Associate Dean, Graduate Studies; Associate Professor

Associate Dean, Graduate Studies

Simron Singh
519-888-4567 x33111
EV3 4227


My research draws on the systemic links between material and energy use, time poverty and human wellbeing. Materials and energy are critical resources for human survival and wellbeing. Access to these is increasingly organized through a complex global division of labor and international trade. Drawing on the concept of social and industrial metabolism, I track economy-wide material and energy flows through extraction, production, consumption and waste disposal. I have been particularly interested in local and sub-national scales, as well as small islands. Islands are particularly vulnerable in terms of access to critical resources, and more so in the context of climate change and extreme weather events. My work on the Nicobar Islands in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami has received considerable science and media attention, with profile in journals Science and Nature, New Scientist, and a documentary film, Aftermath.

The questions I ask are: What are the patterns of material and energy use (social metabolism) of an economy across space and time? How does the system meet its food and energy requirements? What are the major trade-offs, externalities and sustainability problems as a result? How do patterns of material and energy relate to human wellbeing with respect to time stress and time poverty? What might be leverage (or tipping) points in the system for a sustainability transition (or collapse)?

I welcome supervision on topics related to the above questions, preferably using islands as cases.


PhD in Human Ecology, Lund University, Sweden

Masters in Ecology and Environment, Indian Institute of Ecology and Environment, India

B.A. in English, University of Delhi, India

Current research projects and engagements

  • Sustainable Samothraki (Greece)
  • Hungry Cities Partnership - Hungry Cities Partnership: Informality, inclusive growth and food security in cities of the Global South
  • CIW - Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) (Research Associate)
  • WISIR - The Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (Board member)
  • Peak Population and Future Canadian Food Requirements: Implications for Human Nutrition and Earth’s Carrying Capacity (Funded by SSHRC)
  • Governance, Institutions and Water Metabolism: Developing an Operational Framework for the Caribbean (Funded by the Water Institute)

Past projects

  • ROBIN - Role of Biodiversity in Climate Change Mitigation in Latin America
  • EJOLT – Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade
  • ALTER-Net: A Long-Term Biodiversity, Ecosystem and Awareness Research Network
  • RECOVER - Research on Coping with Vulnerability to Environmental Risk (Nicobar Islands, India)
  • CEECEC – Civil Society Engagement with Ecological Economics
  • Jamaica’s socioeconomic metabolism and patterns of material use in the context of global and regional trade (Funded by UW-SSHRC Seed Grant)

Research communities

  • International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE)
  • International Society for Industrial Ecology (ISIE)
  • Society for Human Ecology (SHE)
  • International Small Islands Studies Association (ISISA)

Select recent publications

  • Grima, N., Singh, S.J., Smetschka, B. (2017). Decision making in a complex world: Using OPTamos in a multi-criteria process for land management in the Cuitzmala watershed in Mexico. Land Use Policy, Vol. 67, pg. 73 – 85.

    Grima, N., Ringhofer, L., Singh, S.J., Smetschka, B., Lauk, C. (2017). Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Development Practice: Can the Concept of PES Deliver? Progress in Development Studies.

  • Hules, M. & Singh, S.J. (2017). India’s land grab deals in Ethiopia: Food security or global politics? Land Use Policy 60. Pg. 343 – 351

  • Petridis, P., Fischer-Kowalski, M., Singh, S.J., Noll, D. (2017). The role of science in sustainability transitions: citizen science, transformative research, and experiences from Samothraki island, Greece. Island Studies Journal. Vol. 12 (1). Pg. 115-134

  • Hausknost, D., Grima, N., Singh, S.J. (2016). The Political Dimensions of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES): Cascade or Stairway? Ecological Economics

  • Singh, S.J. & Haas, W. (2016): Complex Disasters on the Nicobar Islands. In: Haberl et al. (eds.). Social Ecology. Society – Nature relations across time and space. Springer. 

  • Winiwarter, V., Schmid, M., Haberl, H. & Singh, S.J. (2016): Why Legacies Matter. Merits of a Long-Term Perspective. In: Haberl et al. (eds.). Social Ecology. Society – Nature relations across time and space. Springer. 

  • Hausknost, D., Gaube, V., Haas, W., Smetschka, B., Lutz., Singh, S.J., & Schmid, M. (2016): "Society Can’t Move so much as a chair!” - Systems, Structures, and Actors in Social Ecology. In: Haberl et al. (eds.). Social Ecology. Society – Nature relations across time and space. Springer. 

  • Grima, N., Singh, S.J., Smetschka, B., Ringhofer, L. (2016). Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) in Latin America: Analyzing the Performance of 40 case studies. Ecosystem Services 17, p. 24 – 32.
  • Singh, S.J. Smetschka, B., Grima, N., Ringhofer, L., Petridis, P., Biely, K. (2016): Social Multi-Criteria Evaluation in Theory and Practice. Introducing OPTamos. Social Ecology Working Paper 160, Vienna.  
  • Ringhofer, L., Singh, S.J., Fischer-Kowalski, M. (2014). Beyond Boserup: The Role of Working Time in Agricultural Development. In: Fischer-Kowalski et al. (eds.). Ester Boserup’s Legacy on Sustainability. Springer. Pg. 117 – 138.
  • Ringhofer, L., Singh, S.J., Smetschka, B. (2013). Climate Change Mitigation in Latin America: A Mapping of Current Policies, Plans and Programs. Social Ecology Working Paper No. 143.
  • Singh, S.J., Haberl, H., Schmid, M., Mirtl, M., Chertow, M. (eds.) (2013). Long-term Socio-ecological Research: Studies in society-nature interactions across spatial and temporal scales. Springer Dordrecht. (Book)
  • Singh, S.J., Krausmann, F., Gingrich, S., Haberl, H. & Erb, K.H., Lanz, P., Martinez-Alier, J., Temper, L. (2012). India’s Biophysical Economy, 1961 – 2008. Sustainability in a national and global context. Ecological Economics 76, pp. 60-69
  • Ramanujam, R.V. and Singh, S.J., Vatn, A. (2012). From the ashes into the fire: Institutional change in the post-tsunami central Nicobar Islands. Society and Natural Resources. Vol. 25 (11). pp. 1152-1166. 
  • Singh, S.J. & Eisenmenger, N. (2011). How unequal is international trade? A biophysical perspective. Journal für Entwicklungspolitik (JEP) [Austrian Journal for Development Studies]. Special issue on Bridging the Social and the Natural in Development Studies. Guest editors: Singh, S.J. & Köhler, B. Vol. 26(4). Mattersburger Kreis: Vienna
  • Fischer-Kowalski, Marina, Singh, Simron J., Ringhofer, Lisa, Grünbühel, Clemens M., Lauk, Christian, and Remesch, Alexander (2011): Socio-metabolic transitions in subsistence communities. Boserup Revisted. In: Human Ecology Review. Vol. 18 (2).
  • Fischer-Kowalski, M., Xenidis, L., Singh, S.J., Pallua, I. (2011). Transforming the Greek Island of Samothraki into a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: An Experience in Transdisciplinarity. GAIA – Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society. Vol. 20 (3). pp 181-190. Oekom Verlag.
  • Singh, S.J. & Haas, W. (2012): Aid, metabolism and social conflicts in the Nicobar Islands. In: Hali Healy, Martinez-Alier, J., Temper, L., Walter, M., Gerber, J-F (eds.). Ecological Economics from the Ground Up. Earthscan | Routledge
  • Singh, S. J. & Dudley, N. (2012): Ecosystem Services in Rural Areas and Natural Resource Management. In: Wittmer, H. & Gundimeda, H. (eds.). The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity for Local and Regional Policy and Management. Earthscan | Routledge
  • Wildenberg, Martin and Singh, Simron J. (2012): Integrated modelling and scenario building for the Nicobar Islands in the aftermath of the Tsunami. In: Glaser, B. et al. (Eds.):  Human/Nature Interaction in the Anthropocene. Potentials for Socio-Ecological Systems Analysis. Routledge.
  • Singh, S.J. (2011). Chupon’s Dilemma. A Dialogue. In: Venkateshwar, S. & Hughes, E. (eds.). The Politics of Indigeneity. Dialogues and Reflections on Indigenous Activism. ZED Books: London &New York. 
  • Singh, Simron J., Haberl, Helmut, Gaube, Veronika, Grünbühel, Clemens M., Lisievici, P., Lutz, Juliana, Matthews, Robin, Mirtl, Michael, Vadineanu, Angheluta, and Wildenberg, Martin (2010): Conceptualising long-term socio-ecological research (LTSER): Integrating socio-economic dimensions into long-term ecological research. In: Müller, F. et al. (Eds.):  Long-Term Ecological Research, Between Theory and Application. Berlin: Springer.
  • Singh, S.J. and Ramanujam, R. V. (2010): Exploring ecological 'unequal' exchange using land and labour appropriation: trade in the Nicobar Islands, 1880-2000. In: Hornborg, A. and Jorgensen, A.K. (Eds.):  International Trade and Environmental Justice: Toward a Global Political Ecology. Burleigh Heads: Nova Press.
University of Waterloo