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Charlotte Milbank

Charlotte Milbank

PhD student

Wild Foods, Hunger and Nutrition – harnessing knowledge for sustainable food security.

My research examines alternative nutritional strategies and food systems, based on locally available uncultivated foods, and their potential to yield positive nutrition, health and conservation outcomes, and inform effective food security interventions. My PhD is jointly supervised by academics in the Department of Geography and the Department of Medicine.



  • October 2019-present: PhD Student in Geography and Epidemiology, University of Cambridge.
  • October 2018-September 2019: MPhil Epidemiology, University of Cambridge.
  • July 2018: Research Intern, University of Cambridge Conservation Institute.
  • August 2017: Field assistant, University of Cambridge Department of Zoology.
  • October 2015-June 2018: BA Cambridge, University of Cambridge.


  • PhD Candidate, Jesus College, University of Cambridge, October 2019-present
  • MPhil Epidemiology (Distinction) , Darwin College, University of Cambridge, October 2018-September 2019
  • BA Geography (First class thesis), Girton College, University of Cambridge, October 2015-June 2018.

Awards and scholarships

  • ESRC DTP Studentship. 2018-2023.
  • William Vaughan Lewis Prize, 2018, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge.
  • Girton College Travel Award, 2018, Girton College, University of Cambridge, for pilot PhD research in Kilifi, Kenya.
  • Jean Grove Fund, 2018, Girton College, University of Cambridge for dissertation research.
  • University of Cambridge Dissertation Reimbursement Scheme, 2017, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge.
  • Emily Davies Scholarship and Margaret Anderson Prize, 2016. Girton College, University of Cambridge.


Forest and tree-based systems are a significant source of micronutrient-rich uncultivated (or 'wild') foods for millions of people worldwide, including bush-meat, insects, fruits, leaves, nuts, and seeds. Supporting the consumption of uncultivated foods in forest-proximate communities could help achieve food security and nutritionally-diverse diets, but data are scarce on the nutritional and epidemiological effects of such diets. My PhD research bridges the disciplinary divide between geography and epidemiology and examines the potential of uncultivated foods to contribute positive health outcomes, suggesting whether there is a case to make for conservation through its links to nutrition and community health.

My interest in uncultivated foods began during 2017 when she worked as a field assistant in rural Burkina Faso, assisting with a project investigating the socio-economic benefits of caterpillar harvest and consumption. Alongside her field assistance, I conducted fieldwork for her undergraduate dissertation (2017/18) in Burkina Faso, exploring the role of uncultivated foods in supplementing household diets in smallholder communities. In the past, I have also completed work assessing the impacts of REDD+ projects worldwide against the Sustainable Development Goals. This work culminated in a written publication for Forests, a special edition centred on REDD+, in September 2018.

Following an undergraduate degree in Geography, I completed an MPhil in Epidemiology at the University of Cambridge. Her MPhil thesis utilised NHS data to describe risk factors for hospital-acquired norovirus in the East of England.



  • Milbank, C., Drumright, L., and Lester, J. (in press). Working title: Elucidating risk factors for healthcare associated norovirus infection.
  • Milbank, C., Coomes, D., and Vira, B. (2018). Assessing the Progress of REDD+ Projects towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Forests, 9(10), 589. Online at:
  • Cox, S., Payne, C., Badolo, A., Attenborough, R., and Milbank, C. (2018). The nutritional role of insects as food: A case study of 'chitoumou' (Cirina butyrospermi), an edible caterpillar in rural Burkina Faso. Journal of Insects as Food and Feed. Online at:
  • Payne, C., Cox, S., Milbank, C., Badolo, A., Dobermann, D. What is the nutritional role of edible insects in human diets? Keynote address, Insects to Feed the World Second Conference, Wuhan, China 2018. Invited paper, Journal of Insects as Food and Feed.
  • Payne, C., Badolo, A., Cox, S., Sagnon, B., Dobermann, D., Milbank, C., Scarborough, P., Sanon, A., Bationo, F., Balmford, A. (in press). Working title: The contribution of 'chitoumou', the edible caterpillar Cirina butyrospermi, to the food security of smallholder farmers in southwestern Burkina Faso. Food Security.

Conference presentations

  • '"Wild foods" for nutrition security'. Oral presentation and poster at the 'Interdisciplinarity – Beyond Boundaries' conference of the Economic and Social Research Council, October 2019, Cambridge, UK.
  • 'Wild Foods, Hunger and Nutrition – harnessing knowledge for sustainable food security'. Oral presentation and poster at the 'Future of Conservation' conference of the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute, September 2019, Cambridge, UK.
  • 'Wild foods: consumption practices and knowledge systems in rural Burkina Faso'. Poster presented at the Cambridge Global Food Security Annual Symposium, March 2019, Cambridge, UK.

External activities

  • The Nu Wardrobe (nationwide sustainable fashion platform), November 2018-present, Cambridge Lead.
  • Insects and Wine (not-for-profit group providing edible insects and sustainable wine tasting events around Cambridge), November 2017-present, Co-Lead.
  • Education Outreach work with local Primary Schools (engaging children in workshops focused on edible insects and taste), September 2019-present.
  • Cambridge University Lawn Tennis Club, October 2015-present, including President (July 2019-July 2020); Captain (June 2016-June 2017).
  • Cambridge May Ball Presidents' Committee President (July 2019-July 2020)
  • Cambridge University Geographical Society.