Research

For a full list of my academic publications, please go here.

To view my academic CV, please see here.

I’m an environmental social scientist who realised very early on that our planet wouldn’t be saved by ecology alone. We must understand humans in order to be able to address the underlying drivers of environmental change. I use a wide range of theories, methods, tools and techniques, including systems thinking and theories of change, to help gain a deeper picture of the complex social-ecological problems facing today’s world.

I provide expertise to natural scientists to help them integrate social science components into their research to strengthen the outcomes. I mentor environmental sciences British and overseas students in person and remotely to take their research to the next level. It is best if you contact me before you start data collection so I can help with the methodological aspects and ensure the data collection is robust and rigorous.

If you’d like to collaborate on an environmental conservation or sustainability project, do get in touch. I’m able to advise on topics such as geography, sustainable food and agriculture, social science, qualitative methods, decision-making tools, coupled human and natural systems, sustainable consumption, participatory methods, biogeography, natural resource management, African conservation, community-based conservation, sustainable use, carnivore conservaion, human-wildlife conflict, trophy hunting and the illegal wildlife trade.

Academic credentials

  • Postdoctoral research, Newcastle University, 2018-present
  • Postdoctoral research, San Diego Institute for Conservation Research, 2016
  • PhD in Biodiversity Management, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent, UK, 2012-2015
  • MSc in Conservation Biology, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent, UK, 2010-2011
  • BSc in Zoology at Cardiff University, UK, 2002-2005

Examples of my research

Speaking with agricultural stakeholders in the Welland river area, UK, on how to improve farm management

At Newcastle University, I lead environmental social science work for two large EU Horizon 2020 grants to reduce the environmental footprint of food systems. I use a mixed-method approach to understand the social, economic and political motivators enhancing sustainable food systems. I am the Principal Investigator on a participatory project values and aspirations for the British countryside.


Report cover for 'Wildlife in a Warming World'

At WWF during 2016-2018 I was involved in biogeographical research with UEA and James Cook University modelling how biodiversity could be affected by climate change. We found that with a 4.5-degree global mean temperature rise, we could lose nearly 50% of species from the most biodiverse places on earth. If, however, species were able to freely move to track their favoured climate, we’d only lose 20%. You can read more here.


During a postdoctoral consultancy with San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research in 2016, I helped design social-ecological surveys for understanding coupled human and natural systems. With Free the Bears in Cambodia, I piloted a questionnaire including the randomised response technique to understand place-based consumption of wildlife. With a number of local Kenya NGOs, I developed questionnaires to understand human influences on wildlife.


Himba ladies sell handicrafts

In 2015 I contributed to a systematic review with IIED to determine whether sustainable development could reduce threats to biodiversity. Working with partners, we found that few projects rigorously tested whether their human development interventions had impact on biodiversity. Some interventions had no overall effect, whereas a select few had minimal effect.


Farmer herds cattle

For my PhD at the University of Kent in 2012-2015, I used qualitative and quantitative social science methods to understand interactions between humans and wildlife. I devised a novel structured, participatory decision-making tool combining Q-methodology and the Delphi technique. I published six journal articles, two book chapters, a layman’s report from this work, which received widespread international media coverage.


Whilst working at Cheetah Conservation Fund in 2011-2012, I undertook numerous biogeography and social-ecological research projects, such as understanding the human dimensions of wildlife and the effectiveness of swing gates for keeping predators out from farms. I also supervised undergraduate student research on natural and social science studies on the interactions between wildlife and people.


Semi-wild lioness with two cubs

In Zimbabwe in 2011, I worked as a lion researcher determining whether a semi-wild lion pride could successfully exhibit wild lion behaviour (hunting, mating and raising offspring) in a large soft release camp. I used telemetry to track the lions and made behavioural observations of the pride. I also oversaw a Bachelors research project on lion behavioural ecology and write communication material to promote the project.


Mother Kangal dog with puppies

For my Masters in 2010-2011, I studied the effectiveness of guardian dogs for reducing livestock predation in South African farms. Working in partnership with a local NGO, Cheetah Outreach, we found that the dogs reduced predation by up to 93% per farm, saving each farmer around $3,000 per year. The results of the research were used by the NGO to help improve the impact of their project.


Baboons grooming

In South Africa during 2010, I worked with a team of primatologists to study the biogeography and behaviour of baboons outside of protected areas. I used remote sensing technology such as camera traps and radio collars coupled with observational studies to understand spatial use of habitats by baboons in human-dominated places.


Niki steering a boat in Maltese seas

In Malta during 2009-2010, I undertook biogeographical research on threatened seabirds to determine population trends spatially and temporally. I also conducted studies on the migration of raptors and on illegal bird hunting and trapping and assisted with an annual bird census. In addition, I was involved in the communications and development side of the NGO.