Research

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 guided the writing up, data analysis and publication of journal articles.

Examples of my research

At WWF I have been 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.

A sun bear saved from a bile farm by Free the Bears

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 handicraftsIn 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.

 

Leopard eating meatFor 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.

Collared cheetahWhilst 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 to keep 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 cubsIn 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.

 

Mother Kangal dog with puppiesFor my Masters in 2010-2011, I studied the effectiveness of livestock guarding dogs for reducing predation to livestock in South Africa. 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.

 

Baboons groomingIn 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.

 

 

Niki steering a boat in Maltese seasIn Malta during 2009-2010, I undertook boat-based observations of threatened sea birds to determine population trends over space and time. I also conducted studies on the migration of raptors and on illegal bird hunting and trapping. I assisted with an annual bird census.

 

 

Academic credentials

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