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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.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of Southampton


Master, University of East Anglia


Bachelor, University of Aberdeen


Fingerprint Fingerprint is based on mining the text of the person's scientific documents to create an index of weighted terms, which defines the key subjects of each individual researcher.

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Research Output 2004 2017

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 17, p. 39-42 4 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
nasal mucosa
cooling systems
Rangifer tarandus
Open Access
refuge habitats

Natural history, distribution, and conservation status of the Barbados leaf-toed gecko, Phyllodactylus pulcher Gray, 1828 (Squamata, Gekkonidae)

Williams, R., Horrocks, J. & Pernetta, A. 19 Apr 2015 8, p. 197-204 8 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
natural history
population size

A disappearing drylands icon? White rhinoceros conservation and the need for public private partnerships

Pernetta, A. 10 Jul 2014 15, 2-3, p. 231-233 3 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
public-private partnership


Pernetta, A. 13 Feb 2014 15, 1, p. 58-59 2 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access

Activities 2006 2018

Royal Society of Biology (External organisation)

Pernetta, A. (Fellow)

Activity: Membership of professional body

EDGE Fellowship - Zoological Society of London

Pernetta, A. (Reviewer)
17 Jul 2017

Activity: External funding peer-review

The impacts of watercress farming on fish community structure

Asa White (Presenter), Pernetta, A. (Presenter), Joyce, C. (Presenter), Crooks, N. (Presenter)
24 Nov 2017

Activity: Oral presentation

Does watercress farming impact chalk river fish populations?

Asa White (Presenter), Crooks, N. (Presenter), Pernetta, A. (Presenter), Joyce, C. (Presenter)
25 Nov 2016

Activity: Oral presentation