All Creatures Great and Small

There often seems to be a juxtaposition between the concerns of professional conservationists and those of the general public when it comes to the conservation of species. During my undergraduate degree, I had many lectures that highlighted the distribution of species between different taxa. The majority of recorded species on earth are insects, and the order Coleoptera (beetles) alone contributes more than 350,000 species to the diversity of life. This fact lead to an infamous and possibly apocryphal story about J.B.S. Haldane, one of the founders of population genetics. When asked what his studies of creation had allowed him to conclude about the nature of a Creator, he is said to have answered ‘An inordinate fondness for beetles’.

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Why the past matters: megafaunal extinctions, excretions and global nutrient depletions

The paper, “Global nutrient transport in a world of giants”, published just this August, has exciting implications for ecology and conservation. I would argue that the findings of this research and related work provide 1) historical support for a trait and ecosystem process based approach to conservation, 2) support for the potential benefits of rewilding, and 3) insight into possible solutions for dealing with phosphorus depletion. Continue reading Why the past matters: megafaunal extinctions, excretions and global nutrient depletions

In defence of keeping (some) animals in captivity

As a Zoology graduate, I had a surprising experience when visiting Chicago’s Lincoln Park zoo this summer: I came across an animal that I was completely unfamiliar with. Was it a furry cow? A stocky deer? The sign informed me that it was a Sichuan takin, or a “large goat antelope” from the Tibetan plateau. Discovering the existence of a group of mammals that I had never come across in my 21 years on the planet – not to mention three years at university – illustrated the important educational role of zoos more clearly than any scholarly evaluation. In an opinion piece for BBC Wildlife magazine, Chris Packham endorsed zoos as places of learning – before calling for them to “cut (most of) the ‘captive breeding for release’ crap”. Continue reading In defence of keeping (some) animals in captivity

Safeguarding Ocean Resources: Effective Governance of Marine Protected Areas

Good News for Marine Protected Areas

The year 2015 has held great promise for the future of ocean conservation, as four giant marine protected areas (MPAs) have been established, with a fifth currently in negotiations. Cumulatively, these MPAs have set aside over 2.2 million square kilometers of ocean in the South Pacific as protected areas, raising the total area of MPAs to cover approximately 3.5% of the world’s marine environments. Continue reading Safeguarding Ocean Resources: Effective Governance of Marine Protected Areas

Protecting Areas by Ourselves from Ourselves: The case of Wytham Woods

I; along with a small group of other inquisitive and novice master’s students had the privilege of visiting Wytham Woods a few weeks ago. The land seemed pristine, with luscious green and leafy trees everywhere and mounds of grass and dried up leaves on the ground. The space is more of a laboratory than a serene piece of land, however, the general public for a measly fee, can enjoy the “nature” it has to offer.  This piece of “protected area” is passionately known as Oxford’s Ecological Laboratory or a laboratory of leaves[], that is because most academics in the School of Geography and Environment conduct some form  of research and visit the site on a regular basis. Mention must be made of the fact that the University of Oxford actually owns and manages Wytham Woods and it has been so for decades. Continue reading Protecting Areas by Ourselves from Ourselves: The case of Wytham Woods

Are we a grey wolf’s worst nightmare?



The Yellowstone National Park (YNP) grey wolf has had a colourful history. Depending on our circumstances, we both love or hate this animal. The question I ask is, are these feelings warranted or were they formed from the management and governance programs in place around the grey wolf?

There are two sides to every story.

From the past eradication, through to the present social perspectives of love and hate, does the grey wolf have a future in this new world it was reintroduced to?

The grey wolves successful reintroduction

The last pack grey wolf was killed in YNP in 1926. The 70 years following this eradication had detrimental effects on YNP. A number of ecological and biodiversity consequences were being realised because the elk and deer lost their predator.

Yellowstone National Park was dying.

To save YNP, a grey wolf reintroduction programme was designed and implemented as part of…

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Saving elephants with creative conservation

The fight to save Africa’s elephants is at a crossroads.

There are approximately 400,000-700,000 elephants in Africa, which sounds like a lot until you realize their population is plummeting: 100,000 were slaughtered in just the last three years. These gentle giants—the largest living land mammal on Earth—could be extinct in our lifetimes.

So what do we do about it? Continue reading Saving elephants with creative conservation

Photos from our visit to the Eversley quarry restoration project

These photos capture the day out but not the quality of the discussion and insight that the visit produced. We thank our hosts Mark Kelly and Andy Scott from Cemex, Sam Tarrant from RSPB and Genevieve Hayes from BirdLife for introducing the vision, benefits and issues associated with the CEMEX-RSPB partnership and the restoration project. Continue reading Photos from our visit to the Eversley quarry restoration project