Sam Earle

Imperial College London
Division of Biology
Silwood Park Campus

My fascination of large mammal conservation has taken me to incredible parts of the globe working alongside extraordinary people. With increasing experience, I begun to see conservation in a different light; my interest has shifted from a purely ecological perspective to a greater appreciation for the importance of social science element of conservation. My attention now is firmly planted at the boundary of social and ecological systems with the hope of backing up policy decisions with good science that take the perspectives of local people into account.

Monitoring is the systematic process of collecting data for the purpose of measuring where a project, policy or programme is at any given point and tracking changes in state over time, enforcing rules, predicting future states and informing corrective action and decision-making. Despite the widespread recognition of the importance of monitoring, few conservation projects incorporate effective monitoring and are able to demonstrate their activities are having an impact. However, monitoring is now being increasingly considered as an explicit part of conservation initiatives.

Concurrently, international treaties such as the Convention of Biological Diversity and REDD+ have emphasised the importance of involving local people in the sustainable development and control of natural resources. Ecological monitoring schemes that involve local people have been proposed as a way of achieving dual conservation and development targets. Involving local people in monitoring is attractive to project managers and funders for practical and logical reasons. However, the degree of local peoples’ involvement is highly variable and there is very little understanding of the relationship between the conservation and development dimensions of monitoring involving local people. I am interested in the ecological and social significance of monitoring involving local people.

Is there a trade-off between these two elements? What do these ecological data tell you about the system state and are they useful for decision-making? What are local peoples motivations, expectations and their general perspective of the monitoring? What are the benefits and impacts of this type of monitoring on local people? What are the conditions necessary for achieving both conservation and development goals? By combining ecological and social science techniques my PhD research will explore these questions. My work is in collaboration with the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, who has developed a participatory ecological monitoring project in Madagascar.

This PhD is supervised by Professor E.J. Milner-Gulland (Imperial College London), Dr. Richard Young and Dr. Andrew Terry (both Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust) and is funded by a Val O’Donoghue Scholarship in Natural Sciences at Imperial College London. The fieldwork for this research is gratefully supported by the Rufford Foundation, North of England Zoological Society (Chester Zoo) and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

2013 – present: PhD Student, Division of Biology, Imperial College London

2012: Conservation Researcher, Chester Zoo

2010: Research Assistant, Mun-Ya-Wana Leopard Project, Panthera, South Africa

2009-2011: Project Co-coordinator, Amur Tiger and Leopard Project, WCS Russia

2007-2008: MSc Conservation Science, Imperial College London

2006: Research Assistant, WCS Bolivia

2002-2005: BSc Zoology, University of Manchester

Sam Earle