skip to primary navigation skip to content

Department of Geography


Professor Chris Sandbrook BA MSc PhD

Professor of Conservation & Society and Fellow of Darwin College
Director of the MPhil in Conservation Leadership



  • 2022-present: Professor of Conservation & Society and Director of the MPhil in Conservation Leadership, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
  • 2017-2022: Senior Lecturer in Geography and Director of the MPhil in Conservation Leadership, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
  • 2010-2017: 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
  • 2006-2008: Independent Consultant, International Institute for Environment and Development & International Gorilla Conservation Program


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


I am a conservation social scientist with a range of research interests around the central theme of biodiversity conservation and its relationship with society. My current research investigates (i) the relationship between conservation and development in theory and practice, (ii) the values and viewpoints of conservationists and how these influence conservation practice, and (iii) the social and political implications of new technologies for conservation.

Under the first theme I am working with Dr Sophia Cooke to identify options for the Galapagos Islands to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals following the covid-19 pandemic. I also supervise the doctoral research of Valerio Donfrancesco, who is working on relations between humans and wolves in Italy. I am developing a new programme of work on the future of area-based conservation, with a particular focus on the social implications of the 30×30 plan to increase global conserved area coverage to 30% by 2030.

Under the second theme I am the lead researcher on the Future of Conservation project, the first large scale global survey of values held by conservationists. I also lead the spin-off GO-FOX project, which enables groups and organisations to identify and reflect on their conservation viewpoints values. I supervise two doctoral students working under this theme: Rogelio Luque-Lora, who is working on place-based environmental values in Chile, and Fleur Nash, who is working on how an international conservation NGO understands and works with local stakeholders in Kenya.

Under the third theme, I focus on social and political issues raised by the use of surveillance technologies (such as drones and camera traps) in conservation, particularly in the global south. I supervised the doctoral research of Trishant Simlai, who worked on surveillance technology and conservation in India. I am also an Advisor to Internet of Elephants, a social enterprise that is seeking to deliver conservation impact through the gamification of wildlife movement data.

Supervision of graduate students

I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students. Please look at my current and recent research interests and my current graduate students, then get in touch with me with your ideas about research topics that I may be able to supervise.


[​Publications will be loaded automatically from the University’s publications database…]


I am strongly committed to building capacity in conservation, particularly among future conservation leaders. I contribute to this process through my work as Director of the Cambridge Masters in Conservation Leadership, and through ongoing involvement in capacity development work across the Cambridge Conservation Initiative.

At the undergraduate level I teach on the final year geography papers Political Ecology of the Global South and Life Within Limits.

External activities

I am a member of the first ever Social Science Expert Panel for Natural England. I am a member of the governing Council of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, which I chaired in 2021-22.

I am an Associate Editor for Conservation and Society and a member of the Editorial Board for Oryx. I have previously served as a Handling Editor for Conservation Biology and Secretary of the Board of the Social Science Working Group of the Society for Conservation Biology.

As well as doing formal research, I have a strong interest in applying research recommendations to the real world. 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. I continue to work closely with multiple conservation organisations, particularly through the Cambridge Conservation Initiative.

I am committed to the open communication of research and ideas to the widest possible audience, and to this end I write a blog on conservation, Thinking Like a Human, with Bill Adams.