My undergraduate dissertation research at Leeds University took me to the Kalahari Desert in Botswana to investigate the use of macroinvertebrates (particularly ants) as indicators of land degradation. This was my first trip to Africa, and I was captivated. Following work on a conservation project in Ecuador I undertook a Masters in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management at Oxford University, where I was able to expand my interest in research at the conservation/development interface, and return to Africa. My dissertation research in Zimbabwe examined the impacts of trophy hunting on trophy sizes in three species of antelope, and examined its potential as a conservation tool. I was able to continue to research the social aspects of trophy hunting the following year, while I was working as Principal Investigator with Frontier Tanzania, a gap year organisation running conservation and research expeditions. During this field research we discovered a new species of ant, which has recently been described and named as Polyrhachis terminata. Prior to starting my PhD I continued to work on conservation research projects, spending the summer months in Indonesia, Honduras and South Africa with another research organisation, Operation Wallacea. In October 2011 I took the opportunity to return to Africa, and started in my current position as a PhD student at Leeds.
My PhD research took place in a remote area of south-west Tanzania. I explored land use management challenges within miombo woodland with varying levels of human ultilisation. I used a range of methods, including biodiversity surveys of large mammals, trees, butterflies and birds; followed by social surveys using questionnaires, focus groups, interviews and livelihood tools. Such a diverse range of methods enabled me to understand the complexities of land use management within this area.
Following on from my PhD I now have a postdotoral research fellow position within the Sustainability Research Institute, and I am working on an exciting new project in Malawi. This project investigates the impact of El Nino on Conservation Agriculture, and how climate smart agricultural techniques fare under current climate extremes.