For a full list of my academic publications, please go 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 biodiversity loss, climate change and deforestation. I use a variety of methods, tools and techniques, including systems thinking and theories of change, to help gain a deeper picture of the complex socio-ecological problems facing today’s world.

I have helped ecologists and natural scientists integrate social science components into their research to strengthen the outcomes and have guided the writing up, data analysis and publication of journal articles. I mentor British and overseas students in person and remotely to take their research to the next level. Do also contact me if you would like me to help you promote your published work in the media.

If you’d like to collaborate on a conservation or environmental research project, do get in touch. I’m able to advise on topics such as sustainable food and agriculture, farmer decision making, social science, qualitative methods, decision-making tools, environmental behaviour, sustainable consumption, participatory methods, African wildlife 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 am working on two large EU Horizon 2020 grants to help reduce the environmental footprint of food production. I’m using a mixed-method approach to understand the barriers and enablers for using more sustainable agricultural practices. I’m also involved in stakeholder engagement and dissemination to ensure the results of our research are locally applicable and acceptable.

Report cover for 'Wildlife in a Warming World'

At WWF during 2016-2018 I was involved in research with UEA and James Cook University looking at how 80,000 species could be affected by climate change in 35 of the most precious and biodiverse places on earth. We found that with a 4.5-degree global mean temperature increase, we could lose nearly 50% of species from these areas, but if this was reduced to 2 degrees, we would only lose 25%. If 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 surveys for understanding how humans perceive nature. With Free the Bears in Cambodia, I piloted a questionnaire including the randomised response technique to find out preferences for consuming bear bile. With a number of local Kenya NGOs, I developed questionnaires to understand attitudes towards leopards and giraffes.

Himba ladies sell handicrafts

In 2015 I contributed to a systematic review with IIED. The project aimed to determine whether alternative livelihoods could reduce specific threats to biodiversity. Working with partners, we found that few projects rigorously tested whether their 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 the drivers of human-carnivore conflict on livestock farms. I devised a novel structured, participatory decision-making tool combining Q-methodology and the Delphi technique. I shared my results with stakeholders via a layman’s report and numerous workshops.

Whilst working at Cheetah Conservation Fund in 2011-2012, I undertook numerous research projects, such as understanding the human dimensions of wildlife by Namibian conservancy members and the effectiveness of swing gates for keeping predators out from farms. I also supervised undergraduate student research on ecological and physiological studies on cheetahs and other wildlife.

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

I n South Africa during 2010, I worked with a team of primatologists to study the feeding ecology and habitat use of a troop of baboons outside of protected areas. I used telemetry to locate the troop then undertook observational studies on individuals. I maintained camera traps to study the usage of clay sites as foraging locations for geophagy.

Niki steering a boat in Maltese seas

In Malta during 2009-2010, I undertook boat-based observations of threatened seabirds to determine population trends over space and time. 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.