Broadly speaking, I am interested in socio-ecological systems research, and I have a particular interest in the illegal wildlife trade. Before my PhD, my research focussed on the population biology, social structure, and conservation management of the elephants of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, South Africa. Before that, I did some work with the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, focussed on human carnivore interactions alongside Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
For my PhD (which started in October 2017), I am working under Professor EJ Milner-Gulland through the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science and focussing on uncertainties within the illegal wildlife trade (IWT). The complex and undercover nature of IWT makes it difficult to understand and address. Two major uncertainties include monitoring uncertainties (baseline data on the intensity of IWT activities and their changes over time may be biased and imprecise), and implementation uncertainties (anti-IWT interventions take place within complex socio-ecological systems and their outcomes are difficult to predict). Using the exploitation of elephants in supply countries as a case study, my PhD seeks to develop an academically rigorous understanding of the sources, implications, and methods of dealing with uncertainty in IWT.
I aim to investigate (1) possible biases and inaccuracies in existing data on the monitoring of the illegal killing of elephants (MIKE), and (2) uncertainties in how different anti-poaching interventions might affect the behaviour of illegal harvesters (implementation uncertainty), with the goal of informing more robust decision-making in elephant conservation.