School of Anthropology & Conservation

Excellence in diversity Global in reach

Dr Robert Fish

Reader in Human Ecology

Sustainable landscapes, culture and ecology, environmental citizenship

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School Roles and Responsibilities

Director of Research and Research Ethics; Programme Convenor BA Environmental Social Sciences; Programme Convenor BSc Human Ecology

Academic background

I am an environmental social scientist interested in the social and cultural dimensions of natural resource management. Understanding how the natural world is imagined, valued and planned as an asset for human well-being is the preoccupying concern of my research.

Much of my work is centred on rural and agricultural landscapes and is distinguished by its interdisciplinary, participatory and problem-centred focus, as well as by direct intervention in the policy process.  In recent years I have been particularly associated with the development of ecosystem based approaches to natural resource management, which I seek to influence and shape from a social science and critical starting point.

By training I am a human geographer.  I 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. I have 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.  I joined the School in 2015 from the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter, where I was a Senior Research Fellow in Environmental Policy and Management.

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Church, A., Coles, T. and Fish, R. (2017). Tourism in sub-global assessments of ecosystem services. Journal of Sustainable Tourism [Online] 25:1529-1546. Available at:
Fish, R., Church, A. and Winter, M. (2016). Conceptualising cultural ecosystem services: A novel framework for research and critical engagement. Ecosystem Services [Online] 21 B:208-217. Available at:
Fish, R. et al. (2016). Making space for cultural ecosystem services: insights from a study of the UK Nature Improvement Initiative. Ecosystem Services [Online] 21 B:329-343. Available at:
Hodgson, C. et al. (2016). Seasonal persistence of faecal indicator organisms in soil following dairy slurry application to land by surface broadcasting and shallow injection. Journal of Environmental Management [Online] 183:325-332. Available at:
Bryce, R. et al. (2016). Subjective well-being indicators for large-scale assessment of cultural ecosystem services. Ecosystem Services [Online] 21:258-269. Available at:
Oliver, D. et al. (2015). Molecular tools for bathing water assessment in Europe: Balancing social science research with a rapidly developing environmental science evidence-base. Ambio: a journal of the human environment [Online] 45:52-62. Available at:
Kenter, J. et al. (2015). What are shared and social values of ecosystems? Ecological Economics [Online] 111:86-99. Available at:
Tratalos, J. et al. (2015). Cultural ecosystem services in the UK: lessons on designing indicators to inform management and policy. Ecological Indicators [Online] 61:63-73. Available at:
Fish, R. and Church, A. (2014). Cultural ecosystem services: stretching out the concept. Journal of the institution of Environmental Scientist:31-44.
Fish, R. et al. (2013). Employing the citizens' jury technique to elicit reasoned public judgments about environmental risk: insights from an inquiry into the governance of microbial water pollution. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management [Online] 57:233-253. Available at:
Gooday, R. et al. (2013). Modelling the cost-effectiveness of mitigation methods for multiple pollutants at farm scale. Science of The Total Environment [Online] 468/69:1198-1209. Available at:
Book section
Fish, R., Ioris, A. and Watson, N. (2016). Water Governance and Agricultural Management: Collaboratively Dealing with Complex Policy Problems. in: Ioris, A. ed. Agriculture, Environment and Development International Perspectives on Water, Land and Politics. Palgrave Macmillan. Available at:
Fish, R. et al. (2016). Stakeholder participation in ecosystem service decision making. in: Potschin, M. et al. eds. Routledge Handbook of Ecosystem Services. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge, pp. 256-270. Available at:
Fish, R. et al. (2016). Ecosystem Services: never waste the opportunity offered by a good crisis. in: Potschin, M. et al. eds. Routledge Handbook of Ecosystem Services. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge, pp. 607-610. Available at:
Potschin, M. et al. (2016). Ecosystem Services in the Twenty-First Century. in: Potschin, M. et al. eds. Routledge Handbook of Ecosystem Services. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge, pp. 1-10. Available at:
Church, A. et al. (2015). Cultural ecosystem services, water, and aquatic environments. in: Water Ecosystem Services: A Global Perspective. Cambridge: University Press, pp. 148-158. Available at:
Edited book
Potschin, M. et al. eds. (2016). Routledge Handbook of Ecosystem Services. [Online]. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge. Available at:
Fish, R. ed. (2014). Cinematic Countrysides. [Online]. Manchester University Press. Available at:
Fish, R. and Saratsi, E. (2015). Naturally Speaking… A Public Dialogue on the UK National Ecosystem Assessment. University of Exeter. Available at:
Church, A. et al. (2014). UK NEAFO Work Package 5: Cultural Ecosystem Services and Indicators. WCMC. Available at:
Showing 20 of 42 total publications in KAR. [See all in KAR]


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I have led and worked on a range of research council, government and local authority funded projects exploring dimensions of sustainable land management, including projects on issues of food security, water quality, cultural values for rural landscape and young peoples’ involvement in voluntary conservation.  Funders include ESRC, NERC, AHRC, DEFRA, BIS and the Environment Agency. I have also co-led two ESRC Seminar Series programmes considering different facets of sustainable agriculture and ecosystem management.

In recent years I have played an active role in the work of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment, co-leading its work on cultural ecosystem services as part of the larger Assessment process. More generally I have developed guidelines and activities for embedding an ecosystems approach in policy and practice, including co-leading the formation of the Ecosystems Knowledge Network, of which I am now a trustee. Between 2014-2015 I led and delivered the largest ever public dialogue initiative on the natural environment in the UK, funded by Sciencewise.

My research has led me to participate in a range of international initiatives sharing understanding in this area including the UK-China Sustainable Agricultural Innovation Network and a UK-Brazil Newton Fund link project on the political ecologies of land-water management. 

Two major current projects are:

Valuing Nature ProgrammeNERC, 2004-19

Valuing Nature ProgrammeWorking with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the University of Oxford, I am co-leading the co-ordination of the Valuing Nature programme; a five year interdisciplinary NERC-led research programme in collaboration with ESRC, BBSRC, AHRC and Defra.  The programme aims to better understand and represent the complexities of valuing the natural environment and to consider the wider societal and cultural value of ecosystems services.

Sustainable Intensification Research Platform,  Defra,  2014-7

Sustainable Intensification Research Platform logoI am a member of a multi-institutional project team developing understandings and approaches to the idea of ‘Sustainable Intensification’ in Agriculture.  We are researching actions and approaches that may help navigate the contested space of agricultural landscapes delivering profitable farming and food production alongside a wide range of environmental benefits such as biodiversity, alleviating flood risk and carbon storage.

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I am 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.

PhD Supervisions

  • Tom Bell (2017-2020) The moral foundations of climate activism in Trump-era USA (co-supervised with David Henig and Jonathan Mair)
  • Joana Viana Canelas (2015-18) Indigenous contribution to ecological modelling for the assessment of ecosystem services. (Co-supervised with Joseph Tzanopoulos)

Recent PhD Supervisions - (Exeter University)

  • Tim Wilkinson (2010-2015)  ESRC Case studentship - Tourist engagements with national park landscapes 2nd Supervisor (with David Harvey Geography and Michael Winter, Politics, Exeter) - ESRC Case Studentship-with Exmoor National Park – (Submitted: Pending examination)
  • Cheryl Willis (2009-14) Sustainable management of cultural ecosystem services 2nd Supervisor (With Stewart Barr, Geography and Michael Winter, Politics, Exeter) - ESRC Case Studentship- with Dorset County Council- (Passed)
  • Colin Nolden (2009-13) Community energy and feed-in tariffs 2nd Supervisor (With Stewart Barr, Geography and Michael Winter, Politics, Exeter) - University Studentship  - (Passed)
  • Andrew Clappison (2005-6) - Endogenous Rural Development within the South West of England: A Governance narrative of LEADER.  2nd Supervisor [with Michael Winter – Politics, Exeter) - University Studentship – (Passed)
  • Jacob Bull (2004-6) Valuable Ecologies: A Geography of Angling’ - European Social Fund/RELU 2nd Supervisor (with Michael Winter – Politics, Exeter) – (Passed)
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External Examiner – MSc Environmental Programmes, Cranfield University (2014 – Present)

Member of ESRC Peer Review College (2008 - present)

Trustee – Ecosystems Knowledge Network (2015- present)

Visiting Research Fellow - Centre for Rural Policy Research, Politics, University of Exeter (2015- present)

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I am 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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Last Updated: 25/01/2018