I’m a zoologist-turned-conservation social scientist who realised very early on that wildlife wouldn’t be saved by ecology alone. We must understand humans in order to be able to address the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss. I use a variety of methods and methodologies to help gain a deeper picture of the complex socio-ecological problems facing today’s world.
If you’d like to collaborate on a conservation research project, do get in touch. I’m able to advise on topics such as carnivore conservation, human-wildlife conflict and coexistence, social science, qualitative methods, decision-making tools, participatory methods, African conservation, community-based conservation, sustainable use, trophy hunting and illegal wildlife trade. I have helped ecologists integrate social science components into their research to strengthen the outcomes and have guided the writing up, data analysis and publication of journal articles.
Examples of my research
At Newcastle University, I am working on two large EU Horizon 2020 grants to help reduce the environmental footprint of food production. I am 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.
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.
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.
For my PhD at the University of Kent from 2012-2015, I used qualitative and quantitative social science methods to understand what the underlying drivers for human-carnivore conflict were on livestock farms. I devised a novel structured and participatory decision-making tool, combining Q-methodology and the Delphi technique. Once I finished, I shared my results with all 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.
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, raising offspring) in a large soft release camp. I used telemetry to find lions and made behavioural observations of the pride. I also oversaw a Bachelors research project on lion behavioural ecology.
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 impact of their project.
In South Africa during 2010, I worked with primatologists to study the feeding ecology and movements 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.
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.
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