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Personal profile

Research interests

I am a conservation ecologist, with particular research interests in the consequences of anthropogenic impacts on animal populations and communities. To this end, my research combines field, laboratory and desktop based analyses to answer fundamental questions related to the autecology of threatened species. My research seeks to understand and ultimately mitigate, the impacts of habitat alteration and overexploitation for species of conservation concern. Whilst this work has historically focused on reptiles and amphibians, this has expanded through collaborative efforts, to include work on White rhinoceros, marine and freshwater fish and even students.

Current research projects:

Previous research projects:

  • Hastings Fishing Activity, Research and Training: Understanding the impact of recreational catch and release fisheries on coastal elasmobranchs.
  • Changing conservation attitudes: the role of international field trips in altering undergraduate perceptions of contentious biodiversity management approaches.
  • Ecology of the endemic Barbados Leaf Toed Gecko and the competitive interaction with the non-native Tropical House Gecko: Implications for conservation.
  • Monitoring and mitigating the impact of the global trade in live reptiles and amphibians

Scholarly biography

Being born in Papua New Guinea as the son of an academic ecologist I have always had a fascination with biodiversity and the outside world. Convinced that I wanted to study marine biology at university, I took a gap year following my A-levels and spent most of this time in Southeast Asia working as a research assistant at the centre for marine and coastal studies of the University Sains Malaysia and the marine science institute of the University of the Philippines. Working on projects encompassing mangrove, sea grass and coral reef habitats I learned about the hazards of fieldwork in the tropics; giardiasis, sand flies, heat stroke and even the ability of giant clam shell to cause severe lacerations were just a few of the life lessons I received. Upon my return, I started a degree in Marine Biology at the University of Aberdeen, but quickly realised that stock assessments for North Sea fisheries was not what piqued my interest and transferred to a Zoology degree, graduating in 2003.

With a shift in focus towards conservation science developing during my undergraduate studies, I completed an MSc in Applied Ecology and Conservation at the University of East Anglia (2004) During this, I had the unique opportunity to complete my dissertation research on the autecology of Telfair’s skinks on Round Island, Mauritius, an Island I had read about as a teenager in Gerald Durrell’s book Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons.

After graduating I was awarded a NERC funded PhD based at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the University of Southampton (2009) investigating the impacts of lowland heathland fragmentation on the population ecology and conservation genetics of Britain’s rarest reptile; the smooth snake. This research provided a number of novel insights into this relatively unknown species; identifying kin recognition in newborn snakes, sex-biased dispersal in adults and fine scale genetic structuring in continuous populations.

Immediately after submitting my thesis I was fortunate enough to secure a lectureship at the University of Brighton teaching Environmental Biology and Ecology at both the Hastings and Brighton campuses. In 2012 I was promoted to Principal Lecturer when I became programme leader for the joint honours programme in sciences at the Hastings campus. In 2013 I was appointed the Assistant Director of the Hastings campus, with responsibility for staff experience and operations and resources. Most recently (2016) I have taken on the role of Deputy Head for Teaching and Learning in the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences. During my time at Brighton my preponderance for research on reptiles has not diminished, but it has expanded to include mammals, plants and fish amongst others.

Approach to teaching

Conservation Ecology is a science full of reciprocal interactions, whereby two individuals interact to achieve a mutually desired outcome. This is an ethos I bring to my teaching which relies on my students being active participants and teaching me about their understanding of the topics; I like to be challenged to find new ways to convey information that needs more explanation in my classes. Given the nature of my discipline, wherever possible I try to incorporate field and problem based activities into my modules to enable students to apply theoretical concepts to finding practical solutions. As a ‘crisis’ discipline, frontier knowledge in conservation is continuously changing and as a result I try to support my teaching with recent and relevant research papers, websites and other reputable sources.

Supervisory Interests

I am interested in supervising postgraduate research students in the following areas: understanding and mitigating anthropogenic impacts on species and communities, behavioural ecology and ecotoxicology; aquatic ecology and conservation; herpetology; island ecology; illegal wildlife trade.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of Southampton

20052009

Master, University of East Anglia

20032004

Bachelor, University of Aberdeen

19992003

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Projects

Research Output

  • Using drones and sirens to elicit avoidance behaviour in white rhinoceros as an anti-poaching tactic

    Penny, S., White, R., Scott, D., MacTavish, L. M. & Pernetta, A., 17 Jul 2019, In : Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 286, 1907, p. 20191135 20191135.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
    File
  • Rudolph the red nosed reindeer had a very bioluminescent nose. A reply to van der Hoven et al. 2012

    Crooks, N., Marriott, C., Clifforth, H. R., Ahmed, Z. A., Xhikola, A., Penny, S. G. & Pernetta, A., 18 Dec 2017, In : Deinsea. 17, p. 39-42 4 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
    File
  • Open Access
    File
  • Activities

    External Panel Member: Mock Subject-Level TEF Exercise

    Angelo Pernetta (Examiner)
    Nov 2019

    Activity: External examination and supervisionTaught course

    Microplastics

    Neil Crooks (Presenter), Angelo Pernetta (Presenter)
    9 Jul 2019

    Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation

    External examiner - Anglia Ruskin University

    Angelo Pernetta (Examiner)
    Oct 2018Sep 2022

    Activity: External examination and supervisionTaught course

    Royal Society of Biology (External organisation)

    Angelo Pernetta (Fellow)
    2018

    Activity: External boards and professional/academic bodiesMembership of professional body

    The impacts of watercress farming on fish community structure

    Asa White (Presenter), Angelo Pernetta (Presenter), Christopher Joyce (Presenter), Neil Crooks (Presenter)
    24 Nov 2017

    Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation