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Canon Nigel Cooper

Visiting Professor
Faculty of Science and Engineering

Nigel’s research is in the area of the philosophy of nature conservation and environmentalism. His current focus is on the valuation of ecosystem services, particularly from the perspective of Critical Discourse Analysis.

[email protected]

View Nigel's Scopus profile


Nigel joined the Global Sustainability Institute as a Visiting Fellow in 2014 and is a member of the Applied Ecology Research Group. He was the University Chaplain for Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge from 2005 to his retirement in 2022. He is now chaplain to the Chapel at Churchill College, Cambridge.

Research interests

Nigel has combined his ecological and church interests in four main ways.

  • As an ecological consultant to the Church of England. Nigel has served on Diocesan Advisory Committees for the Care of Churches since 1991 and on the national Church Buildings Council 2009-2015. He has written guidance on the care of churchyards, especially trees, and involved in research on bats in churches.
  • Promoting general environmental awareness and behaviour. He led the Church of England’s ‘Shrinking the Footprint’ group for a few years and has been a Diocesan Environment Officer for many years. He was a keen member of our university’s group promoting sustainability, where he worked particularly closely with student groups.
  • He encourages a spiritual approach to nature and has led ‘nature and spirit’ retreats, mostly on Scottish islands, for twenty-five years. These have been appreciated by those with no particular faith as much as by those of a particular religion.
  • Research into the philosophy of nature conservation and related topics. He has had a particular interest in Gilbert White, which has led him into the byways of eighteenth century literature. His interests are in the spiritual value of nature and the weaknesses and hidden assumptions of economic approaches to ecosystems. His current research uses the methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. 

Nigel contributes to various modules across our university faculties. While Chaplain, he led his own class in New Testament exegesis.

  • MA (Cantab) in the Natural Science tripos
  • MA (Oxon) in Theology
  • PGCE
  • PG Cert in Biological Surveying
  • Deaconed 1983, Priested 1984
Memberships, editorial boards
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology
  • Fellow of the Linnean Society
  • Professional Member of the Arboricultural Association
  • CEnv
Selected recent publications

Tinch, R., Beaumont, N., Sunderland, T., ... Cooper, N., … Vause, J., Ziv, G. Economic valuation of ecosystem goods and services: a review for decision makers. Journal of Environmental Economics and Policy, 2019, 8(4), pp. 359–378 

Cooper, Nigel and Patrick Curry. 2019.  Christianity and nature. Ecological Citizen 3 (1). 59-62

Cooper, N. 2018. Examining evidence of how a culture values nature, particularly its spiritual value. Pages 239-266 in Sustainability and Humanities, Walter Leal Filho and Adriana Consorte-McCrea (eds.) In: Springer’s World Sustainability Series

Cooper, N., Brady, E., Steen, H. and Bryce, R., 2016. Aesthetic and spiritual values of ecosystems: Recognising the ontological and axiological plurality of cultural ecosystem ‘services’. Ecosystem Services, 21, pp.218-229.

Cooper, Nigel (2016): Ecosystem services and spirituality. In: Potschin, M., Haines-Young, R., Fish, R. and Turner, R.K. (eds) Routledge Handbook of Ecosystem Services. Routledge, London and New York, pp 352-353

Kenter, Jasper O., Liz O'Brien, Neal Hockley, Neil Ravenscroft, Ioan Fazey, Katherine N. Irvine, Mark S. Reed, Michael Christie, Emily Brady, Rosalind Bryce, Andrew Church, Nigel Cooper, Althea Davies, Anna Evely, Mark Everard, Robert Fish, Janet A. Fisher, Niels Jobstvogt, Claire Molloy, Johanne Orchard-Webb, Susan Ranger, Mandy Ryan, Verity Watson, Susan Williams, 2015.  What are shared and social values of ecosystems? Ecological Economics 111 (2015) 86–99

Kenter, J.O., Reed, M. S., Everard, M., Irvine, K.N., O'Brien, E., Molloy, C., Brady, E., Bryce, R., Christie, M., Church, A., Collins, T., Cooper, N., Davies, A., Edwards, D., Evely, A., Fazey, I., Goto, R., Hockley, N., Jobstvogt, N., Orchard-Webb, J., Ravenscroft, N., Ryan, M., Watson, V. (2014) Shared, Plural and Cultural Values: A handbook for decision-makers. UK National Ecosystem Assessment follow-on phase, technical report. UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge.

Kenter, J.O., Reed, M. S., Irvine, K.N., O'Brien, E., Brady, E., Bryce, R., Christie, M., Church, A., Cooper, N., Davies, A., Hockley, N., Fazey, I., Jobstvogt, N., Molloy, C., Orchard-Webb, J., Ravenscroft, N., Ryan, M., Watson, V. (2014) Shared, Plural and Cultural Values of Ecosystems. UK National Ecosystem Assessment follow-on phase, technical report. UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge.

Cooper, N 2012. The history of English churchyard landscapes illustrated by Rivenhall, Essex. in Pungetti, G., G. Oviedo & D. Hooke, Sacred Species and Sites, Cambridge University Press

Gardiner, T, M Gardiner & N Cooper 2011. Grasshopper strips prove effective in enhancing grasshopper abundance in Rivenhall Churchyard, Essex, England. Conservation Evidence 8, 31-37

Cooper, Nigel 2007. Gilbert White and the Natural Theology of Selborne. The Linnean 23(3), 29-44

Cooper, NS 2001. Wildlife in Church and Churchyard: plants animals and their management (2nd expanded ed). London, Church House Publishing. (xi + 83pp)

Cooper, NS. 2000. How natural is a nature reserve? The ideology of nature conservation landscapes. Biodiversity and Conservation 9, 1131-1152

Cooper, NS. 2000. Speaking and Listening to Nature: ethics within ecology. Biodiversity and Conservation 9, 1009-1027