Current Employer/Organisation Name
University of Oxford
What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?
I am a DPhil student at WildCRU, University of Oxford. My research interests lie within the realm of human-wildlife coexistence, and I am currently exploring the potential for green financing mechanisms to achieve conservation outcomes. In particular, I am investigating the impacts of green financing mechanisms on revenue generated, local human attitudes and behaviour towards lions (Panthera Leo) alongside conservation outcomes in shared landscapes across East Africa. I also hold an Associate position at the University of Exeter’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation (CEC), term membership at the Explorers Club and Co-Director of Research position at the Thousand Year Trust on Cabilla Manor, Cornwall.
Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?
I chose this career to make a positive impact on human-wildlife coexistence. It blends my interdisciplinary background into a single direction. I simply enjoy doing something that brings me energy and purpose.
Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?
NatureWatch Presenter | Guest Speaker Wild Doc Soc
What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?
Exeter has an incredible academic reputation for ecology and conservation, but it was the academic community that underpinned my joyful experience in Penryn. Coming from a career in Management Consulting, I was a little self-conscious starting an MSc without a related BSc in my back pocket. This fear soon evaporated. My lecturers and professors challenged me to find unique pathways where my background could support novel conservation research. I was also encouraged to join research group discussions, such as ConScience, which I now co-coordinate. The most joyful aspect of my MSc is the long-lasting relationships I have developed with staff, and the moment of recognition that my unique background could be a source of strength in conservation research. The culmination of this support from the academic community fuelled the development of my self-generated MSc research project. In collaboration with a large national NGO (Madras Crocodile Bank Trust), I was able to design and deliver a project researching the adoption of snakebite prevention methods in Southern India to enhance human-snake coexistence within high-bite risk areas. A passion area for me that my supervisor pushed me to explore. I have now presented this research at numerous conferences, always a source of immense joy, and have recently submitted the manuscript for academic publishing.
What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?
My MSc provided me the tools, opportunity and support to conduct novel academic research. These are chronological factors that have successfully prepared me for my doctoral studies. A holistic grounding in biodiversity literature helped to position my niche research interest (snakebite prevention) within a larger field (human-wildlife coexistence) to enhance research impact. Advanced technical skills in statistical analysis and science communication were also developed during my MSc, which I continue to refer back to during my DPhil. However, these skills are of limited use unless practiced with oversight to embed learnings. My research project provided this opportunity. I was challenged to find my own collaborators, field site and research committee to support the project. On the ground, I employed three local assistants to support data collection, where I developed a range of soft project skills vital for any practicing researcher. Needless to say, when challenges arose, I was able to draw down on support from my supervisors to embed the right learnings. My MSc project allowed me to experience life as a conservation biologist, and develop skills vital for my next step as a DPhil student at Oxford.
What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?
Develop a plan, and iterate where you need to. I undertook the MSc to transition into a new career, and follow my passion to drive more harmonious human-wildlife coexistence. Specifically, I wanted to conduct a research project on snakebite prevention and develop skills for documentary presenting. As such, I joined the NatureWatch society to develop my on-camera presentation skills, and engaged in a self-generated research project to fulfil my academic interest. This may appear to be a straight forward story, but it isn’t. My research project was originally designed for Sri Lanka, which had to be cancelled on account of the political climate at the time. Four months of preparation became redundant and my very project was in doubt. Alas, a fresh research perspective and new collaborators I was set-up for success in India within just 5 weeks. I later realised that adapting to such challenges is part and parcel in conservation research. Developing a plan is important to provide scope and purpose, but you will need to allow for flexibility within to achieve your career ambition.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to bring other people, institutions and governments on my journey. I believe there is a space to unite skills and capacity across different sectors to achieve positive coexistence outcomes. My challenge now is to leverage that bridge.