Name: Rebecca Sargent
Institution: Newcastle University
My PhD research aims to determine the viability of the landscape matrix for free-roaming lions in East Africa. The African lion is an iconic species that plays a vital ecological role as an apex predator, has significant cultural value and is economically important as a draw for tourism. Anthropogenic pressures, primarily loss of habitat and prey, as well as conflict with humans, have led to precipitous declines in lion numbers and range over the past century. Although protected areas are key to lion survival, much of their range lies outside these areas in community land where they must coexist with pastoralist communities and their livestock.
I will be using databases on lion range and abundance and remotely sensed data on habitat and land use attributes to assess the current and future viability of this landscape for lions. In addition, I will be mapping hotspots of human-lion conflict and their likely outcomes through collaboration with partners in East Africa including the Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP – http://www.ruahacarnivoreproject.com/). Community surveys will be used to compile information on socio-economic and cultural contexts underlying these conflicts as well as to analyse the success of current mitigation schemes implemented by the RCP.
The findings of this study will have implications for management and policy aimed at reversing lion declines. They will also be relevant for helping to implement pre-emptive conflict mitigation strategies across the landscape, where the future of Africa’s lions depends on their successful survival in human-dominated matrix landscapes.
Prior to my PhD, I completed my undergraduate in Zoology at the University of Sheffield and my MRes in Wildlife Conservation at the University of Southampton. I have also spent considerable time working on conservation projects in Africa, the majority of which was spent working as a research assistant for the Kenyan based charity Save the Elephants. Most recently I worked as project coordinator at the Sri Lankan field site of the Elephants and Bees Project.
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