The Team

Dr Saskia Vermeylen-Lancaster University, Lancaster Environment Centre
Professor Richard Bardgett-Lancaster University, Lancaster Environment Centre
Professor Bill Davies-Lancaster University, Lancaster Environment Centre
Professor Imasiku Nyambe-University of Zambia, School of Mines
Professor Ken Wilson-Lancaster University, Lancaster Environment Centre
Dr Dan van der Horst-University of Birmingham, Sch of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences

 Elias Kuntashula and Saskia Vermeylen pressing jatropha oil 

Saskia is a socio-legal scholar and a lecturer at the Lancaster Environment Centre  LEC), University of Lancaster, UK. Her main area of research is (tangible and intangible) property rights, and the tensions between customary and national law in the commodification of ecological knowledge of indigenous peoples. She has mainly worked in Africa, looking at the drivers for change in access to and use of bush food and medicines. Currently she is leading an interdisciplinary team (science-social science) which examines the uneven knowledge exchange between small scale farmers and outside investors in efforts to turn so-called “underutilised species” into cash crops.

Elias Kuntashula is a Lecturer at the Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension Education, University of Zambia, where he teaches on a range of agricultural economic  issues. He has over 10 years of experience in research on indigenous ecological knowledge of small scale farmers. He previously worked at  the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), for 5 years, carrying out policy evaluations and impact assessments regarding the adoption of agro-forestry knowledges and technologies.

Alan Spider and Ken Wilson looking at insects which will never eat maize again (Killed by Mr Spider’s jatropha leaf extract)

Ken’s research involves using epidemiological principles and life-history theory to explore the evolutionary interactions between parasites and their hosts, focussing particular attention on Lepidopteran larvae and their viral and fungal pathogens, especially in Africa; the St. Kildan population of Soay sheep and their nematode parasites; and, most recently, Svalbaard reindeer and their parasites. They tackle these objectives via an inter-disciplinary approach and by applying a combination of methods, including: statistical and simulation modelling, comparative analyses, quantitative genetics methods, field experiments, and physiological assays.

Mr Mumba and Richard Bardgett sampling the soil under a jatropha bush

Richard’s research is broadly concerned with understanding the roles that linkages between aboveground and belowground communities play in regulating the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems, and the response of ecosystems to global change. Much of his research is currently focussed on understanding the role that linkages between plant and soil communities play in the delivery of ecosystem services, especially soil carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling. Most of this research is field-based and is carried out in a range of terrestrial ecosystems around the world. More information on about his research, personnel and publications of the Soil and Ecosystem Ecology Group : here.

Imasiku Nyambe and Bill Davies agreeing that it’s more fun to be in the field

Imasiku Nyambe has 25 years of experience as a geoscientist with the University of Zambia (UNZA), where he has undertaken research in geology, hydrogeology, environment and integrated water resources management (IWRM). He has held a visiting senior Fullbright Fellowship and has coordinated a range of externally funded research projects. His leadership role at UNZA includes coordinating the IWRM Centre and heading the Directorate of Research and Graduate Studies.

Since the early 1980s, Bill Davies’ research work has provided a novel view of how above-ground plant parts can “sense” changes in both their atmospheric and edaphic environments. The work has also provided insight into the ways in which different environmental stresses interact in their effects on plant growth and functioning through changes in both chemical and hydraulic regulation. In recent years our discoveries have led to radical changes in irrigation practice and to the introduction of crop management techniques which contribute to sustainable intensification of agriculture in drought-prone environments.  The work is helping to deliver sustained levels of food production in dry regions of the world, while also addressing the issue of world-wide conservation of water resources.

Terence Chybwe and Mr Mumba making plans to measure rainfall

Terence Kunda Chibwe has just recently completed his MSc in Agricultural Economics specializing in Environmental Economics at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Currently he is working as a Research Assistant on the Bridging Systems Knowledge project under the auspices of the Directorate of Research and Graduate Studies at the University of Zambia (UNZA). He is responsible for the implementation of the sub project on Jatropha soap making which is being implemented by a group of farmers in Nyimba District of the Eastern Province of Zambia. Previously he worked for the ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) as a District Marketing and Cooperatives Officer in Mumbwa District and has four years of work experience in the agri-business field. He was responsible for training small-scale farmers in agri-business skills and promoting cooperative development among small-scale farmers. He is interested in farmer innovations that promote the well being of the environment whilst enhancing their livelihoods.

Dan van der Horst 

Dan is an environmental geographer and a lecturer in Environmental Policy and Management at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (GEES), University of Birmingham, UK. His main area of research is in natural resource management, focusing especially on the governance of multi-functional land use, ecosystem services and renewable energy systems. Much of his research draws on heterodox economic traditions (especially spatial economics, ecological economics) and transdisciplinary (natural science-social science) approaches. He has published widely on NIMBY responses to new rural technologies, spatial targeting of land management subsidies and the spatio-temporal modelling of human behaviour as a driver for land use change.