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Department of Geography


Valerio Donfrancesco BSc, MSc

PhD candidate

Researching relations between people and large carnivores through the prisms of political ecology.



  • Oct 2020-present: PhD student, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
  • Dec 2018-Oct 2019: Membership Development Officer, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), London, UK
  • July 2017: Fieldwork assistant, Balkani Wildlife Society (BWS), Vlhai, Bulgaria
  • May 2016-Sept 2016: Research intern, Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli (LIPU) Rome, Italy


  • MSc in Conservation Science and Policy, University of Exeter (2017-2018)
  • BSc in Animal Behaviour, University of Exeter (2014-2017)

Awards and funding

  • ESRC conference grant (2022)
  • Churchill College Travel Grant Award (2022)
  • ESRC DTP Overseas Fieldwork Grant (2021-2022)
  • ESRC DTP Studentship (2020-2023)
  • Commendation for “best overall mark for MSc conservation science and policy 2017/8 programme”, University of Exeter
  • Commendation for “best research project mark for MSc conservation science and policy 2017/8 programme”, University of Exeter
  • Exeter Leaders Award for having undertaken leadership roles and attended a programme of leadership development workshops, University of Exeter (2017)
  • Exeter Award for having been involved in extra-curricular activities and having completed a course on employability skills, University of Exeter (2016)


  • Nomination for Janet Moore Prize (outstanding supervisions) (2021-2022), Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge


My PhD research explores human-wolf relations and interactions in central Italy, including what they look like, how they take shape or are co-produced, and their broader effects and implications. During the last few decades, wolves and other large carnivores have been gradually repopulating and expanding into European landscapes. This event brings new opportunities as well as new challenges, including how to manage predator presence locally where it overlaps with the daily activities and lives of local people. This PhD approaches this issue primarily through a multi-species ethnography, delving into the lives of farmers, wolves and livestock guarding dogs, exploring the formation and co-production of their entanglements and relations, as well as the social, political and ecological effects that these in turn engender and (re)produce. Through shedding light on these aspects, this research provides the bases for progressing and improving the management of human-wolf relations and interactions, paying particular attention to governance issues and how costs and benefits are distributed.


Journal articles

  • Donfrancesco, V. [+26 authors] and Cairns, K.M. 2023. Understanding conflict among experts working on controversial species: a case study on the Australian dingo. Conservation Science and Practice, 5, e12900.
  • Donfrancesco, V. and Luque-Lora, R. 2022. Managing hybridization beyond the natural-anthropogenic dichotomy. Conservation Biology, 36, e13816.
  • Galluzzi, A., Donfrancesco, V., Mastrantonio, G., Sulli, C. and Ciucci, P. 2021. Cost of coexisting with a relict large carnivore population: impact of Apennine brown bears, 2005−2015. Animals, 11, 1453
  • Salvatori, V., Donfrancesco, V. [+32 authors] and Ciucci, P. 2020. European agreements for nature conservation need to explicitly address wolf-dog hybridization. Biological Conservation, 247, 108525.
  • Donfrancesco, V. [+44 authors] and Mukherjee, N. 2019. Unravelling the scientific debate on how to address wolf-dog hybridization in Europe. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 7, 175.


  • Donfrancesco, V. 2023. Transcending problematic dualisms in managing wolf-dog hybridisation. Wolves Across Borders: International Conference on Wolf Ecology and Management. Stockholm, Sweden. Delivered 11/05/23
  • Donfrancesco, V. 2023. Fieldwork-ing with sheep farmers and wolves in Tuscany. Third Year PhD Conference. Department of Geography, University of Cambridge. Cambridge, UK. Delivered 27/04/23
  • Donfrancesco, V. 2021. Relations between people and wolves. Tracks, Traces, & Threads workshop. Department of Geography, University of Cambridge. Cambridge, UK (Online). Delivered 16/02/21
  • Donfrancesco, V. 2021. The political ecology of coexistence between people and large carnivores. First Year Postgraduate Forum. Department of Geography, University of Cambridge. Cambridge, UK (Online). Delivered 20/01/21
  • Donfrancesco, V. 2020. What is ‘coexistence’ between people and large carnivores?. Annual Conference of the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute (UCCRI). Cambridge, UK (Online). Delivered 16/10/20
  • Donfrancesco, V. 2018. A half-blood’s fate: managing wolf x dog hybridisation in Europe. FXU Science Festival, University of Exeter Penryn Campus. Delivered 15/03/18 Available to watch online:
  • De Lorenzis, A. and Donfrancesco, V. 2016. Lupi alle porte di Roma (translated: Wolves in the outskirts of Rome). Centro Habitat Mediterraneo, Rome. Delivered 27/05/16


  • Antonelli, M. [+6 more], Donfrancesco, V. [+3 more] and Donfrancesco, S. 2018. Poster title: Assessing the first reproduction of the wolf in the coastal area of Rome in the last century. XI Italian Congress of Mammalogy. Florence, Italy. Delivered 22/06/18 Abstract available online: Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2018;29(XI ATIt Congress Supplement):page 48


  • Donfrancesco, V., Salvatori, V. and Sandström, C. 2023. Towards an effective and socially just governance of human-wolf interactions. Wolves Across Borders: International Conference on Wolf Ecology and Management. Stockholm, Sweden. Delivered 09/05/23
  • Mukherjee, N., Donfrancesco, V. Keenan, J. and Rees, A. 2018. Biodiversity and Business Linkages. ZSL London Zoo, London. Delivered 09/03/18

Selection of media appearances (interviews only)

  • EOS Wetenschap, Belgian science magazine, Belgium (printed version), “Kruisingen met honden bedreigen de wolf. Een ongewenst liefdeskind“, May 2020
  • BBC Wildlife magazine, UK (printed version) “How to keep dogs from wolves’ doors“, Vol. 37 No. 9 (pp. 55) August 2019
  • Le Scienze, Italian edition of Scientific American, Italy (online version): “E il lupo europeo diventò un po’ cane…“, 19 June 2019


Undergraduate supervisions

  • Part IA Geography – People, Place and the Politics of Difference (section: Society, Environment and Sustainable Development) (2022-2023)
  • Part IB Geography – Living with Global Change (section: Environmental Futures) (2022-2023)
  • Part II Geography – Political Ecology in the Global South (section: Political Ecology of Conservation) (2022-2023)
  • Part II Zoology – Conservation Science (2021-2022)

Field class

  • London’s Zoological Gardens and ZSL Conservation (Part II Geography – Political Ecology in the Global South) (Feb 2023)

External activities