The Biodiversity Fellows Programme at ICCS

One of the aims of the ICCS group is to improve engagement between researchers, conservation practitioners in the international and local NGO sectors, and businesses developing and implementing corporate biodiversity strategies, in order that scientific research is informed by, and meaningful for, real-world conservation issues.

There is a widely recognised problem of a mismatch between academic research and conservation practice, which we are keen to bridge. Conservation NGOs and businesses contain many highly skilled individuals who have substantial experience in implementing conservation on the ground, and often have collected excellent datasets which could contribute to the academic evidence base on policy effectiveness. However, often they do not have the time, technical skills or academic environment within which to write these datasets up for publication. To address this issue, ICCS offers a unique initiative in its Biodiversity Fellows Programme.

The programme offers NGO, governmental, or business employees working on biodiversity conservation the chance to spend up to three months with the ICCS group at the University of Oxford, writing papers, developing ideas or writing grant proposals. The Fellows are encouraged to take part in a range of valuable interactions with students (undergraduate and post-graduate) and potential donors. For example, through offering reading groups relating to their subject area, evening talks or individual guidance to students wishing to learn more about how to approach the real-world issues of biodiversity conservation worldwide. The Fellows are also encouraged to host or take part in ICCS workshops and technical events.

Previous Biodiversity Fellows



Skype: Lude KINZONZI

Home institution: Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Campaign Assistant



What made you want to join the Trade Hub programme as a Biodiversity fellow?

My interest in becoming a Biodiversity Fellow is aligned with two objectives, firstly I am eager to increase my capacities in research, particularly in data analysis, scientific writing and publication; and secondly the wish to enlarge my network by creating long-term relationships with researchers working on wildmeat related issues to enable continued knowledge sharing and potential future collaborations within conservation.

My research project to be implemented as part of the Biodiversity Fellowship involves identifying and understanding obstacles and opportunities from the COVID-19 outbreak to reduce urban bushmeat trade and consumption in Central Africa, and particularly in the Republic of Congo. With the emergence of new zoonotic diseases at national and international levels, governments and conservation organisations are putting in place measures such as market bans and other actions to reduce bushmeat trade and therefore decrease wild animal handling by people. These changes will influence the context of urban bushmeat trade and consumption by impacting people’s perceptions and increase interest of non-conservation organisations in wildlife issues. To be able to tailor existing conservation initiatives or policies and future actions to the post- COVID context, it is crucial to understand people’s evolving perceptions on wildmeat trade and identify new potential stakeholders that are interested in future collaborations.

Learn more about the programme Lude is working on here



I was raised in a family where my parents strongly valued their traditional cultural cuisine, which encompasses among other things the use of a variety of forest products, including wildmeat as a source of protein. I therefore developed a positive appreciation of wildmeat consumption and had the chance to learn about the particularities and the importance of this resource as perceived by many people in Congolese society. That past experience did not offer the opportunity to consider the problems associated with urban bushmeat consumption in relation to biodiversity loss. It was only in 2017, as I started my career in conservation that I realised the unsustainability of urban bushmeat consumption and its link with declining forest biodiversity.  I was astonished to understand how consumption habits in urban areas increased hunting pressure on wildlife; and I became aware of the need to do something in order to solve this problem. This raised in me an eagerness to contribute to our understanding of wildmeat consumption in urban areas and potential solutions.



Mxolisi Sibanda

Home institution: WWF UK


Twitter: @Mxolisi_Sibanda

What made you want to join ICCS as a Biodiversity fellow?

MxICCS is one of the few groups that produce science that is highly rated among academics yet also possessing huge resonance with practitioners. The opportunity to work with EJ and ICCS while also being exposed to other work in the wider Oxford conservation community is very attractive. I am definite that ICCS’s multi-disciplinary environment will be stimulating and beneficial for my career and enable me to critically examine how we design and implement real-world conservation. I am also keen to bring my experience as a practitioner to the fore and so meaningfully contribute to some of what the group is doing. In addition, I am looking forward to using all the outstanding resources, from libraries to courses and talks, available to support one’s research in a world class university like Oxford.


Is there a specific project you will be working on while you are with ICCS? Can you tell us a little about it?

In my time during this fellowship I will work on a paper examining the impact of the development and implementation of national species strategies for endangered species using black rhinos as a case study.



I grew up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. My affinity towards nature was cultivated by my mother, who having grown up in her family’s farm an hour or two from the city, shared with me stories of her happy and idyllic (at least to me) childhood.

My impressionable mind must have made such a strong link between being close to nature and happiness and fulfilment that has remained unbroken over the years. As child, I got involved with environmental clubs culminating with leading the Bulawayo Schools Environment Clubs. Through these activities I was convinced of the importance of nature for people, economies and cultures. At university, I chose to study Biological Sciences and within that thoroughly enjoyed ecology- thanks to inspiring lecturers, field work and interesting applications to natural resource management that I could relate to such as freshwater management in the city of Harare (which was already a major health and ecological problem in the city). As a result, I became fascinated with the applied aspects of ecology that make the every-day challenge of working in conservation.

Previous Biodiversity Fellows