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Henry Anderson-Elliott

Henry Anderson-Elliott

PhD Student

The conservation of polar bears



  • PhD in Geography/Polar Studies, University of Cambridge, 2016-2019
  • MPhil in Geographical Research (distinction in thesis), University of Cambridge, 2016
  • BA hons (first class) in Geography, University of Cambridge, 2014


  • ESRC DTC Studentship, match-funded by Trinity College Cambridge 2016-2019
  • Newton College Masters Studentship, jointly from the Isaac Newton Trust and Peterhouse College Cambridge, 2015-2016
  • Post-Graduate Research Scholarship, Trinity College Cambridge, 2016-present
  • Hyam Scholarship, Trinity College Cambridge, 2015
  • Senior Scholarship, Trinity College Cambridge, 2014-present


Henry's research examines the conservation of polar bears, with a particular focus on the Svalbard archipelago, but also incorporating global issues and interests.

His work learns a lot from the expanding discipline of the Environmental Humanities, exploring the numerous and interconnected ways that humans and wildlife coexist in the Anthropocene epoch. He is interested in the social, cultural, and political dimensions of willdife conservation: how we as humans come to value and promote different visions for what 'conservation' itself should look like, achieve, as well as the species/ecologies/spectacles that we hope to make live or let die.

Henry's PhD project looks at the multi-naturalism of polar bear conservation in Svalbard. It aims to show how numerous different actants and groups come to understand polar bears very differently here, and how in each context what 'polar bear conservation' comes to mean is subtly but significantly different. It explores many varied human/bear interactions: long-term scientific research and monitoring, the emergence of the polar bear science community over the mid-20thcentury, the politicized context of bears and climate, polar bears in documentary film and wildlife photography, as well as their lives and roles in European zoos. It also follows the life of a unique individual Svalbard bear whose frequent encounters with all of these different human actants underlines the multiplicity of ways we perceive her entire species and their future.

From 2017-2020, the project has also benefited from a research collaboration with the Yorkshire Willdife Park's 'Project Polar', and the 4 (now 5) captive polar bears that live there. Henry's research interests also include the novel ecologies and surreal choreographies of species in captivity – the extraordinary work that we do to keep them alive, to make them reproduce, and the roles that they play in our societies, imaginations, histories, and stories about the world.

Henry has also done research on wildlife conservation in Mexico (examining the environmental ethos of a community of self-identified indigenous Maya), and in Norway/Sweden. During his MPhil, he wrote his thesis on the conservation of brown bears in Scandinavia. The project was undertaken with the help of the Scandinavian Brown Bear Research Project (SBBRP) at their field station in Tackåsen, central Sweden. It proposed that the scientists themselves - through their methods of data-collection and analysis - were actively involved in co-shaping the very notion of the 'brown bear' that was then the object of subsequent management/conservation policy.

Henry's research interests include: environmental humanities; conservation social science; political ecology; science and technology studies (STS); multi-species studies; multi-naturalism; the Anthropocene; hybrids and cyborgs; geohumanities; anthropology; ethnography; environmental history; film studies.