- Interdisciplinary data synthesis
- Mixed methods
- Monitoring and evaluation
- Social-ecological systems
- Human development
- Resource governance and policy
- Theories of knowledge
Geoff Wells uses ecological measurements, social data, earth observation, statistics and qualitative methods to analyse how humans affect natural resources, and vice versa
Wells is a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Global Fellow working between the Stockholm Resilience Centre, McGill University (Canada) and the University of Edinburgh (UK).
Primarily based in Montreal, Wells is leading the Monitoring and Evaluation of Governance Systems (MEGS) project, which aims to review, test and apply methods for measuring and analysing how de facto resource governance moderates social-ecological dynamics and outcomes.
Primarily focused on woodland-agriculture landscapes, through the Social-Ecological Observatory for Southern African Woodlands, MEGS combines expertise and interdisciplinary data from over 80 researchers, ~10,000 woodland plots and 12 countries in the region.
Wells also studies the process and theory of interdisciplinary knowledge generation, and examines innovation in landscape governance (e.g. new deliberative processes for governing landscapes and teleconnections; post-commodification paradigms for payment for ecosystem service schemes).
Wells is also a member of several methodological working groups for monitoring and analysing landscapes and social-ecological systems.
Wells is a member of the SRC Research Ethics Committee, and teaches and supports the research of several MSc and PhD students at SRC, McGill and Edinburgh.
He has worked as a multi-disciplinary researcher and data analyst for 14+ years across academic, NGO, government and private sectors, supporting projects in the UK, Sweden, Canada, Mexico, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Belize, Australia, Timor-Leste.
Originally trained in development economics in Australia, from 2008 to 2010 Wells worked as a policy researcher in the Australian Parliament before moving to the UK to complete his MSc in Ecosystem Services at the University of Edinburgh.
During and after his MSc, Wells worked as project officer on international climate change adaptation projects (primarily in Kenya) at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). Wells also worked as research assistant at University of Edinburgh developing social-ecological monitoring methods for agroforestry projects in the tropics.
From 2016 to 2019 Wells earned a PhD in social-ecological systems and sustainable development from the University of Edinburgh, focused on measuring and modelling how social factors influence changes in tree biomass on smallholder farms in Mexico, Uganda and Mozambique. From 2019 to 2022, Wells has worked as a post-doctoral researcher at Stockholm University (Nature4SDGs) and University of Edinburgh (REFORMA).
Over the years Wells has also worked as a private consultant on the design, monitoring and evaluation of carbon agroforestry projects across the tropics.
Publications by Wells, Geoff
In defence of simplified PES designs
Journal / article | 2020
Payments for ecosystem services (PES) schemes are underperforming. Wunder et al. 1 conclude that this is because many projects are allowing local politics, rather than economistic theory, to dictate who participates, and how they are paid and sanctioned. While we appreciate their analysis, our view is that their work downplays key evidence about the importance of maintaining the legitimacy of PES schemes amongst local parti...
Social as much as environmental: the drivers of tree biomass in smallholder forest landscape restoration programmes
Journal / article | 2020
A major challenge for forest landscape restoration initiatives is the lack of quantitative evidence on how social factors drive environmental outcomes. Here we conduct an interdisciplinary quantitative analysis of the environmental and social drivers of tree biomass accumulation across 639 smallholder farms restoring native tree species in Mexico, Uganda and Mozambique. We use environmental and social data to assess the relati...