Dr Luke Parry

Reader in Environmental Social Science

Research Overview

Research Overview

Luke is an environmental social scientist whose current research focuses on forest citizenship and disaster resilience. He has a long-term interest in identifying pathways towards socially-just and sustainable futures for tropical forest regions, particularly the Amazon. Luke became a Reader in the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) in 2022. He was a Senior Lecturer in the department between 2017 and 2021 and a Lecturer from 2012. Luke was an ESRC Future Research Leader Fellow between 2014 to early 2017.

His research program makes links between political ecology (particularly of health), food systems, disasters, and biodiversity conservation. He uses mainly quantitative approaches and seeks to ask and answer policy-relevant questions. Luke has been working in, and learning about, the social, health, environmental and political dimensions of tropical forests since 2002.

He is on a research sabbatical during the academic year 23/24, being hosted by two Amazonian institutions; the Federal University of Pará (INEAF-UFPA) in Belém-PA, and the Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development in Tefé-AM.

Research Interests

Luke is currently the Lead Principal Investigator of a project (2022 until 2025), Forest citizenship for disaster resilience: learning from COVID-19. Funded by the Trans-Atlantic Platform (T-AP) for the Social Sciences and Humanities, specifically the ESRC (UK), NSF (USA) and FAPESP (São Paulo, Brazil). The ESRC-funded UK team includes James Fraser (also in LEC, Lancaster) and Andreza Souza Santos (School of Global Affairs, King’s College London). The UK-Brazil-USA team aim to: (1) quantify linkages between forest citizenship and COVID-19 resilience; (2) understand practices of forest citizenship in relation to COVID-19 experiences; and (3) understand and disseminate learning on conditions for promoting forest citizenship and enhancing disaster resilience across Amazonia. In 2023, Luke’s group began to explore challenges to rural education in Amazonia and the Brazilian Caatinga dry forest, the resilience of schools to disasters, and how this intersects with environmental governance.

His long-term empirical research is based around:

(1) Vulnerability and responses to environmental change, including understanding linkages between social vulnerability, climatic shocks, and health. For example, his paper in Nature Sustainability shows that prenatal exposure to rainfall extremes in Amazonia is associated with preterm birth, restricted fetal growth and lower birth-weight. Reflecting deep social inequities, the children of Amerindian and adolescent mothers are worse affected. Another paper in Social Science and Medicine draws on the concept of 'invisibility' to explore systematic biases in current understanding of climate-health risks in Latin America. His group identified ‘food deserts’ in Amazonian cities and also developed a bottom-up Citizens Network to explore (and strengthen) the political and social dimensions of living with environmental change in remote, river-dependent places. His research aims to contribute to improving the adaptive capacity of 'neglected' road-less Amazonian cities to cope with severe climatic events, especially among vulnerable social groups. Previously, he was Principal Investigator of an ESRC-funded project on "Amazonian cities and extreme hydro-climatic events: research to reduce vulnerability".

(2) Human-environment relationships in forests under change. For instance, his group have examined the social dimensions of environmental change in Amazonia (e.g. capability failures and corrosive disadvantage (Geographical Review), freedom and well-being at forest frontiers (World Development), connection with nature (People & Nature), values and conservation attitudes (Conservation Biology), and collaborative research on peasant livelihoods, deforestation and agricultural land-uses, fire risks and poverty). This work also includes understanding the relationships between environmental change and human welfare in the semi-arid Caatinga social-ecological system in the North-East of Brazil. Led by Felipe Melo from the Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil. See their paper in Nature Sustainability on adding forests to the water-energy-food nexus.

(3) Wildlife harvest in tropical forests. His group continues to research the harvesting and consumption of bushmeat (Annual Reviews) and fishes by rural and urban populations, linking normative perspectives on human health and dignity (in relation to rural food insecurity (People & Nature), urban food insecurity and social capital (Ecology & Society), livelihoods, and malnutrition), local ecological knowledge (Ecology & Society) and conservation of biodiversity and natural ecosystems. For example, their paper in Journal of Development Studies explores how urban Amazonians use fishing as as strategy for coping with food insecurity. Their paper in Scientific Reports shows that eating wildmeat may protect the most vulnerable rural children in Amazonia from iron-deficiency anemia. Luke's wildmeat research also relates to questions around space and place (contextual-understanding and urban defaunation shadows (PNAS)), trade (Oryx), social relations (Biological Conservation), livelihoods (Conservation Letters) and migration-decisions (Conservation Letters) by individuals and households.

Luke has been an Editor of the journal Conservation Letters since 2019.

Luke and his postgraduate research students are part of the Political Ecology group in the Lancaster Environment Centre.


Luke’s teaching primarily contributes to LEC’s geography courses and includes:

  • LEC.333: Geographies of Health: understanding and tackling inequities

  • LEC 322 Environment, Society and Politics in Amazonia (taught with James Fraser & Jos Barlow) - his sessions focus on population-environment relationships (especially under rural exodus and urbanization), resilience, dams and claiming emergencies.

  • LEC.203. Human Geography Methods (workshops)

  • LEC342 Issues in Conservation Biology

PhD Supervision Interests

I welcome interest from potential Masters by research or PhD students interested in these or related topics:

  • Projects taking a quantitative perspective on the political ecologies of health

  • Developing new tools for assessing local-scale healthcare access and quality in the Global South

  • Assessing impacts of Amazonian floods and droughts on maternal and infant health

  • Understanding the vulnerabilities of marginalized peri-urban, flood-prone communities in Amazonia