I grew up on animal encyclopaedias and fishkeeping, so when I chose my final-year specialisation for my Natural Sciences degree from the University of Cambridge, Zoology seemed the fitting choice. My undergraduate project was titled “The traffic dynamics of leafcutter ants” and, after watching hours upon hours of grainy footage of ant trails, we found that wild Attine ants use lanes to optimise worker efficiency, something previously only shown in captive colonies. It was from this project I found the excitement associated with using robust evidence to find out how the world around us operates.
At heart, however, I am a conservationist. Despite our best efforts to prevent it, we are currently experiencing biodiversity declines unlike any seen in human history. Limited conservation funds must be channelled to where they are most effective and I believe that, when used alongside effective involvement of local populations, a solid, evidence-based approach to conservation is the best way to achieve this. For this reason, I have joined Professor William Sutherland’s group for my masters to work on evidence use within the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a tool often used by governments and practitioners to set conservation priorities.