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Simon Pooley

  • Overview




    I am currently the Lambert Lecturer in Environment (Applied Herpetology), a bequest lectureship created by Dr Michael Lambert, a Fellow of Birkbeck College. Lambert’s work viewed "human and natural species as mutually constitutive rather than distinct or antagonistic," and was regarded as "a template for new kinds of collaboration between biologists, ecologists, pharmacologists, even ethnographers and cultural historians." I couldn't have asked for a better description of my research aspirations.

    Since 2016, I have worked hard to realise this vision for the role, doing research and outreach work in southern Africa and India (including posters, bibliographies, pamphlets and workshops), participating in international conservation networks and publishing and presenting my work on human-crocodilian interactions in international fora. I have worked with colleagues in Central and South America and the Caribbean on human-crocodilian interactions, and have successfully motivated to have snakes included in our IUCN Task Force resources on human-wildlife conflicts. 

    My recent work focuses on human-wildlife coexistence, and I also continue my studies on wildfires and bioinvasions, and interdisciplinarity. All my research informs my teaching on environmental topics in the Geography Department at Birkbeck, where I am Programme Director of the MSc in Environment and Sustainability. This postgraduate course provides an advanced-level grounding in sustainable responses to a broad range of environmental issues, exploring the relationship between policy, practice and the ecological environment, and the development of effective strategies for addressing the threats and opportunities posed by environmental issues. 

    I grew up in nature reserves in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where my parents were conservationists whose research focused on crocodilians and the indigenous flora. I have degrees from the universities of KwaZulu-Natal, Cape Town, Birkbeck and University of Oxford. Before taking up the Lambert Lectureship, I was a lecturer and course director in conservation science at Imperial College London. I completed my D.Phil in environmental history (University of Oxford) in 2010, going on to Junior Research Fellowships at St Antony’s College, Oxford (2010-2012) and Imperial College London (2012-2015). 


    • I gave the opening talk "Croc attacks and conflicts" of the Living with Crocodilians sessions at the IUCN SSC Crocodile Specialist Group working group meeting in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia on Wednesday 17 April 2024. 

    • Our IUCN SSC Human-Wildlife Conflict and Coexistence Specialist Group launched our international Guidelines at our conference in Oxford in March 2023. I co-authored several chapters, on history and HWC, culture and HWC, human and animal behaviour, lethal control and social science methods - and the introduction. 

    • I commissioned and guest edited a special issue on Coexisting with Reptiles for the illustrated, open access, plain English journal Current Conservation, available online from January 2024 at

    Office hours

    Simon Pooley is on sabbatical in Autumn 2022


    • D.Phil, University of Oxford

    Web profiles

    Administrative responsibilities

    • Program Director: MSc Environment and Sustainability

    Visiting posts

    • Honourary Researcher , in the School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa,

    Professional activities

    Member, IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group

    Steering Group Member, IUCN SSC Specialist Group on Human-Wildlife Conflict and Coexistence

    Associate Editor, Human-Wildlife Dynamics, Frontiers in Conservation Science

    Professional memberships

    • Senior Research Associate, Centre for World Environmental History, University of Sussex

    • Member, Society for Conservation Biology


  • Research


    Research interests

    • human-wildlife conflict and coexistence
    • wildfires
    • bioinvasions
    • environmental history
    • Crocodilians
    • Indigenous knowledge
    • conservation policy

    Research overview

    In my research, teaching and conservation practice I focus on the conservation of biodiversity and human wellbeing and cultural diversity. I apply my research to real world challenges.

    My research is interdisciplinary, ranging across the fields of animal geography, historical geography, environmental humanities (history in particular), ethnozoology and conservation science.

    A current focus is human-wildlife encounters, conflicts and coexistence, and in particular the crocodilians worldwide, with fieldwork in southern Africa and India. This includes cultural, ecological and historical dimensions of such encounters. 

    My other research interests include the challenges of interdisciplinarity, the history of wildlife conservation, environmental histories of wildfire research, policy and management, and biological invasions in Mediterranean-type regions. 

    New work includes investigating the production of scientific natural history knowledge and how this draws on while excluding indigenous knowledge, with a view to improving future practices. 

    Research Centres and Institutes

    Research clusters and groups

    Research projects

    Human-hippo and human-crocodile interactions in African Wetlands

    Western Science, Indigenous Knowledge and the "discovery" of the Okapi

    ZSL Hidden Histories

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I am interested in supervising postgraduate research on human-predator relations; on collecting, analysing, visualising and communicating data on human-predator interactions; ethnozoology; conceptions on Nature in the Anthropocene; the history of wildlife conservation and conservation science; the uses and abuses of history and historical data in ecology and conservation science; critical thinking on biological invasions and restoration ecology; and wildfire.

    I have supervised MSc and BSc theses at Imperial College London and at Birkbeck, and examined PhD students at the universities of Oxford and Edinburgh.

    I am currently co-supervising PhD theses as follows:

    Antonia Scarr: Is ecology considered in the management of English estuaries? Co-supervisor: Prof. Mike Elliott, at Hull University.

    Apoorva Kulkarni: Untangling human-wildlife interactions in transitional forest-fringes of South India. Co-supervisor: Prof. E.J. Milner-Gulland, University of Oxford. 

    Josh Taylor: Co-existence with predators and motivations for adapting conflict mitigation strategies in North-west Patagonia, Argentina. Co-supervisor: Dr Valeria Fernandez-Arhex, at the National University of Cordoba, Argentina.

    Current doctoral researchers



    I teach environmental science for environmental management and policy to MSc and undergraduate students at Birkbeck, including convening the module Managing Environments and guest lecturing on the modules Environmental Science for Environmental Management and Introducing Natural Environments. 

    I greatly enjoy teaching my module Global Nature Conservation to final-year UG, and MSc students.  

    I have previously tutored and lectured on a wide variety of subjects from Conservation Science (Imperial College London); through Global and Imperial History, South African history, and African environments (at Oxford and Sussex universities).

    I became a Fellow of The Higher Education Academy in July 2016.

    Teaching modules

    • Introducing Natural Environments (GGPH055S4)
    • Humans and the Environment (GGPH072S4)
    • Environmental Science for Environmental Management (SSGE025S7)
    • Managing Environments (SSGE084S5)
    • Managing Environments (SSGE084S5)
    • Global Nature Conservation Level 6 (SSGE095S6)
    • Global Nature Conservation Level 6 (SSGE095S6)
  • Publications




    Book Section




  • Business and community

    Business and community


    I am happy to receive enquiries from the media on the following topics:

    • human-wildlife conflict and coexistence
    • crocodilians
    • wildfires


      Simon was interviewed by ABC Television (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) on 16 April 2024 for the story "Experts warn against expanding crocodile culls," (filmed) and "Charlene's daughter was taken by a crocodile, but she's not in favour of culling" (text), both published online on April 18, 2024. 

      Simon has participated in numerous online lectures, seminars and panel discussions, including: "Beyond incident response in mitigating human-crocodylian conflicts", in Paulino Ponce's series of talks by experts on human-crocodilian interactions, December 2023; "Disentangling coexistence and conflict in human-wildlife interactions", Zoological Society of London seminar, May 2023; "Lessons in compassion and coexistence with crocodiles", seminar for Coexistence Consortium, April 2023, available on YouTube; a panel discussion on Crocodiles and Coexistence in the Centre for Wildlife Studies' (CWS) Wild Chronicle Webinar series, with Romulus Whitaker and Yoshendu Joshi, 20 April 2023. 

      Simon participated with Professor Amy Dickman (WildCRU, Oxford) and Professor Adam Hart (University of Gloucestershire) in the panel discussion ‘Living with Dangerous Wildlife’ at the Cheltenham Science Festival, Summer 2022.

      2021. I published a note on 'Biodiversity hotspot and Ramsar site under threat,' on Ndumo Game Reserve, in Oryx 55 (6): 811-812. I have been publicising this situation online and worked with investigative journalist Tony Carnie who published a major feature: Ndumo Game Reserve: The complicated balancing act of subsistence farming and nature conservation in KwaZulu-Natal, in Daily Maverick on 6 December 2021. I am co-editing a special issue featuring past research and future prospects for research in Ndumo Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. 

      Simon gave a seminar for the City of London environmental thinktank Z/Yen Group on 13 September 2022 titled "Climate change and global wildfires". It is available to watch here

      In 2021 I published a popular, illustrated version of my research in Gujarat entitled 'Rethinking coexistence with wildlife in the wetlands of Gujarat' in Current Conservation 15 (1): 23-28.

      S. Pooley and S. Marchini, 2020. What living alongside crocodiles can teach us about coexisting with wildlife. The Conversation, 26 May 2020.

      2019, August: radio interview on the BBC World Service on my crocodile attack research on Science in Action with Roland Pease.