A passion for tropical forest ecology and conservation began when I participated in conservation activities in Meru Betiri National Park, East Java, in 1993. This interest was sustained during my undergraduate studies in Biological Sciences at Oxford University (1994-1997), where I planned and carried out field research for my dissertation on the behaviour of butterfly parasitoids in the rainforests of Belize. Missing from my studies, however, was the role of human behaviour in deforestation, and in the design and implementation of conservation policy. After graduating from Oxford, and following a brief stint as a management consultant, I discovered the 'dismal science' and trained as an environmental economist. First, I went to night school and obtained my Postgraduate Certificate in Economics at Birkbeck College London in 1999 before graduating with an MSc in Environmental and Resource Economics from University College London (UCL), in 2000.
Under the supervision of David Pearce, I wrote my MSc dissertation on the political economy of logging in Indonesia. This was turned into a working paper while I was a Research Assistant at UCL's Centre for Social and Economic Research for the Global Environment (CSERGE). After CSERGE, I joined the Office for National Statistics, where I worked on developing the UK's first natural resource accounts. By 2002, I was working for the Center for International Forestry Research on a project funded by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and the Japanese government, to further develop and apply the methods in my MSc dissertation, which involved fieldwork in East Kalimantan, Indonesia and Sabah, Malaysia.
Later in 2002, I began my PhD in Agricultural Economics under the supervision of Stefanie Engel at the Center for Development Research, Bonn University. There, I wrote my thesis on the impacts of forest sector decentralization, again in Indonesia, a process that involved extended fieldwork and data gathering. In 2004, I became an Visiting International Research Scholar at the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Maryland, where I completed one of my PhD papers, co-authored with Ramon Lopez (and Stefanie Engel). Upon completion of my PhD, I undertook several consultancies, including for the United Nations Development Program, and the International Institute for Environment and Development.
In 2006, I moved to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich), as a post-doc at the Chair of Environmental Policy and Economics. I initiated, planned and undertook a project on forest co-management, involving another period of fieldwork in Indonesia, this time in Sulawesi. Projects were also initiated on the permanence of forest carbon offsets, the cost-effectiveness of payments for environmental services, and indirect land-use change in the context of biofuels production in Brazil. These projects were completed when I moved to the LSE in 2009 to take up the tenure-track position of Lecturer (then Assistant Professor). Since 2009, I continued research on similar themes but increasingly in different contexts, particularly in Latin America, as well as on new themes, such as urban land uses and the impacts of extreme weather events on agricultural production. Whenever possible, I still try to spend as much time as possible in and around forests!
In September 2022, I am on a year-long sabbatical, and will be based in Germany at the Centre for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn as a guest of ZEF director, Matin Qaim, and Jan Borner.