Portrait of Dr Rajindra Puri

Dr Rajindra Puri

Senior Lecturer in Environmental Anthropology
Director, Centre for Biocultural Diversity
Course Convenor for MSc Ethnobotany
Co-Recruitment & Outreach Coordinator for Anthropology
Academic Lead for Anthropology (2021)


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).

Research interests

Current projects

Previous projects



  • SE306: Animals, People and Plants: An introduction to Ethnobiology
  • SE308: Skills for Anthropology and Conservation
  • HECO5420: Environment, Culture and Society
  • SE594: Anthropology and Development


Dr Puri is programme convenor for the MSc in Ethnobotany

  • SE802: Research Methods in Social Anthropology
  • SACO8930: Contemporary Ethnography in Environmental Anthropology
  • SACO8960: Environmental Anthropology
  • SACO8970: Ethnobiological Knowledge Systems
  • SACO8110: Practical Methods in Conservation Social Science


Current students

  • Clive Dennis - How do the Banawá perceive and respond to environmental change?
  • Jason IrvingThe sale and use of Jamaican roots tonics: Health sovereignty in the Black Atlantic
  • Kay Evelina Lewis-Jones - Banking on biodiversity and what it means to conserve a wild seed in the Anthropocene: perceptions of threat and value in a conservation network.
  • Craig Ritchie - Natural resource management practices and cultural change within indigenous communities of the Curanja and Purús Rivers in Alto Purús, Peru: implications for biodiversity (Peru).


  • Director, Centre for Biocultural Diversity.
  • Affiliate partner on the MEDPLANT ITN
  • RAI Council member
  • American Friends of the RAI, Trustee
  • Borneo Research Council, Board of Trustees
  • Advances in Research: Environment and Society (Berghahn Books), Editorial Collective
  • Environmental Anthropology and Ethnobiology Series (Berghahn Books), Kent editorial committee

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. 

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