I’m an interdisciplinary scientist with a background in Ecology and Conservation and growing experience in Meteorology. Broadly, I’m interested in the impacts of environmental variation and change on biodiversity, but with experience in Ecology and Meteorology, I’m increasingly aware of the potential gains in better integrating these fields.
As such, I’m keen to pioneer the translation of data, tools and approaches readily used in meteorology for improved ecological forecasting and biodiversity conservation. With a passion for knowledge exchange, I want to co-produce ecological forecasts to provide useful and actionable information for conservation practitioners, extending the diversity of sectors informed by meteorological forecast information.
For a full list of research outputs, please visit my Publications page.
NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow (Sep 2021 – present)
Department of Meteorology, University of Reading
I was awarded a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship to demonstrate the value of Forecast-based Action (FbA) for Conservation. Established in the humanitarian sector, FbA refers to the process by which forecasts are used to trigger early actions to mitigate the impacts of an anticipated disaster. I propose to apply FbA to conservation, specifically, using drought forecasts to anticipate human-elephant conflict in Kenya. The fellowship is in collaboration with elephant conservation organisations (Save the Elephants and Big Life Foundation), humanitarian actors (Kenya Red Cross Society), drought risk managers (the National Drought Management Authority), and forecasting agencies (Kenya Met Department and ICPAC).
TAMSAT Knowledge Exchange Lead & Postdoctoral Research Scientist (Jan 2019– Aug 2021)
TAMSAT group (http://www.tamsat.org.uk/), Dept. of Meteorology, University of Reading
My time is divided between several projects united in their aim to improve the resilience of Africans to drought emergencies. Alongside research to evaluate the suitability of TAMSAT-ALERT forecasts for humanitarian and agricultural decision making, I also run TAMSAT-ALERT operations producing forecasts for users across Africa. As KE lead, I have developed and delivered training courses on TAMSAT-ALERT, including for the Red Cross, National Drought Management Authority and Kenya Meteorological Department. I also led TAMSAT’s REF 2021 Impact Case Study, documenting the reach and significance of TAMSAT’s research.
Student Demonstrator (Oct 2015 – Dec 2018)
School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading
As student demonstrator, I supported in the delivery of practical lab and field learning experiences for undergraduate students. I supported on Animal Behaviour, Ecology and Behaviour and Mathematics for Biologists modules. Further, I led Biology Practical Sessions for Foundation Biology students and GIS for Ecologists for MSc students. I was also an International Foundation Programme Tutor.
Elephant Behavioural Scientist and Dissertation Supervisor (Mar 2016 – Mar 2018)
South Africa & Eswatini, Operation Wallacea
Operation Wallacea facilitate research opportunities for students worldwide. I supervised student projects focused on the behavioural implications of vasectomies in male elephants and the impact of elephant foraging on vegetation diversity. In my voluntary role, I was responsible for: preparing project proposals with students; training students in field data collection methods and analysis; logistical management of fieldwork; first aid; delivering a lecture series on African Biodiversity and Conservation. In total, I supervised the 14 student projects over two field seasons.
Editorial Assistant for PLoS ONE (Summer 2014)
I worked on Editorial Office’s contract for international journal PLoS ONE. I performed technical checks on manuscripts before publication, successfully managed large online databases and a fast-moving email account, and honed my formal communication skills.
PhD in Ecological Modelling, University of Reading (2015 – 2018)
Modelling elephant behaviour using satellite data to estimate food availability
In collaboration with the Amboseli Trust for Elephants (www.elephanttrust.org), I developed an individual-based model to project the impact of habitat loss and climate change on elephant population dynamics. Upon completion, I received support (£1500) from the University to host a knowledge exchange workshop with conservation practitioners in Amboseli, discussing how my PhD might inform ecosystem and conservation planning.
MSc (Distinction) in Wildlife Management & Conservation, University of Reading (2014 – 2015)
Identifying habitat features which influence survival of the Northern lapwing
Working on the EU Life+ funded Waders for Real project, I radio-tracked lapwing chicks from hatching and monitored their fate, relating successes and failures to habitat features in farmland. I recommended habitat manipulations, which have since been implemented by local farmers, to increase lapwing breeding success.
BSc (First Class Hons) in Zoology, University of Southampton (2011 – 2014)
Assessing elephant impact patterns on vegetation diversity
Using elephant tracking data and vegetation surveys, I studied the impacts of elephant space-use on vegetation diversity. Analysis highlighted key areas for targeted habitat management to maintain biodiversity.
Knowledge Exchange Activities
Capacity building: Throughout my career, I have sought opportunities to share my research with science and practice communities, and have become well-versed in both in-person and virtual platforms. In my current role, this has involved delivery training on TAMSAT-ALERT forecasts to humanitarian actors, national hydrometeorological services and agricultural extension providers. I was also recently invited to the Red Cross’ African Dialogue Platform as an expert on drought forecast-based action. As a PhD student, I led a workshop on Individual-based Modelling at the Ecology Across Borders meeting in Ghent. I also received funds from the University of Reading to host a workshop with conservation practitioners in Amboseli. I shared with them my PhD outputs and we discussed how to apply these to address current conservation questions in the ecosystem.
Technical reports: Human-elephant conflict and climate change, evidence synthesis in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Climate Science for Ecological Forecasting symposium: I successfully secured funding (~£40k) to host the Climate Science for Ecological Forecasting symposium, a joint event of the British Ecological Society and the Royal Meteorological Society. The event will bring climate scientists and meteorologists together with ecologists and conservation scientists to identify common research agendas, establish interdisciplinary networks and plan the path towards better integration of the disciplines. Keynote talks, presentations, break-out workshops and posters will be delivered by some of the 150 delegates during the two-day event in London in May 2022.
Outreach & SciComm
- ‘Weather forecasts to save species‘, Weather and Climate @ Reading 2021
- ‘Can We Track Elephants With Earthquake Detectors?’, Atlas Obscura 2021
- ‘Explanation for elephant die-off’, The Naked Scientists 2020
- ‘Hundreds of elephants are mysteriously dying in Botswana – a conservationist explains what we know’, The Conversation 2020
- ‘Too many elephants’ in Africa? Here’s how peaceful coexistence with human communities can help, The Conversation 2019
- Replace competitiveness with team spirit: Meet Vicky Boult, Soapbox Science blog 2019
- Can technology help insurance reach more farmers? Inside the research to find out, IRI Medium 2019
- Humans ‘must be better neighbours’ to save elephants, University of Reading News 2019.
- Like putting a condom on an elephant, Schrodinger’s Hat Improvised Science Comedy Show 2019
- An elephant’s appetite, Soapbox Science Reading 2019
- Conflict on a global scale: humans vs wildlife, Pint-of-Science Reading 2019
- Identifying the biggest threats to the Amboseli elephants, Reading Natural History Society 2019
- Human-elephant conflict and climate change, World Wide Fund for Nature HQ 2018
- The future of elephants in a human-dominated Africa, Berkshire Mammal Group 2017.
Radio: Breeze FM, Pint-of-Science promotion; BBC Radio Berkshire, Soapbox Science promotion, #MadeAtReading environmental awareness week, BBC’s Serengeti promotion.
Teaching & Supervision
- Sophie Watts and Callum Relph-Assirati (2017) – Modelling red deer food availability and demographics.
- Wee Leng Tan (2020) – Merging satellite estimates of rainfall with rain gauge data.
- 14 Operation Wallacea students (2016 & 2017) – Behavioural implications of vasectomies in elephants & Elephant impacts on vegetation.
- Yi Kang (2021) – Evaluation of TAMSAT-ALERT soil moisture estimates for drought monitoring in Zambia.
- International Foundation Programme Tutor
- Biology Practical Sessions, Foundation Biology
- GIS for Ecologists, MSc Plant Diversity
- Individual-Based Modelling, Quantitative Methods, MSc Wildlife Management and Conservation
- African Biodiversity and Conservation, Operation Wallacea field lecture series
- GIS for Ecologists, MSc Plant Diversity
- Animal Behaviour, BSc Ecology
- Ecology and Behaviour, BSc Ecology
- Mathematics for Biologists, BSc Ecology
- NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship (£164k): Forecast-based Action for Conservation (2021-2024).
- Friends of the University of Reading grant of £500 to install signage for a Biodiversity Trail on campus (2021).
- Emergency funding request for $10.5k approved by the Elephant Crisis Fund to manage emerging human-elephant conflict situation in South Africa (2021).
- Successful proposal to host a joint symposium between the British Ecological Society and Royal Meteorological Society worth £40k (2020).
- Awarded £1.5k by University of Reading’s Ecology Lead to facilitate a workshop in Kenya exploring opportunities to incorporate computer modelling into landscape management decisions (2018).
- Shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Awards, Research Project of the Year: STEM, for our project, Drought monitoring to mitigate climate-related risks in African countries (2021)
- UoR’s Celebrating Success award for training delivered at African-SWIFT science meeting in Ghana (2019)
- Shortlisted for Fairbrother public lecture, University of Reading (2019)
- Best 3rd year PhD symposium talk, University of Reading (2018)
- Best 2nd year PhD symposium talk, University of Reading (2017)
- Best Masters dissertation, University of Reading (2015)
- Most promising 2nd year student, University of Southampton (2013)
Memberships & Committees
- British Ecological Society member
- Elephant Specialist Advisory Group member
- University of Reading Biodiversity Working Group member
If you’ve got an idea you’d like to discuss or a project you’d like to collaborate on, contact me here.