Dr Rajindra Puri

Senior Lecturer in Environmental Anthropology,
Director, Centre for Biocultural Diversity,
Course Convenor for MSc Ethnobotany
+44 (0)1227 823148
Dr Rajindra Puri


Trained as an ecological anthropologist and ethnobiologist, since 1989 Dr Raj Puri has been studying the human ecology of a rainforest valley in Indonesian Borneo: documenting traditional ecological knowledge in Penan Benalui and Kenyah Badang communities, particularly hunting knowledge; elucidating the causes and consequences of trade in wild animals and plants; and developing theory and methods for an applied conservation anthropology.

More recently, he and his students have been studying 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, which took him to the hilly regions of southern Karnataka, India, for field research among Soliga and Lingayat communities in 2011 and 2015-16. This work, in collaboration with ATREE, 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 more widely. To this end, his research has also addressed responses to complex transformations in rural landscapes in Europe (Iberian cork oak landscapes and Kent agriculture).

Raj has served as an ethnobiology consultant to WWF Indonesia’s Kayan Mentarang Project, CIFOR’s Multipurpose Landscape Assessment, Flora and Fauna International’s assessment of CBNRM in Northern Vietnam, Darwin Initiative projects in Vietnam, GIZ’s Conservation of freshwater aquatic resources in Northeast India, and collaborated on Global Diversity Foundation research and training projects in Morocco, Namibia and Sabah, Malaysia

He is a Trustee for the Borneo Research Council and The Healing Earth Alliance, a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and an Editor of the Borneo Research Bulletin and Ethnobiological Letters.

Recent key publications

By theme, include:

  • Knowledge Studies (IK, TEK)

Puri, R.K. (n.d.). The one that got away: learning from unsuccessful hunts about knowledge, practice, and belief. In Anthropology of Hunting, edited by L Broz, et al. Helsinki University Press.

Puri, R.K. 2020. Performance Knowledge: uncovering the dynamics of biocultural diversity of Borneo’s tropical forests through a Penan hunting technique. In Handbook of Indigenous Environmental Knowledge: Global Themes and Practice, eds. T. Thornton & S. Bhagwat. Routledge. ISBN-13: 978-1138280915

  • Ethnobotany and Ethnomedicine

Soldal, H., Múrcia, C., Ouhammou, A., Hawkins, J.A., Martin, G.J., Puri, R.K. and Teixidor-Toneu, I., 2023. Plant names encode Tašlḥit knowledge of Morocco’s High Atlas landscapes.

Ellen, R.F and Puri, R.K.  2016. Conceptualising 'core' medicinal flora: A comparative and methodological study of phytomedical resources in related Indonesian populations.

  • Climate and biodiversity change

Puri, R.K. 2023. Indigenous and local peoples’ conceptualisations of invasive and alien species.

Howard, P., Pecl, G., Puri, R.K., and Thornton, T. F., eds. 2019. Human Adaptation to Biodiversity Change in the Anthropocene.

  • Conservation Social Science 

ter Schure, A. et al. 2020. eDNA metabarcoding reveals dietary niche overlap among herbivores in an Indian wildlife sanctuary.

Chua, L. et al. 2020. Conservation and the social sciences: beyond critique and co-optation. A case study from orangutan conservation.

Research interests

Current projects



  • People and Plants
  • Animals, People and Plants: An introduction to Ethnobiology
  • Skills for Anthropology and Conservation
  • Environment, Culture and Society
  • Anthropology and Development
  • Thinkers and Theories
  • Ethnographic Methods


Dr Puri is programme convenor for the MSc in Ethnobotany

  • Research Methods in Social Anthropology
  • Contemporary Ethnography in Environmental Anthropology
  • Environmental Anthropology
  • Ethnobiological Knowledge Systems
  • Plant Resources and their Conservation
  • Practical Methods in Conservation Social Science

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). 25 teachers and 110 postgraduate students convened in Canterbury and Barcelona for two-week summer schools.


Current PhD students

  • Fiona Hafvenstein - Medicinal plants as a boundary mechanism: bridging the divide between traditional and biomedical health systems in Nepal with Artemisia annua.
  • Fraser Cook - Plant Collectors, Brokers and Resellers: the sustainability of Indonesian ornamental plant trade.
  • Hannah Reid - Rising rooted: Reactivating traditional Caymanian ‘bush’ knowledge as a source of environmental and cultural resiliency.
  • Harriet Gendall - The revitalisation of naked oats in Cornwall, UK.
  • Javiera Malebrán-Muñoz - Community led conservation in the Fray Jorge Biosphere Reserve, Chile: the role of local ecological knowledge and stakeholder engagement in biocultural conservation.
  • Jason IrvingThe sale and use of Jamaican roots tonics: Health sovereignty in the Black Atlantic


  • Director, Centre for Biocultural Diversity
  • RAI Council member
  • Urgent Anthropology Committee Member, RAI
  • American Friends of the RAI, Trustee
  • Borneo Research Council, Trustee
  • HEARTH, Trustee
  • Borneo Research Bulletin, Editorial Collective
  • Advances in Research: Environment and Society (Berghahn Books), Editorial Collective
  • Environmental Anthropology and Ethnobiology Series (Berghahn Books), Kent editorial committee
  • Ethnobiology Letters, Editorial Committee
Last updated