Amit John Kurien

PhD Student, ATREE

PhD research topic
Shifting Cultivation, Deforestation and Livelihood Sustainability: Causes and Consequences of Forest-Agricultural Transformations in Meghalaya, Northeast India

Supervisor: Sharachchandra Lélé, Senior Fellow, ATREE

Research interests
I am interested in human-environment relations and their interrelationship with forest-agricultural changes in tropical landscapes, with a keen interest in deforestation and forest degradation. My dissertation focuses on the dynamics of shifting cultivation (swidden) its role in deforestation, and its linkages with livelihood changes and their ecological consequences in Garo hills, Meghalaya in NE India. I adopt an interdisciplinary framework to understand the linkages between causes and consequences of social and ecological factors operating across scales between the household- and village-level and landscape-level, and its relevance for forest cover, livelihoods, land management and policy. The study is undertaken in the context of changing patterns in shifting cultivation, indigenous village societies in transition, and historical and contemporary changes in the political economy of the Northeast India. I use multiple methods for the study including Remote Sensing and GIS, ecological and quasi-anthropological field methods.

MSc Wildlife Science (2005) Wildlife Institute of India, Saurashtra University
BSc Botany (2003) Madras Christian College, Madras University

Peer-reviewed publications

  • Lele, S and Kurien, A. 2011. Interdisciplinary analysis of the environment: insights from tropical forest research. Environmental Conservation, 38(2): 1-23. (pdf)

Reviews and popular articles

  • Kurien, A. 2011. Old Trajectories & New Strategies. Current Conservation, 4(4):03. (view)
  • Kurien, A. 2007. 14° North, 104° East - Unveiling the Cambodian Plains. Sanctuary Asia, June: 50-57.

Dissertation and reports

  • Kurien, A. J. 2005. Response of tiger (Panthera tigris), prey species and their habitat in relation to human disturbance in and around Chilla range of Rajaji National Park, Uttaranchal.
  • Kurien, A. J. 2001. Living and Learning in Semanarai. Report with herbarium on an ethnobotanical study of medicinal plants in the Nilgiris, South India.

Presentations and papers delivered

  • Cambodia: Examining the status quo – an outsider's perspective. April 2008. Presentation on the links between ecological and socio-political history, and conservation in Cambodia, made to PhD students and researchers at Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
  • Beyond village relocation – Response of tiger (Panthera tigris), prey species and their habitat in Rajaji National Park, India. March 2007. Presentation made at the inaugural conference of the Asian chapter of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, Mahabalipuram, India.
  • Do tigers shy away from people? What happens when people stop living in a tiger habitat? – A case study from the Shivaliks of Uttaranchal. September 2005. Presentation made at the XIXth Annual Research Seminar of Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.
  • Popularising eco-friendly practices in educational institutions. Paper presented at a State level conference, co-sponsored by the Ministry of Environment and the University Grants Commission. March 2003, Chennai.


  • Best research presentation for the Annual Research Seminar at the XIXth Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. September 2005.
  • Third finalist for the State level conference on Popularising eco-friendly practices in educational institutions, Chennai, March 2003.

Grants awarded
Save the Tiger Fund (2005-2007)
Grant name: Tiger Response to Prey and Human Disturbance (Grant no. 2005-0013-027)

Work and research experience

  • Trainer-Advisor (April-June 2006), Wildlife Conservation Society, Cambodia for a line transect Distance sampling based wildlife survey and monitoring project in the Preah Vihear Protected Forest, Northern Cambodia. Work included survey designing, training of forest staff, implementation and statistical analysis of the data collected.
  • Project Assistant (Dec 2007–June 2009), Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science. Coordinating an Indo-Norwegian project on Wildlife-Human Conflict in India. The project attempted to understand ecological and socioeconomic factors that drive wildlife-human conflict across sites in India. Work includes coordination of research and administrative operations of the sub-projects, field trips to research sites, assistance in questionnaire formulation for various states, and overall project management.
  • Editorial Assistant (April-Dec 2007), with Conservation and Society - a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary, and open access journal based in Bangalore, India Work included liaison with editorial team and production staff for production of journal, copy editing, overall printing and production, development of the online submission system with editorial team and overall database management.
  • Fieldwork in the dry deciduous forests of Shivaliks in North India that resulted in my MSc dissertation (Nov 2004 – May 2005). Work included quantitative fieldwork – animal sign surveys, vegetation sampling.
  • Undertook an independent ethnobotanical study of medicinal plants and recorded the honey hunting practices of the Kurumba and Irula tribes in the tropical evergreen forests of Nilgiris, South India (April 2001).