I am a Mistler Graduate Scholar at WildCRU within the Department of Zoology working on a DPhil research project situated within WildCRU’s Programme on Conservation Geopolitics.
Having developed a strong foundation in the Social Sciences during my Bachelor’s degree I then bridged into the Natural Sciences during a two-year interdisciplinary MSc in Environmental Science and Remote Sensing at Uppsala University, Sweden joint with The Swedish University of Environmental Sciences (SLU). During this period, I worked with the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Kenya on a piece of research looking at the impact of land tenure arrangements in Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programmes. During the second year of the MSc I was based at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria and I started working with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) who have a mandate to combat Wildlife and Forest Crime. I stayed with the UNODC as a Visiting Research Scholar while working on my Master’s thesis which focused on the use of remote sensing & geospatial technologies to combat wildlife crime in East and Southern Africa. The United Nations of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) supported me to collect data for this research- the results of which can be found here.
My DPhil research is concerned with developing methodologies using geospatial and remote sensing tools to increase count precision, collection efficiency and cost effectiveness in wildlife monitoring as compared with conventional ground-based sampling methods. I am using DigitalGlobe’s WorldView 3 & 4 Satellites to locate elephants in open Savannah in the Kavango Zambezi Ecosystem. This is being used as training data in a Convolution Neural Network to teach an algorithm to automate detection of elephants- I am working with the University of Oxford Machine Learning Lab on this research. As the resolution and revisit frequency of optical satellites increases and the cost of imagery drops it is anticipated that wildlife monitoring using very high resolution imagery can replace aerial surveys for large bodied terrestrial mammals or those with high spectral reflectance in many environments. Additionally, I am testing the accuracy of using a long-range fixed wing drone (WingtraOne) to conduct a wildlife survey in Southern Zambia. As a wildlife monitoring technique UAV research has shown lower cumulative variance in results than traditional ground based sampling methods and the nadir perspective reduces the possibility of missed counts due to topography.
Another aspect of my research is looking at the intersection between land tenure and endangered species range and the use of open land tenure tools to clarify land ownership arrangements. I am interested in the way colonial and post-colonial land ownership systems have shaped modern institutional arrangements that govern wildlife resources in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration are supporting my DPhil Fieldwork as an ‘Early Career Explorer’.