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Craig Leisher

Craig Leisher

Senior Social Scientist

Craig Leisher is a Senior Social Scientist in The Nature Conservancy’s Central Science unit, and his research focuses on amplifying and measuring the benefits to people from conservation initiatives. He has done social science research in 17 countries. Prior to joining TNC’s Central Science, he spent two years as an International Policy Advisor on poverty-conservation issues and three years as the Senior Policy and Finance Advisor for China and Indonesia. Before that Craig was in Vietnam for six years where he was the Program Director for WWF Indochina and the Environment Advisor for the UN Development Program. Prior to Vietnam, Craig worked for the World Bank in the environment sector of Latin America and the former Soviet Union for five years. He has more than 60 publications including articles for PLoS One and the New York Times. He holds an MA in International Relations from the American University and a BA in Russian History from the University of New Mexico. He is an avid scuba diver and has discovered a new-to-science species of cave fish.



Leisher, C., Touval, J., Hess, S. M., Boucher, T. M., & Reymondin, L. 2013. Land and Forest Degradation inside Protected Areas in Latin America. Diversity, 5 no. 4: 779-795. doi:10.3390/d5040779

Leisher, C., L.H. Samberg, P. Van Buekering, and Sanjayan, M. 2013. Focal areas for measuring the human well-being impacts of a conservation initiative. Sustainability 5, no. 3: 997-1010.

Leisher, C., Sanjayan, M., Blockhus, J., Larsen, N. and Kontoleon, A. 2013. Does conserving biodiversity work to reduce poverty? A state of knowledge review. In Biodiversity Conservation and Poverty Alleviation: Exploring the Evidence for a Link. Eds D. Roe, J. Elliott, C. Sandbrook and M. Walpole. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118428351.ch9.


Kottelat, M., and C. Leisher. 2012. Fishes from Phuong Hoang cave, northern Vietnam, with description of a new species of loach (Teleostei: Nemacheilidae). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, 23(3), 237.

Leisher C., S. Mangubhai, S. Hess, H. Widodo, T. Soekirman, S. Tjoe, S. Wawiyai, S. Neil Larsen, L. Rumetna, A. Halim, and M. Sanjayan. 2012 Measuring the benefits and costs of community education and outreach in marine protected areas. Marine Policy doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2012.02.022

Leisher C., S. Hess, T. M. Boucher, P. van Beukering, and M. Sanjayan. 2012. Measuring the impacts of community-based grasslands management in Mongolia's Gobi. PLoS ONE 7: e30991. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030991


Leisher C., R. Brouwer, T. M. Boucher, R. Vogelij, W. R. Bainbridge, and M. Sanjayan. 2011. Striking a balance: socioeconomic development and conservation in grassland through community-based zoning. PLoS ONE 6: e28807. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028807


Leisher C, M. Sanjayan, J. Blockhus, A. Kontoleon, and S.N. Larsen. 2010. Does conserving biodiversity work to reduce poverty? A state of knowledge review. The Nature Conservancy, University of Cambridge, and International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). 32 pp.


Leisher C. 2008. What Rachel Carson knew about marine protected areas. BioScience 58 (6): 478-479.


Leisher C, van Beukering P, Scherl L.M. 2007. Nature’s Investment Bank: How Marine Protected Areas Contribute to Poverty Reduction. Arlington VA: The Nature Conservancy. 52 pp.

Craig Leisher

Senior Social Scientist

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