My motivations for this DPhil largely stem from my inspiringly interdisciplinary MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation, and Management, which sparked my interest in wildlife trade and conservation geopolitics. Following the MSc, I pursued these interests through multiple collaborations as an independent researcher (incl., with WildCRU, Living with Tigers project, Oxford Martin School) and work with the Environmental Investigation Agency on the linkages between development and illegal wildlife trade. Concurrent research with WWF on ranger wellbeing, effectiveness, and community relations allowed me to better appreciate the realities of conservation for those working on the frontlines. I was also fortunate enough to be involved in an array of projects with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Largely focussed on illegal wildlife trade, these projects spanned environmental impacts, crime displacement, corruption, crime valuation, and the roles of rangers in countering illegal activities.
These experiences affirmed my enjoyment of research, as well as my interest in wildlife trade and conservation geopolitics. A more specific takeaway from this period was the vast and increasing capacity of China’s Belt and Road Initiative to affect wildlife trade, and conservation more broadly, which makes research on the subject both valuable and timely – hence, my drive to pursue this DPhil.
I have a diverse set of constantly evolving and increasingly interdisciplinary research interests. At present, my main areas of interest include wildlife trade and conservation geopolitics; largely because these areas offer such rich and exciting opportunities for straddling the natural and social sciences. My interests in wildlife trade span the supply chain – from source to consumer – with the general theme of promoting sustainability. At the sourcing stage, I am particularly interested in the use of socioecological frameworks to understand key processes. In complement, I am interested in nuances of consumer motivations, for both legal and illegal trade. With respect to conservation geopolitics, my major interest lies with China’s Belt and Road Initiative; in no small part because of its potentially huge ecological and social impacts.
In a slightly different vein, I am interested in the use of concepts from criminology and criminal justice to understand illegal activities that detrimentally impact conservation efforts. This itch was somewhat scratched during my time with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime where I focussed on transnational illegal wildlife trade and through work with WWF on ranger effectiveness, wellbeing, and community engagement.
In a nutshell, my DPhil uses interdisciplinary methods to explore the implications of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for biodiversity conservation (supervisors: Amy Hinsley, EJ Milner-Gulland). This research has two main components. The first focusses on how the people-to-people dimension of China’s Belt and Road Initiative might affect patterns of wildlife trade by expanding and diversifying Traditional Chinese Medicine markets. Informed by fieldwork in Nepal (key collaborator: TRAFFIC) and China, this research intends to develop a framework for promoting the sustainable use of targeted species. The second component of the research will use spatially-explicit models to evaluate the potential impacts of BRI infrastructure on the populations sizes and structures of selected species of Southeast Asia. Together, these research threads will yield insights into how sustainability could be promoted across the vast and growing web of the BRI.
Email: Benjamin.firstname.lastname@example.org; Benjamin.email@example.com