Chiara Ruggieri-Mitchell

Chiara Ruggieri-Mitchell


I recently graduated from the University of Sussex with a distinction in Global Biodiversity Conservation Msc where my thesis focused on decolonising the conservation curriculum at the university. Before that, I graduated with first class Honours in Geography from Royal Holloway University of London. There, my dissertation analysed several conservation journals for taxonomic and geographical biases, as well as biases in authorship. I am currently in the process of attempting to publish the data from this as a research article in the Journal for Nature Conservation.

Outside of my academic pursuits, I have undertaken several work experience opportunities in relation to wildlife conservation in Costa Rica, South Africa, Namibia, and most recently, Malawi where I spent six weeks partly in a sanctuary and then in the field undertaking elephant demographic research.

Following these experiences alongside my academic ventures, my current research interests lie in understanding how colonial rule has shaped the field of environmental science practices and how these might be addressed through a decolonial lens to ensure the safeguarding the environment, whilst also dismantling the social inequalities, often steeped in colonialism, that have been exacerbated by the environmental crisis.

Chiara Ruggieri-Mitchell

PhD title: Decolonising the environmental sciences: histories, practices, futures

Debates about how to decolonise science have recently taken on a renewed urgency and are particularly pertinent to the environmental sciences. Processes like climate change and biodiversity loss perpetuate longstanding social inequalities. Broader societal conversations about structural inequalities and the legacies of colonial practices draw our attention to how the sciences have been shaped by forms of colonial power, and by colonial habits of thought. As an interdisciplinary field uniquely concerned with the future fates of populations and their environments, the environmental sciences are a key arena in which conversations can be had, and change made.

My project therefore aims to examine the impact of mid-twentieth century processes of decolonisation on the emergence and development of the interdisciplinary field of ‘environmental sciences’, shedding important new light on institutional change and colonial legacies across the era of European imperial retreat. I will also map an analyse present-day initiatives to address these legacies and decolonise the field, from efforts to improve diversity and inclusion to radical experiments in institutional transformation. Lastly, I intend to work with key stakeholders and practitioners to scope possible pathways to decolonial futures for the field, with the intention of generating a lasting legacy for transformative change.

Awards and prizes

  • Royal Holloway Geography department GC Fisher Prize for best final year independent project on a biogeographical, soils, ecology, or conservation theme in the British Isles 2021
  • Royal Geographical Society History and Philosophy Research Group Undergraduate Dissertation Prize 2021.