Personal profile

Research interests

My research encompasses avian ecology and conservation, focusing on human-bird interactions, urban ecology, citizen science, and extinction risk. I'm passionate about sharing my sense of wonder and excitement about the natural world, including finding effective ways to (re)connect people (particularly children and teenagers) with nature. I am a strong proponent of the conservation optimism movement, evidence-based conservation, and research transparency.

Scholarly biography

My long-lasting passion for wildlife, the environment and the outdoors in general led me to do a BSc in Zoology at Durham University (specialising in whole organismal zoology). My dissertation saw me conduct fieldwork in order to research the value for birds of riparian restoration in livestock grazed landscapes. In addition, whilst at Durham I had the valuable opportunity to go to South Africa as part of a field course module - this certainly played a large part in my decision to continue within this field.

After this, I wanted to specialise a bit further so did an MSc in Conservation Science at Imperial College London, based at Silwood Park. For my research project, I assessed the impact of tourist development in St. Lucia (Caribbean) on the endangered and endemic White-breasted thrasher (Ramphocinclus brachyurus). The research was supervised by Dr Richard Young (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust) and Dr Mark O’Connell (ERT Conservation). This led to my first publication and importantly my results were passed onto the St Lucian government and fed into conservation policy reports.
After a year of volunteering and internships at various conservation organisations (e.g. JNCC and RSPB), I decided to embark on a PhD. Mine was based at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) at the University of Kent under the supervision of Dr Peter Bennett. My research aimed to improve understanding of interspecific variation in morphology, life-history, ecology and extinction risk with respect to elevational distribution – at the global scale, using birds as a model system and a global avian trait database.
After my PhD I stayed at Kent working as a post-doc research assistant on a Natural England project entitled “Costs, benefits and trade-offs in creating large conservation areas”. I also undertook a month’s field research on Ascension Island – a UK Overseas Territory – where I assisted with vegetation mapping as a part of a Darwin Initiative funded project called: “Designing and implementing a Biodiversity Action Plan for Ascension Island”.
I then became a Lecturer in ecology and conservation here at the University of Brighton in the middle of 2014 and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2016 and Principal Lecturer in 2021.

Supervisory Interests

Happy to supervise field, questionnaire, and desk-based projects. Passionate about avian ecology and conservation science, human-nature interactions, urban ecology, and patterns and drivers of extinction risk. 

Approach to teaching

I enjoy using a variety of dynamic and interactive teaching/assessment methods and audio-visual aids (e.g. videos, debates, polls, quizzes, journal clubs, and cutting-edge case studies). I regularly incorporate my research into teaching as it helps students put theory into context and think critically. For all modules I lead, I create online resource portals within MyStudies where I provide various learning materials and weblinks to the wider research community. I encourage my students to be inquisitive, engage proactively, and ask questions. I assure them that they should never be afraid to make mistakes, but instead use them to learn and develop. I encourage all of my students to be environmentally conscientious as they are the next-generation of ecologists and conservationists.

I utilise my strong professional relationships with numerous practitioners and researchers to provide placement opportunities, as well as final year research-project collaborations that support ecological and conservation work locally, nationally and internationally (e.g. RSPB, Sussex Wildlife Trust, GWCT, Kew Gardens, Mauritius Wildlife Foundation). This provides the context of real-world problem solving, enriches the student experience, and increases their confidence and employability. 

I embed training regarding effective science communication (peers, public, decision-maker audiences) into my modules. I promote and share existing resources about the value of digital/social media for science. Furthermore, I offer students opportunities to participate in my varied public engagement and outreach programs (e.g. City Nature Challenge, Brighton & Hove House Sparrow Project, Wild about Mid-Sussex, and Bird Buddies). These extra-curricular opportunities strengthen transferable skills and highlight the importance of science communication and impact.

I am a strong advocate for providing fieldwork opportunities in Higher Education. Benefits are multi-faceted and include enhanced problem-solving skills, teamwork, communication and logistics, learning contextualisation/application. I supervise students on a variety of national and international field-trips.

Conservation science is seen as a crisis discipline, where bad news predominates. Although biodiversity is facing huge challenges, there are many positive stories out there where conservation efforts have made a positive difference. I promote the “conservation optimism” mind-set to my students from day one, so that they realise the importance of not being overwhelmed by “doom and gloom”, but instead celebrating positive thinking in conservation and learning from success. 

I am committed to training students about the importance of evidence-based conservation and how this can be delivered, and I'm a co-author in Downey et al. (2021) Training future generations to deliver evidence-based conservation and ecosystem management. Ecological Solutions and Evidence. 2(1), e12032. 

I have won the University of Brighton's "Excellence in Facilitating and Empowering Learning Award" twice - 2018 and 2019.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, PhD Biodiversity Management, University of Kent


Master, MSc Conservation Science, Imperial College London


Bachelor, BSc (Hons.) Zoology, Durham University



  • QH301 Biology
  • Conservation Science
  • Avian Ecology
  • Avian Conservation
  • Extinction Risk
  • Mountain systems
  • Environmental Eduction
  • Human-nature interactions
  • Connection to nature
  • Interdisciplinary


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