St Andrews academic recognised with award

Monday 18 May 2020

A University of St Andrews academic has been recognised with a prestigious award for her work with marginalised and indigenous people in South America and South Asia.

Professor Nina Laurie, in the School of Geography and Sustainable Development, has been awarded the Busk Medal from the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (IBG) for her contribution to social inclusion, international development and environmental sustainability through fieldwork and research.

Professor Laurie has played a pivotal role in raising the profile of Latin American research within the field of Geography having worked in the region for nearly 30 years.

Her research has been at the forefront of postcolonial endeavours to decentre understandings of the environment and development away from the experiences and perspectives of the Global North, towards the grounded realities of individuals and communities, particularly Indigenous populations.

This has involved innovative research on indigeneity and development, human trafficking and international volunteering. She was recently credited by the Ministry of Culture and Peru with helping the Urarina indigenous community gain Cultural Heritage status based on the textiles that women produce from the palms in the peatlands.

Professor Laurie is also Director of the Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) Forum at the University and is currently working with colleagues in the School of Geography and Sustainable Development and the Peruvian Institute of Amazonian Studies (IIAP) to support indigenous livelihoods in tropical peatland.

She said: “I am deeply moved by the recognition this gives to the collaborative work I have had the privilege of conducting with amazing partners in the global South over the years.

“Currently, I am speaking daily with colleagues in Peru who are still facing severe lockdown in the context of Covid-19. We are all deeply concerned about the impact this situation is having on the marginalised and indigenous communities with whom we are working.

“As we try to figure out ways to re-focus our research to address these new challenges, the news of the medal has been a real encouragement to carry on.”

Professor Laurie was recently awarded £200,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for her ‘Farming and Fishing in the Desert’ research in northern Peru where El Niño brings cyclical heavy rains with devastating results for agriculture and infrastructure.

Working with an interdisciplinary team, local government and the NGO PRISMA, the project examines deep-past and recent El Niños and explores the livelihood opportunities created by temporary lagoons formed after the rains.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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