle for sustainable development in Southern Africa? (co-supervised with Joseph Tzanopoulos)  
  • Sam Aizlewood How and where should we expand woodlands to benefit people and biodiversity? (co-supervised with Bob Smith and Zoe Davies)  
  • Olivia Blair (2018-Present) Barriers to building community resilience to the impacts of climate change (co-supervised with Joseph Tzanopoulos)
  • Tom Bell (2017-2020) The moral foundations of climate activism in Trump-era USA (co-supervised with Dimitrios Theodossopoulos) 
  • Sally Marsh (2016 – Present) Understanding Natural Beauty in the High Weald AONB (co-supervised with Joseph Tzanopoulos
  • Holly Harris (2016- Present) Foraging Practices in Kent (co-supervised with David Roberts


  • Peter Matthews Sustainability performance of ecological approaches to farming at regional scale (co-supervised with Joseph Tzanopoulos
  • Joana Viana Canelas Indigenous contribution to ecological modelling for the assessment of ecosystem services (co-supervised with Joseph Tzanopoulos)  
  • Tim Wilkinson (2010-2015) Tourist engagements with national park landscapes. Second supervisor (with David Harvey, Geography, and Michael Winter, Politics, Exeter) – ESRC Case Studentship with Exmoor National Park
  • Cheryl Willis (2009-14) Sustainable management of cultural ecosystem services. Second supervisor (with Stewart Barr, Geography, and Michael Winter, Politics, Exeter) – ESRC Case Studentship with Dorset County Council 
  • Colin Nolden (2009-13) Community energy and feed-in tariffs. Second supervisor (with Stewart Barr, Geography, and Michael Winter, Politics, Exeter) – University Studentship 
  • Andrew Clappison (2005-6) Endogenous Rural Development within the South West of England: A Governance narrative of LEADER. Second Supervisor (with Michael Winter, Politics, Exeter) - University Studentship 
  • Jacob Bull (2004-6) Valuable Ecologies: A Geography of Angling. Second Supervisor (with Michael Winter, Politics, Exeter) – European Social Fund/RELU 


Dr Fish is available to provide academic comment and viewpoints on topics related to environmental policy and change with respect to rural and agricultural landscapes, cultural interpretations of the natural world and natural resources, public attitudes to environmental issues, environmental citizenship and behavioural change.

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