The Biodiversity Fellows Programme at ICCS

Hans teaching


One of the aims of the ICCS group is to improve engagement between researchers, conservation practitioners in the international and local NGO sectors, and businesses developing and implementing corporate biodiversity strategies, in order that scientific research is informed by, and meaningful for, real-world conservation issues.

There is a widely recognised problem of a mismatch between academic research and conservation practice, which we are keen to bridge. Conservation NGOs and businesses contain many highly skilled individuals who have substantial experience in implementing conservation on the ground, and often have collected excellent datasets which could contribute to the academic evidence base on policy effectiveness. However, often they do not have the time, technical skills or academic environment within which to write these datasets up for publication. To address this issue, ICCS offers a unique initiative in its Biodiversity Fellows Programme.

The programme offers NGO, governmental, or business employees working on biodiversity conservation the chance to spend up to three months with the ICCS group at the University of Oxford, writing papers, developing ideas or writing grant proposals. The Fellow will be encouraged to take part in a range of valuable interactions with students (undergraduate and post-graduate) and potential donors. For example, through offering reading groups relating to their subject area, evening talks or individual guidance to students wishing to learn more about how to approach the real-world issues of biodiversity conservation worldwide. The Fellows will be encouraged to host or take part in ICCS workshops and technical events.

ICCS will cover reasonable expenses related to travel, accommodation and training events for the duration of the programme.

View the Biodiversity Fellows brochure here


Who should apply?

We are targeting people who we feel would particularly benefit from this scheme. We particularly welcome applications from developing country nationals.

Biodiversity Fellowships are not only for people working in academia, but for conservationists who feel that they would benefit from spending time working within the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science at Oxford university. If you are a senior member of staff, who would benefit from the opportunities offered by stepping away from your NGO, government, or business environment and commitments for a short period of time, to develop new strategic approaches, write up their ideas, or build partnerships, then this scheme may be right for you.

Alternatively, if you are at a relatively early stage in your career, and would benefit from the academic possibilities offered by the University of Oxford and the ICCS group you are also particularly welcome to apply. Particularly if you would benefit from learning new skills, analysing and writing up your datasets, and building an international network.





*Read the privacy policy here



Current Biodiversity Fellows



Skype: Lude KINZONZI

Home institution: Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Campaign Assistant


ludeWhat made you want to join the Trade Hub programme as a Biodiversity fellow?

My interest in becoming a Biodiversity Fellow is aligned with two objectives, firstly I am eager to increase my capacities in research, particularly in data analysis, scientific writing and publication; and secondly the wish to enlarge my network by creating long-term relationships with researchers working on wildmeat related issues to enable continued knowledge sharing and potential future collaborations within conservation.

My research project to be implemented as part of the Biodiversity Fellowship involves identifying and understanding obstacles and opportunities from the COVID-19 outbreak to reduce urban bushmeat trade and consumption in Central Africa, and particularly in the Republic of Congo. With the emergence of new zoonotic diseases at national and international levels, governments and conservation organisations are putting in place measures such as market bans and other actions to reduce bushmeat trade and therefore decrease wild animal handling by people. These changes will influence the context of urban bushmeat trade and consumption by impacting people’s perceptions and increase interest of non-conservation organisations in wildlife issues. To be able to tailor existing conservation initiatives or policies and future actions to the post- COVID context, it is crucial to understand people’s evolving perceptions on wildmeat trade and identify new potential stakeholders that are interested in future collaborations.

Learn more about the programme Lude is working on here



I was raised in a family where my parents strongly valued their traditional cultural cuisine, which encompasses among other things the use of a variety of forest products, including wildmeat as a source of protein. I therefore developed a positive appreciation of wildmeat consumption and had the chance to learn about the particularities and the importance of this resource as perceived by many people in Congolese society. That past experience did not offer the opportunity to consider the problems associated with urban bushmeat consumption in relation to biodiversity loss. It was only in 2017, as I started my career in conservation that I realised the unsustainability of urban bushmeat consumption and its link with declining forest biodiversity.  I was astonished to understand how consumption habits in urban areas increased hunting pressure on wildlife; and I became aware of the need to do something in order to solve this problem. This raised in me an eagerness to contribute to our understanding of wildmeat consumption in urban areas and potential solutions.



Mxolisi Sibanda

Home institution: WWF UK


Twitter: @Mxolisi_Sibanda

What made you want to join ICCS as a Biodiversity fellow?

MxICCS is one of the few groups that produce science that is highly rated among academics yet also possessing huge resonance with practitioners. The opportunity to work with EJ and ICCS while also being exposed to other work in the wider Oxford conservation community is very attractive. I am definite that ICCS’s multi-disciplinary environment will be stimulating and beneficial for my career and enable me to critically examine how we design and implement real-world conservation. I am also keen to bring my experience as a practitioner to the fore and so meaningfully contribute to some of what the group is doing. In addition, I am looking forward to using all the outstanding resources, from libraries to courses and talks, available to support one’s research in a world class university like Oxford.


Is there a specific project you will be working on while you are with ICCS? Can you tell us a little about it?

In my time during this fellowship I will work on a paper examining the impact of the development and implementation of national species strategies for endangered species using black rhinos as a case study.



I grew up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. My affinity towards nature was cultivated by my mother, who having grown up in her family’s farm an hour or two from the city, shared with me stories of her happy and idyllic (at least to me) childhood.

My impressionable mind must have made such a strong link between being close to nature and happiness and fulfilment that has remained unbroken over the years. As child, I got involved with environmental clubs culminating with leading the Bulawayo Schools Environment Clubs. Through these activities I was convinced of the importance of nature for people, economies and cultures. At university, I chose to study Biological Sciences and within that thoroughly enjoyed ecology- thanks to inspiring lecturers, field work and interesting applications to natural resource management that I could relate to such as freshwater management in the city of Harare (which was already a major health and ecological problem in the city). As a result, I became fascinated with the applied aspects of ecology that make the every-day challenge of working in conservation.

Previous Biodiversity Fellows




Research interests

Biodiversity conservation/ Endangered animal species/Human impact evaluation


Current research

Saiga Antelope research & conservation, Urban mammals ecology, Snow Leopard research & conservation


It is very interesting for me to study interdisciplinary approaches for nature conservation, which are being developed in Oxford and, in essence, are an innovation in the field of nature conservation! It is clear however that the roots of the species reduction/extinction lie not only within the field of environmental knowledge and phylogenesis of these species, but, to a greater extent, in such areas as sociology, economics, politics and more.

For effective conservation efforts, it is important to change the behavior of people at all levels, to motivate both ordinary people and key decision-makers, to raise the profile of species that are on the verge of extinction. How to assess the causes, assess the risks of extinction and the prospects for recovery of species? What estimates, evidence and predictions should be given to local people and which ones should be given to the government for an effective action for the preservation of species and landscapes? I hope to find the answers to these and other questions during my visit as a ICCS fellow. I’m very much interested in studying the experience and current projects of Oxford scientists and other organizations. I’m keen to dedicate my time to working on a new project with a proposal for the conservation of saiga and unique ecosystems of the Aral Sea region of Uzbekistan, including the former islands of the Aral Sea. Furthermore, I’m hoping to improve my professional skills through research courses such as How to peer review journal papers, Introduction to writing successful research proposals, time management  etc. Also I would love to advance my English language skills – especially in academic writing (Spoken and Written Communications), that would immensely benefit my scientific career.


Visit Lena's page here


glWhat made you want to join ICCS as a Biodiversity fellow?

To network and learn about other ICCS members’ experiences in conservation


Is there a specific project you will be working on while you are with ICCS? Can you tell us a little about it?

CTPH is conducting collaborative research with Oxford University and the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), where Oxford is leading the social impact evaluation to determine if health investments made by CTPH at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park over the past ten years have resulted in benefits for conservation and then used recommendations from the research to improve on the programs at Bwindi and scale the approach to Budongo forest and Mount Elgon national parks in Uganda working with the Jane Goodall Institute and Budongo Forest Conservation Station at Budongo and Uganda Wildlife Authority at Mount Elgon. During my time a the ICCS, I look forward to learning more about conservation and social impact evaluation, and also working with experts to further analyse the gorilla health data we have collected over the past ten years, that will be used in the evaluation.

Find out more about Gladys and visit her profile here

calebDuring the weeks that I will be with the ICCS team, I plan to begin and complete at least one manuscript. Specifically, I will like to prepare one ecological manuscripts on Ghanaian frogs. The first paper outlines the first detailed ecological knowledge and population status of an evolutionary distinct and globally endangered frog in Ghana. The species (Conraua derooi) was recently discovered after nearly 40-years of believed extinction and currently at the verge of extirpation because of local exploitation of its meat as food. I have already collected all the data needed as part of previous grants (IFS and ZSL EDGE Fellowship and CLP). At the ICCS, I hope to include one more ecological analyses (Niche modelling) and complete the write-up.

In addition to the above subject and of course depending on the progress I make on the above manuscript, I will consider putting some initial thoughts into a paper on the role of religion in conservation practice in Africa. It is my opinion that the possible influence of religion in conservation has so far been underrated. In Ghana, traditional religious practices was a key determinant of conservation practice centuries ago. For instance, there were religious rules that controlled over hunting, deforestation and unsustainable use of river catchments. In recent times however, due to the advent of other religions in Africa particularly Christianity and Islam, most of these traditional religions and associated conservation laws have been undermined to the detriment of biodiversity conservation. During, my stay in Oxford I want to formally introduce the concept of conservation Evangelism to the scientific community. Conservation evangelism is an approach I have pioneered in Ghana to incorporate conservation in Christianity and Islam. It is my hope that this will open up the subject to the scientific community for rigorous assessment in different regions of the world. 

Finally, and most importantly, I will like to use my stay in Oxford to interact with the ICCS team to look at possibilities of incorporating some of their interdisciplinary research tools in my conservation research project in Ghana. I am truly fascinated by the research that is being done by the ICCS group.


More about Caleb here

Hans Cosmas Ngoteya As a young conservationist, working with the ICCS team as a Biodiversity Fellow was a great opportunity. Being among a team of people from different disciplines and professions has opened my eyes to different perspectives on wildlife conservation. the fellowship has not only improved my knowledge and understanding of different ways to tackle conservation challenges but also given me a set of new skills, including the making of short documentaries, statistics, research writing and publishing.

The opportunity to give talks about my work in different UK universities and the positive feedback and suggestions that I received have confirmed for me the importance of my projects. This opportunity also enabled me to build my network through meeting funders, and different leaders in conservation who inspired and motivated me to continue doing the great work despite the existing conservation challenges.

In a nutshell, the knowledge and skills that I have acquired during my ICCS fellowship at Oxford University have both improved my project management skills and empowered my sense of optimism regarding youth conservation programmes in Africa such as my VIMA project. 

Visit my profile here

Elizabeth Bennett

I was extremely fortunate to be able to spend 2.5 months, from mid-April to the end of June 2016, as a Biodiversity Fellow, based at Merton College and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS) in the Zoology Department, Oxford University. 

This was highly successful from many viewpoints. The primary aim was to focus on writing a paper on wildlife trade: for a species in demand in trade, under what conditions is a trade ban, or a sustainable trade, more likely to result in conservation of the species? 

ICCS was an ideal place to be writing this, given the research interest and support from its Director and others in the research group, as well as the full facilities of the university library. The entire ICCS team was extremely hospitable and welcoming, and it was fun to be part of the group and learn about their work, participate with them in the Interdisciplinary Conservation Network (ICN) graduate student conference, as well as enjoying social events with them such as punting! 

Being a Fellow at Merton College during the time was also extremely special, and led to some fascinating over-meal discussions with people from other disciplines. Finally, living right in the middle of Oxford allowed me to hear much magnificent music throughout the visit, from frequent choral evensongs and college chamber recitals to wonderful orchestral concerts in the Sheldonian.

Many thanks indeed to Prof. E.J. Milner-Gulland and Carlyn Samuel for making it happen and all of their support, and to all at ICCS for making it so productive and enjoyable.


Liz worked on a paper during her time as a Fellow with ICCS and you can read it here


Bennett Elizabeth L., Underwood Fiona M., Milner-Gulland E.J. (2021)  To Trade or Not to Trade? Using Bayesian Belief Networks to Assess How to Manage Commercial Wildlife Trade in a Complex WorldFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution  V9 DOI=10.3389/fevo.2021.587896   

Visit my profile here

Angelo Ramy

As a Biodiversity Research Fellow, I was very happy to share and discuss my research into the Ploughshare tortoise in Madagascar with all the ICCS members, while learning many new things. Being in Oxford University gave me opportunities to access many resources I wouldn’t have otherwise had access to, like published papers, libraries and courses.

It was a really valuable experience to be able to meet and speak with students, post-docs, lecturers and professors who are leaders in their field, yet so forthcoming in sharing their knowledge with me. They were all so interested in my research and always willing and able to give me great input, that it has really inspired me to do more work in the biodiversity conservation field when I get home!

I also had the opportunity to improve my statistics, data analysis and writing skills while in Oxford; things that you probably have taken courses in before, but it is always good to refresh your knowledge, learn about the latest developments and adapt with evolving technology and science.

I loved being able to attend such a wide variety of seminars and talks, where I learnt about what other researchers are doing and how I can apply their methods to my own work.

To summarise; Biodiversity Conservation is not just about in-situ actions or fieldwork, but about building on your knowledge and experiences, and the Research fellowship with ICCS is one of the best ways I can think of for doing that.

Visit my profile here


Divya Narain

It was my utmost pleasure to spend the first quarter of 2017 as Biodiversity Fellow at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS) and Merton College, University of Oxford. Offering a peak into the world of cutting-edge academic research and the charming Oxford life, my fellowship was a one-of-its-kind experience.

The fellowship afforded me an opportunity to pursue research in ‘Business and Biodiversity’, an area in which up till then I had worked as a practitioner. I spent close to three months working with the focused objective of developing a research paper on no-go policies in biodiversity conservation. Not only was this a crash course in conservation policy apropos economic development but also training in how to develop papers for peer-reviewed journals. My mentors Dr. E.J. Milner-Gulland, Dr. Prue Addison and Dr. Joe Bull helped me navigate through this process of learning, providing first-hand insights and reflections at every step. I remember having the most stimulating discussions with them, exploring and debating on all possible strands of argument on the topic.

In addition to working on the research paper, I got an opportunity to interact with and learn from other researchers of the ICCS group who work across the globe on diverse domains ranging from biodiversity offsets to sustainable fisheries and poaching to illegal wildlife trade, producing cutting-edge research which informs as well as influences policy. During weekly meetings, external experts are invited to share their work with the group, providing an opportunity for further exposure. My teammates Carlyn Samuel and Annabel Halfhead ensured that I felt at home all through my stay.

The Biodiversity fellowship comes with a membership of the Senior Common Room at the Merton College, one of the most prestigious colleges of the Oxford University. The college buildings are magnificent and the dinners, a classy affair. But more than that, you get to interact with a number of senior academics – an edifying experience in its own right. I also got an opportunity to interact with Merton College undergrad Biology students when I delivered a lecture on ‘How Businesses Interface with Biodiversity’ for them.

I completed my Master’s from the University of Oxford back in 2011 and I am yet to come across anything that fires up my brain cells like the scintillating talks at Oxford. My ICCS exposure was matched only by the various talks I attended on a range of frontier topics including Climate Change, Development Financing, Energy Markets, Food Systems, Stranded Assets and Impact Investing – the quintessential Oxford experience. I also got a chance to attend a two-week training programme on ‘Enterprise and the Environment’ organized by the Smith School. An exposure to such overarching issues added a new dimension to my understanding of my domain i.e. ‘Business and Biodiversity’, making me increasingly curious to examine how broader systems and patterns of globalized economy, trade and consumption impinge upon biodiversity and govern the impact corporations have on it.

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that the fellowship at ICCS has been a turning point in my career. It has expanded my horizons and opened my mind to a whole new world of ideas. It has allowed me to take a step back, re-caliberate my goals and embark upon them with renewed vigour.

Visit my profile here



NnaemekaWhat made you want to join ICCS as a Biodiversity fellow?

I joined ICCS as a Biodiversity Conservation Fellow, because I was searching for an academically stimulating environment, where I can interact with researchers to create and implement a new interdisciplinary approach to solve the contemporary challenge of illegal hunting and trade in Pangolins and its scales in Nigeria.


Is there a specific project you will be working on while you are with ICCS? Can you tell us a little about it?

Yes, during my time at ICCS, I will be working on my project:

“Creating alternative livelihood and education for poachers of Pangolin and strengthening law enforcement to control the illegal hunting and trade of Pangolin scales, in South Western Nigeria.”

The aim of the project is to secure increased income for the local population in Ogun and Oyo states, South Western Nigeria, reduce the need to generate income through illegal poaching of Pangolins, for local meat consumption and trade in scales.

My project seeks to carefully select 100 hunters, farmers, Pangolin scales dealers, bush meat sellers, forest reserve workers and timber dealers from 53 local government areas of Ogun and Oyo states, Nigeria and train them in sustainable homestead Grasscutter (Greater Cane Rat- Thryonomys swinderianus) farming and marketing as a means of livelihood.

Furthermore, it is to produce and broadcast an 11 episode educational radio serial drama in the local Yoruba Language titled “Meet the Pangolin” to increase local knowledge about Pangolins and create public awareness about the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Endangered Species (CONTROL OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE AND TRAFFIC) (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2016 which absolutely prohibits the hunting or trading in wild animals, specified in the First Schedule, including Pangolins. The educational radio serial drama will be aired on Ogun 90.5 FM Radio, Abeokuta and Premier 93.5 FM (FRCN), Ibadan, Oyo State, over 6 months period reaching atleast 5 million listeners.

Finally, my project will establish an inter-agency Pangolin Monitoring Desk in Ogun and Oyo states, with representatives of the Nigerian Police Force, The Nigerian Customs Service, the Nigerian Environmental Standards Regulations and Enforcement Agency (NESREA), and the Nigerian Parks Authority, to enforce the Endangered Species Control Act, thereby control the illegal hunting and trade in Pangolins.

My goal is to build a long term partnership with ICCS. This partnership, will enable me continue the cross-fertilization of ideas and exchange of knowledge with the center, long after my fellowship ends. This exchange will be critical, towards refining and implementing my project in Nigeria.

What made you want to join ICCS as a Biodiversity fellow?

meganI wanted to join the ICCS Biodiversity Fellows Programme because the work that I am doing with my conservation tech organization Key Conservation, if successful, will have a global reach that will change how conservation organizations gain global support, funding and how they interact with their supporters. Being able to tap into the joint knowledge of the researchers at ICCS will be absolutely imperative in ensuring that we are asking the right questions and that strong foundations are put in place now to collect the critical data needed to measure the success and failures of the tools within the app for conservation organizations.


Is there a specific project you will be working on while you are with ICCS? Can you tell us a little about it?

During my time with ICCS I will be working with researchers to enhance the development of the Key Conservation mobile app which aims to help conservationists gain global support and funding in real-time for day-to-day campaigns. The Key Conservation app has several features and ways for conservation organizations and supporters to interact that the app itself will become a powerhouse for data collection that we could tap into help conservationists and move global support forward. We can then use the data to help conservationists build specific campaigns based on proven research to utilize their time and efforts more effectively. I am working to launch the app in spring of this year and will focus on creating measurable points of both outreach success and failure to determine the most effective means of outreach from before and after the app launches. I will also be working closely with the Conservation Optimism team to set up the website-app integration and complete testing of our two platforms.