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Chris Sandbrook MA MSc PhD

Lecturer in Conservation Leadership at UNEP-WCMC and Fellow of Darwin College

I carry out research on biodiversity conservation and its relationship with society.



  • 2010-present: Lecturer in Conservation Leadership, UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre and affiliated lecturer at the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
  • 2009-2010: Independent Consultant, International Institute for Environment and Development
  • 2008-2009: ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
  • 2007-2008: Independent Consultant, International Institute for Environment and Development
  • 2007-2008: Lecturer in Vertebrate Biology, School of Human and Life Sciences, University of Roehampton
  • 2006-2007: Independent Consultant, International Gorilla Conservation Programme, Uganda
  • 2002-2006: PhD Student, Department of Anthropology, University College London & Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London


  • PhD Anthropology, University College London
  • MSc Integrative Biosciences, University of Oxford
  • MA Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge


I am a political ecologist with diverse research interests around a central theme of biodiversity conservation and its relationship with society. My current research activities can be divided into two categories: (i) investigating trade-offs between ecosystem services at the landscape scale in developing countries and (ii) investigating the role of values and evidence in shaping the decisions of conservationists and their organisations.

Under the first category I am a co-investigator in Sustainable Poverty Alleviation from Coastal Ecosystem Services (SPACES), a three-year collaborative research project running from 2013-16. Funded by ESPA, this project, led by colleagues at UEA and the University of Exeter, is investigating trade-offs between ecosystem services on the coasts of Kenya and Mozambique. I am leading the tourism research component. I also supervise three PhD students who are working on the relationship between conservation, agriculture and food security in landscapes in India, Peru and Uganda.

Under the second category I have ongoing research interests in the values held by conservationists, particularly with respect to the use of market-based mechanisms in conservation, and the role of evidence in conservation, including evidence for biodiversity-poverty linkages (funded by an ESPA Evidence and Impact Research Grant). I am also interested in the challenge of interdisciplinary and intersectoral communication in conservation - an issue particularly important to me having made the transition from natural to social science during my career.

A cross-cutting theme in much of my work is the role of market-based instruments in conservation. This began with my PhD, which investigated the impacts of nature-based tourism at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. I continue to have an interest in tourism, and I have also worked on REDD+. I am now planning new research into the reasons that conservation organisations have embraced market-based approaches.

Alongside these main research themes, I have also done some work on the implications of digital technology for conservation. I co-founded the Games for Nature platform, building on a Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI) small grant. With Bill Adams I am working to develop 'Race the Wild' - a mobile phone app that will allow the user to virtually 'race' against wild animals that are tagged with GPS tracking devices. We have a short project to develop this concept that is funded by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account at the University of Cambridge. We are writing a blog to describe the process of turning social science into a digital game. I am also interested in the potential social and political implications of the increasing use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or 'drones', in conservation, particularly in the global south.

I am strongly committed to building capacity in conservation, particularly among future conservation leaders. I contribute to this process through my work on the Masters in Conservation Leadership at the University of Cambridge, and through an applied capacity building project funded by CCI.

PhD supervision

I welcome approaches from potential PhD students with research plans relevant to my current interests as outlined above. Please prepare a 2-3 page outline research proposal before contacting me. I would be particularly interested to hear from potential students who might wish to conduct research into the social and political implications of conservation drones, the role of social factors in shaping the IUCN RED list processes, or the diet and travel choices of conservationists and their compatibility with conservation goals.



External activities

I write a blog on conservation, Thinking Like a Human, with my colleague Bill Adams.

As well as doing formal research, I have a strong interest in applying research recommendations through project work. In 2006 I helped to establish Bwindi Advanced Market Gardeners' Association (AMAGARA), a farming cooperative which aims to increase the access of local farmers living around Bwindi to the market for produce provided by the tourist lodges in the area. Further details of the project are available on request.