Trained as an ecological anthropologist and ethnobiologist, over the past 25 years Dr Raj Puri has been studying the historical ecology of a rainforest valley in Indonesian Borneo. He has been documenting the ethnobiological knowledge of Penan Benalui hunter-gatherers and Kenyah swidden agriculturalists, elucidating the causes and consequences of trade in wild animals and plants, and developing theory and methods for an applied conservation anthropology.
Raj has served as an ethnobiology consultant to a CIFOR project examining Multipurpose Landscape Assessment, worked in northern Vietnam (2001) for Flora and Fauna International, and collaborated on Global Diversity Foundation research and training projects in Morocco (Wildlife trade in Southern Morocco), Namibia (Kalahari Garden Project) and Sabah, Malaysia (Ethnobiology of proposed traditional use zones in Crocker Range Park, Participatory approaches to nominating Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve).
More recently, he and his Phd students have been working on local adaptation to climatic variability (El Nino) and climate change in Borneo and elsewhere. He was a co-investigator on the ESPA-funded project Human Adaptation to Biodiversity Change, 2010-2012, which took him to the Western Ghats of India for field research in 2011. This work drew him into research on invasive species and other ways in which changes in biodiversity due to climate change threaten biocultural diversity and local livelihoods. He is now thinking about how anthropologists can contribute to climate-change science and specifically developing mixed methods for studying local responses to environmental change. To this end, he is now studying responses to complex transformations in rural landscapes in Europe (iberian cork oak landscapes and Kent agriculture).
Dr Puri is programme convenor for the MSc in Ethnobotany
Dr Puri co-ordinated the Erasmus Intensive Programme, 'Biocultural Diversity of local people and migrants' in Europe: Concepts and Interdisciplinary Method for a consortium of ten universities in Europe (2009-2011). The consortium now consists of 13 universities and plans are in the works for more training courses in the future. In the meantime, he teaches on the Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA) at the Rachel Carson Centre in Munich.
In September 2010, Dr Puri convened a seminar 'New Directions in Urgent Anthropology' that brought together past and present fellows of the RAI's Urgent Anthropology Fellowship to discuss their work, its impacts and future needs and directions. Videos of some of the presentations are available on the RAI website. An edited volume of the papers presented at the seminar is in preparation.