Research

My research interests centre upon understanding human-environmental relationships in African contexts. Currently, I am exploring the prospects of a biocultural approach to facilitate a community-based restoration planning process to guide inclusive and sustainable outcomes for ecological restoration on community rangelands in South Africa.

I am also interested in the social-ecological factors influencing human-wildlife conflicts and the impacts of management interventions and education initiatives for wildlife conservation and human perceptions and behaviours. I am also interested in developing participatory social science methodologies for engaging communities and stakeholders in a process of inclusive knowledge sharing and coproduction to address environmental and social issues.

At the University of Venda in South Africa, I am collaborating with the community-based organisation (CBO) Dzomo La Mupo to document indigenous plant uses, and cultural practices among the Vhavenda people in the Vhembe District of the north-east Province of South Africa. The project aims to revive indigenous and local knowledge of sustainable forest management practices, alongside scientific knowledge to inform planting and management programmes to restore degraded riverine forests on community lands. From September 2019, I will be working with an artist in Brazil to explore the potential for creating a book of indigenous plant uses and traditional management practices to preserve Vhavenda cultural knowledge, for communities and schools.

From October 2019, I will be working on a project in collaboration with the Primate and Predator Project in South Africa to explore the social impacts of livestock guarding dogs to reduce conflict between farmers and leopards in the Soutpansberg Mountains of South Africa. We will place Anatolian sheep dogs with farmers over the course of 12 months to monitor the economic and social impacts of the initiative to protect local livelihoods. We will also engage farmers in training and capacity building workshops to promote alternative approaches for protecting livestock, and schools through an education initiative designed to promote awareness, and conservation of carnivores in the landscape.

I am working as a social scientist on a project titled ‘Ecologically Based Rodent Management for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security in Africa (EcoRodMan)’ funded by the European Development Fund through the African Union.  In August 2019, we will begin a project to work with smallholder farmers in rural agricultural landscapes in the east Soutpansberg Mountains of South Africa, to promote sustainable biological control measures using small predators such as birds of prey and small mammals (mongooses, civets, genets) as a form of rodent control. We will run participatory workshops with farmers to raise awareness of alternative forms of rodent control that do not rely on lethal control measures (e.g. poisoning). We will also engage with schools through an education programme designed to promote knowledge and tolerance for the conservation of small predators in rural areas.

During my research at Cardiff University, I engaged with artisanal fishermen from the Fishing Boat Owners Association and environmental stakeholders to explore the potential contribution of artisanal fishermen’s knowledge towards a new marine spatial plan for conservation in the Seychelles. We collected data using interviews and stakeholder workshops. We found that fishers knowledge has an important role to play for promoting promote sustainable fishing practices, informing temporal fishing closures, identifying the localities of spawning aggregations, detailing the abundance and distribution of threatened species, and the revealing the environmental impacts of development projects. However, in the absence of trust between state planners and fishing communities’,  integrating fisher’s knowledge into conservation plans can be challenging. These factors are exacerbated by restrictions that marine policies place on local livelihoods, and the dominance of western solutions for conservation that marginalise fisher’s knowledge. The research points to the importance addressing issues of trust, transparency, power inequalities, and accountability of state planners in marine conservation planning.

Frome 2014-2016 I worked on the Drought Risk and You (Dry Project) at the University of the West of England in the U.K. My role was to implement and support a citizen science programme that assess the impacts of drought and climate change on grasslands and trees in the UK. I was also responsible for engaging the public and different stakeholder groups in our science activities and developing narrative and storytelling methods to monitor and evaluate the social outcomes of our citizen science programme.

My PhD work focus on  assessing the social and ecological factors that influence conflicts between leopards (Panthera pardus) and farming communities in the Blouberg Mountain Range of South Africa. The project explored the impacts of leopards on local livelihoods, bio-physical factors influencing conflict in farming landscapes, and different solutions for mitigating conflict. I also explored how perceptions towards leopards and conservation are shaped by historical and contemporary relationships with protected areas.