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Personal profile

Research interests

My research expertise encompasses avian ecology & conservation science, urban ecology, human-nature interactions, trait biogeography, and patterns & drivers of extinction risk. I'm passionate about sharing my sense of wonder and excitement about the natural world, with academics, practitioners and the general public alike. Collectively, my research aims to better understand the impacts of both threatening processes and conservation actions on wildlife and people. I enjoy finding effective way to engage members of the public (particularly children) with nature, and I enjoy the challenges and benefits from utilising citizen science based research approaches. I am a strong proponent of evidence-informed conservation, research transparency, and for reducing the current research-implementation gap.

Approach to teaching

I enjoy using a variety of dynamic and interactive teaching/assessment methods and audio-visual aids (e.g. videos, class debates, 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 studentcentral 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/conservationists.

I facilitate my students to conduct their final projects on applied topics in collaboration with respected organisations (e.g. RSPB, GWCT and Sussex Wildlife Trust). This not only increases student’s sense of ownership and confidence in their work, but provides invaluable networking and job prospects. I have a growing passion for outreach and environmental education, and offer opportunities for my students to participate; e.g. Brighton & Hove House Sparrow Project, Wild About Mid-Sussex, and Bird Buddies (citizen science project with urban school children). 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 have read and discussed widely with other academics/practitioners from around the world about the recent growth and value of “conservation optimism”. I promote this 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. 

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 conducting fieldwork in order to research the value for birds of riparian restoration in livestock grazed landscapes. In addition, whilst at Durham I had the brilliant 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.

Supervisory Interests

Passionate about avian ecology & conservation science, urban ecology, human-nature interactions, trait biogeography, and patterns & drivers of extinction risk. Happy supervising both field and desk-based (including meta-analysis) projects.

Education/Academic qualification

Master, Imperial College London

Bachelor, University of Durham

PhD, University of Kent

External positions

External Examiner: MSc Ecology, Evolution & Conservation, Imperial College London

1 Oct 20181 Oct 2021

Public Engagement Working Group member, British Ecological Society

1 Sep 2018 → …

External Examiner: MSc Global Biodiversity Conservation; MRes Conservation Biology; MRes Animal Behaviour; MRes Evolutionary Biology, University of Sussex

1 Oct 20161 Oct 2019


  • QH301 Biology
  • Conservation Science
  • Avian Ecology
  • Avian Conservation
  • Extinction Risk
  • Mountain systems
  • Environmental Eduction

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 2012 2019

Assessing the ecological and societal impacts of alien parrots in Europe using a transparent and inclusive evidence-mapping scheme

White, R., Strubbe, D., Dallimer, M., Davies, Z., Davis, A., Edelaar, P., Groombridge, J., Jackson, H., Menchetti, M., Mori, E., Nikolov, B., Pârâu, L., Pečnikar, Ž., Pett, T., Reino, L., Tollington, S., Turbé, A. & Shwartz, A., 28 May 2019, (Accepted/In press) p. 1-25 25 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access
introduced species
socioeconomic impact
environmental impact
interspecific competition
experimental design

How Can We All Help Conserve Nature?

Muñoz, M., Valle, M., White, R. & Jaffé, R., 21 Jun 2019, In : Frontiers for Young Minds. 7, 84

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access
environmental issue

Seeing rare birds where there are none: self-rated expertise predicts correct species identification, but also more false rarities

Bouillard, N., White, R., Jackson, H., Austen, G. & Schroeder, J., 4 Feb 2019, In : EcoEvoRxiv. p. 1-13

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

Open Access
rare species

The influence of spending time outside on experience of nature and environmental attitudes

Colleony, A., White, R. & Shwartz, A., 9 Apr 2019, In : Landscape and Urban Planning. 187, p. 96-104 9 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access
environmental education
primary school

Activities 2016 2016

  • 1 Oral presentation

The impacts of dehorning on the southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum)

Samuel Penny (Presenter), Rachel White (Presenter), Dawn Scott (Presenter), Angelo Pernetta (Presenter)
14 Nov 2016

Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation