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Kerry Waylen

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Highlighted publications

Recent publications

Staff picture: Kerry Waylen
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
+44 (0)1224 395313

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK

Kerry Waylen is a senior researcher working in the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences (SEGS) research group at the James Hutton Institute.  Kerry has a background in both the natural and social sciences, and field experience in several countries, in both the 'Global North' and 'Global South'. She researches the challenges of implementing new concepts for conservation and water management, informed by ideas from political ecology and environmental governance.  Her work aims to inform and enable equitable and sustainable natural resource management.  She also curates the SEGS blog.

Kerry works using mixed methods across several projects, many of which are interdisciplinary, each relating to or more of a set of overlapping research interests:

  • The production and use of knowledges in collaboration and decision-making for environmental management, with a particular interest in science-policy interfaces, and the role of concepts (such as ecosystem services) or tools (such as scenario-planning) in fostering knowledge co-production.
  • Understanding and informing attempts to implement new management concepts, especially those that attempt more systemic or holistic approaches, such as natural flood management; and the Ecosystem Approach as defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  • Stakeholder participation in environmental management, especially Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) in developing countries; and the implications and challenges of involving new stakeholder groups in biodiversity and water management.

Current research interests 

Kerry is interested in several aspects of environmental governance, and how we can better understand and inform interventions to improve natural resource management and conservation.  One strand of her research focuses on understanding institutional and societal constraints, in order to help understand why certain outcomes are achieved (or not), and help to understand what tools and knowledge can be useful for assisting decision-making and improving the outcomes. This research is linked to and informed by the literature on participation, 'wicked problems' or complexity, and the challenges of multi-level governance.  Examples of related projects:

  • Leadership of a RESAS-funded project exploring barriers to implementing natural flood management in Scotland, where we are exploring how the challenges experienced may relate to the literature on multi-level governance.
  • Analysis of five years of data on planning for implementation of the Water Framework Directive in Scotland (via River Basin Management Plans), as part of team lead by Kirsty Blackstock highlighted various issues and tensions arising from the mandate for stakeholder participation, as highlighted by her EPG publication below.  More information about this project is available here.
  • Work on a FP7-project called REFRESH included engagement with local-level stakeholder to identify barriers to adopting personal, societal and institutional factors that can facilitate or act as a barrier to change: her 2010 report on this is available here. Work for this project also involved considering how decision-makers could take into account scenarios of future environmental, social and policy change: the 2011 report is available here.

In recent years, it has become increasingly common to use the concept ‘ecosystem services’ to demonstrate the importance of nature for supporting human well-being.  The idea is seen as useful for helping decision-makers to identify and choose desired management options when natural resources deliver multiple benefits and are under multiple stresses.  However, practically using this concept in research and management can be challenging.  Examples of linked projects:

  • Since April 2011 Kerry has been involved in research on ecosystems services and the Ecosystem Approach, funded by the Scottish Government.  Click here to visit the webpage of the Ecosystem Approach Review. This work also relates to the ideas of exploring the challenges multi-level governance as noted above, and of communication as noted below.
  • Since December 2012 Kerry has supported work in Malawi to support villages and district-level planning for integrated natural resource management.  She has provided expertise to two projects lead by VSO.  The first project called "Water Futures: Towards Equitable Resource Strategies" aimed to improve the resilience of Malawian water management, whilst from late 2014 the second project 'MAJI' focuses on how to take account of climate change.  Kerry, together with Julia Martin-Ortega, provides expertise on community engagement on topics of ecosystem services and for co-constructing scenarios of future change. 

Related to the above projects, Kerry is interested in the collection and use of knowledge to inform conservation policy and practice. She has experience of using systematic reviews and meta-analyses designed to inform conservation, but is also interested in critically questioning if and how science evidence informs policy, and the influence of other forms of knowledge, linked to processes of communication.  Examples of related projects:

  • Kerry was a co-leader of WP2 for the FP7 project ‘SPIRAL’ (Science Policy Interfaces for Research Action and Learning, for biodiversity) Visit the Project website to find out more about this project, and see the EPC paper and Biodiversity and Conservation paper in the list below for academic outputs she led on.
  • Kerry helped design the ESPPI:CREW project, which aims to monitor and evaluate science-policy and practice links for the Scottish Centre of Expertise in Waters, which has been operating since 2011.  She was also involved in CATCH II – which aimed to try to better connect policy, practitioners working in and for integrated catchment management.
  • Kerry has produced systematic reviews of the factors affecting ‘success’ in developing-country community-based conservation projects as part of her PhD research and later collaborations. For more information see the PNAS paper, Conservation Biology paper, and Environmental Evidence paper in her publications list. However, systematic reviews are not a ‘silver bullet’ and Kerry is interested in exploring the uses, evolution and limits of this method.

Lastly, Kerry is interested in understanding and tackling the challenges faced by conservation initiatives across the world, not just Europe and Scotland.  Most contemporary conservation efforts aim to involve local people in some way, promote local participation, and even aim to improve welfare and living standards. These "community-based" conservation projects can be appealing, but their diverse forms, goals and settings can make it difficult to understand and support their success.  Examples of linked work:

  • COMET-LA was a recent FP7 project on the Community-based Management of Environmental Challenges in Latin America.  Its objective is to identify sustainable community-based governance models for the management of natural resources that could be used in different social-ecological systems in a context of climate change and increasing competition for the use of these resources.  Kerry was part of a small team exploring if and how scenario-planning can assist in this process. Visit our short animated youtube video on scenario-planning for more information about what this concept can offer.
  • Kerry’s past PhD work at Imperial College London (2006-2009) focused on understanding social factors linked to success in community-based conservation projects, involving fieldwork in Nepal and Kalmykia, Russia, as well as a systematic review of the literature.  The list below includes several journal papers arising from this work, or the thesis can be downloaded from Imperial College Conservation Science website.
  • Kerry is a trustee of the Orskov Foundation, a charitable foundation that supports students and communities to develop sustainable land use to support livelihoods in lower-income countries. 

Kerry welcomes expressions of interest in supervising PhD students in work connected to any of the above topics. 

Past research 

Prior to working at the James Hutton Institute Kerry's PhD research, carried out at Imperial College London, examined how the combination of individual views, culture and local institutions could significantly influence the outcomes of community-based conservation in developing countries.  Kerry used a systematic review and meta-analysis of past data on conservation projects and also used data collection from case studies in developing countries, using mixed methods of Rapid Rural Appraisal, semi-structured interviews, and questionnaire surveys.  In addition to policy-relevant work with NGOs, her academic experience includes social research into attitudes towards nature resources in Trinidad, as part of an MSc from Imperial College, and her first degree is a MA in Natural Sciences, from Cambridge University.


Kerry's highlighted publications

Selected other recent academic publications

Examples of briefings and outputs for non-academic audiences

Selected workshop and project reports

Examples of conference presentations

  • Tools, approaches and pathways to reframing conservation for future change. Waylen, K.A. and Dunlop, M. (2015) Conveners of round table discussion. ICCB-ECCB 2015: 27th International Congress for Conservation Biology and 4th European Congress for Conservation Biology, Montpellier, France, 2-6 August 2015. 
  • Could we focus more on the "policy" part of science policy interfaces? Waylen, K.A. and Young, J. (2014) Presentation within session 'Impact by Who, for Who: Science for, with or by Policy (makers)?' RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, London, 27-29 August 2014.

  • What insights are offered by experiences of the "Ecosystem Approach"? Highlighting the effects of institutional inertia and evolution. Waylen, K.A.and Blackstock, K.L. (2014) Presentation at the Resilience Alliance Conference 2014: Resilience and Development, Mobilising for Transformation, Montpellier, 4-8 May 2014.

  • Societal engagement with European Biodiversity targets: looking for insights from elsewhere. Waylen, K.A. (2013) Invited presentation for session on EU target 1, for ALTER-Net Conference 2013: Science underpinning the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy", Ghent, 15-18 April 2013.

  • Email:
  • Phone: +44 (0)844 928 5428
  • Craigiebuckler Aberdeen AB15 8QH Scotland
  • Invergowrie Dundee DD2 5DA Scotland
A Scottish charitable company limited by guarantee. Registered in Scotland No SC374831.
Registered office: The James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie Dundee DD2 5DA. Charity No SCO41796

Printed from /staff/kerry-waylen on 29/05/16 12:53:25 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.