Schar School of Policy and Government

Louise Shelley, PhD

Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Endowed Chair and University Professor, Schar School of Policy and Government

Faculty Directory

Research Focus

My research examines the illicit trade in all forms of natural resources — fish, wildlife, timber, metals and other natural commodities. It studies the patterns of this trade as well as their impact on human and political security. Illicit trade was probably at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic as illicit trade of animals in wet markets may have led to the initial transmission of the COVID-19 virus. This is why my book on illicit trade, Dark Commerce: How a New Illicit Economy Threatens Our Future saw the great harm and threatening consequences that could result from diverse forms of illicit trade including natural resources. My research focuses on how this illicit trade in natural resources is deeply tied to corruption. I also examine the illicit financial flows associated with the illicit trade in natural resources.

Current Projects

■ Corruption and Resource Governance – USAID project (subgrantee to WWF): The purpose of the Targeting Natural Resource Corruption (TNRC) project is to strengthen USAID’s efforts and those of a wider community of NRM and anti-corruption stakeholders to improve natural resource management (NRM) outcomes by reducing threats posed by corruption to wildlife, fisheries and forests. TNRC will focus on harnessing existing knowledge, delivering new thought leadership and strengthening evidence on effective approaches to anti-corruption issues in NRM; leveraging practitioner and stakeholder networks for knowledge dissemination and improved anti-corruption; deepening global partnerships to combat corruption in the management of natural resources; and more effective anti-corruption programming on the ground.

Select Publications

■ Shelley, L. (2018). Dark Commerce: How a New Illicit Economy Is Threatening Our Future. Princeton University Press.

■ Shelley, L. (2018). Corruption and Illicit Trade. Daedalus Summer, 147(3), 127–143.

■ Shelley, L. (2014). Dirty Entanglements: Corruption, Crime, and Terrorism. Cambridge University Press.

■ Shelley, L. (2017). Human Trafficking at Sea. WSQ, 45, No. 1-2, 305-309.

■ Shelley, L. & Kinnard, K. (2018). The Convergence of Illicit Wildlife Trade with other Forms of Criminality. In Wildlife Crime: From Theory to Practice, ed. William D. Moreto. Temple University Press.



Phone: 703-993-9749