Katie Spencer

Katie Spencer


I am a graduate from Nottingham Trent University and the University of Liverpool, with a Distinction in Endangered Species Recovery and Conservation (MSc) and 1st class BSc in Zoology. My research and personal interests surround mitigating human-wildlife conflict, conserving tropical ecosystems and preventing the exploitation of wild animals in tourism and the illegal pet-trade.

For my master’s thesis I collaborated with Cheetah Outreach in South Africa to investigate the impact of livestock guarding dogs on predator and prey ecology – this research has recently been accepted for publication in Biological Conservation.

Since graduating from my master’s degree in 2016, I have spent three field seasons working as a large mammal scientist for Operation Wallacea in Indonesia (2019), Mexico (2018) and Honduras (2017). Working for OpWall has given me the opportunity of spending lots of time living in remote tropical forests, camera-trapping and tracking large mammals, and teaching students about megafauna biodiversity and conservation threats.

Katie Spencer

Ecology and Biodiversity

University of Kent, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology

PhD title: “Interactions between environmental change and exploitation on tropical mammal megafauna”

An extinction crisis looms in Southeast Asia. While habitat loss and climate change are renowned threats to tropical biodiversity (Struebig 2015), many species are also hunted or persecuted. For example, Malayan sunbear (Helarctos malanayus) habitat is diminishing across its range, but bears also experience hunting for body parts and persecution as agricultural pests. However, the socio-ecological patterns and processes of defaunation remain poorly understood.

To address this gap in literature, I will utilise existing camera-trap data from eight forest sites across Indonesian Borneo (Cheyne 2016), (ranging from degraded peatlands near cities to remote protected areas) and also implement a new camera survey in a new region. Spatio-temporal modelling of camera data will determine species occupancy and population size varies across a disturbance gradient. The analyses will focus on conservation flagships such as sunbears and orangutan, which are persecuted by people. In addition to analysing environmental data, I will develop a questionnaire to investigate the prevalence of hunting and associated environmental and socio-economic variables in settlements around each site.

Ultimately, I will combine the ecological and social datasets to determine the relative influence of environmental change and persecution on wildlife populations, and use this information to inform wider conservation strategies in the region.


    “Livestock guarding dogs enable human-carnivore coexistence: first evidence of equivalent carnivore occupancy on guarded and unguarded farms”. Biological Conservation (accepted for publication, sent to production September 2019).

Further Information

I have aimed to be involved in public outreach and engagement as much as possible since my undergraduate degree. I have volunteered as Learning Assistant at West Midlands Safari Park, volunteered for a project teaching primary school children about the environment and conservation, and also taught university students at Nottingham Trent University as part as an internship I was offered after graduating. Additionally, I spent two months volunteering at a wildlife sanctuary in Bolivia, where the animals were rescued and rehabilitated from the illegal pet trade.

Instagram: @ConservationKate