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Research Papers


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Dr. Oliver Coomes

Department of Geography
McGill University,
805 Sherbrooke Street West,
Montreal, QC H3A 0B9

Who I Am

I work on issues related to conservation, rural livelihood, and poverty among resource-reliant rain forest peoples of the Neotropics, particularly in the Peruvian Amazon.


I was born and raised in British Columbia. I did my BSc in Geography at the University of Victoria, mostly in physical geography (though my Honours thesis was actually on urban recreation!). I then took up a fellowship at the University of Toronto where I completed an MA in Geography which focussed on environmental management and policy - my thesis examined regulatory, judicial and administrative strategies to reduce the acid rain problem between Canada and the US. At that point I decided to 'shift gears' and went to work in the private sector for a large Canadian engineering firm as an environmental consultant. For six years I worked on a variety of environmental problems in Canada and overseas for private firms, government ministries and multilateral agencies. One of the projects took me to West Africa where I conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment for the World Bank on a dam proposed for the Niger River; the work required lots of interviewing with peasant farmers along the river and I was fascinated.

I decided to return to school so that I could learn more about the lives and livelihoods of the resource- reliant peoples in the developing world. I quit my job and went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I did my PhD in Geography (major area: cultural ecology; minors: development economics and water resources engineering). It was at Madison that I decided to focus on the Amazon basin and peasant economic livelihood among riverine peasants (ribereños) of northeastern Peru. When I finished my dissertation I took up a professorship at McGill where I have been since 1992.

My Affliations

Associate Editor, Economic Botany (2009 - present)

Member, Scientific Committee, EchoGéo (2012-present)

Editor-in-Chief, World Development (2003 - 2012)

Invited Visiting Professor, Faculty of Economics, Université Paris 1 - Panthéon-Sorbonne (October,2011; Ministère des Affaires Étrangères)

Carl O. Sauer Distinguished Scholarship Award (2010), Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers  

Member, Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) (2010 - present) 

Member, Editorial Board, Journal of Land Use Science(2005 - present)

Member, Editorial Board, Journal of Latin American Geography (2003 - 2009)

Member, Editorial Board, Annals of the Association of American Geographers (2004 - 2007)   

Member, Scientific Steering Committee, Commission on Land Use and Land Cover Change, International Geographical Union (IGU) (2005 - present)

Member, Global Land Project Transition Team, IGBP/IHDP. (2003 - 2004)

Member, Scientific Stearing Committee, Land Use and Land Cover Change Core Project, International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Change

Runner-up, Global Development Network, Award for Outstanding Research on Development (with Drs. Brad Barham and Yoshito Takasaki) (2000)

Chair, Cultural Ecology Specialty Group, Association of American Geographers (1998-2000) 

Chair, Honours Committee, Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers (1998)

Nystrom Award Competition Committee, Association of American Geographers (1998-99)

Board of Directors, Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers (1996-1999)  

Board of Directors, Amazonian Peoples Resources Initiative (APRI) (1998-2003)

Board of Directors, Amazon Conservation Fund, Inc. (1989-1998)





Contact Information

Department of Geography

McGill University

805 Sherbrooke Street West

Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2K6

phone: (514) 398-4111 fax: (514) 398-7437

Undergraduate Email

Graduate Email

Last updated March 30, 2016