Meet the Conservation Evidence Team

Part 1 of a series of blog posts to help you get to know the Conservation Evidence team a little better! (Part 2 is here). If you prefer, there’s some more formal biographies on our website.

Name: Dr Alec Christie 

Hometown: Hard to say… Born in Wales, primary school in Hampshire, emigrated to New Zealand, back to Suffolk, up to Yorkshire Dales, then St Andrews, Cambridge, and back to Suffolk. Hmm…

Years working with CE: 6, counting my PhD!

Role in CE: Junior Research Fellow at Downing College, working on data analyses relating to the CE database of studies, promoting evidence-based conservation, understanding how to weigh evidence, Metadataset and dynamic meta-analysis, and using AI to speed up evidence synthesis.

Other research/scientific interests: Does evidence-based conservation work? Developing surveillance tools for invasive species. Integrating study design biases into weighting of meta-analyses.

If I were an animal, I would be: A white-tailed sea eagle.

If I were a fictional character, I would be: Poirot, mes enfants! Or Tintin.

A song that might have been written about/for me: Donald Where’s Your Troosers? I had and still have a tendency to wear shorts in all weathers (albeit less now thanks to my wife).

Mastermind specialist subject: Either Doctor Who all seasons, or just Third Doctor Jon Pertwee (unpopular opinion: the best doctor!), or Tintin comics.

Name: Professor Lynn Dicks

Hometown: Somewhere in Norfolk

Years working with CE: Since 2009 (on and off, especially 2009-2014)

Role in CE: Wrote the Bee synopsis (the first ever), the northern European farmland synopsis, worked on the first Bird synopsis and oversaw the Mediterranean farmland synopsis. Developed the Cool Farm Biodiversity metric, which uses CE effectiveness categories in its scoring system.

Other research/scientific interests: Conservation of biodiversity in agricultural landscapes, transitions to sustainable farming systems, insect conservation (especially bees and other pollinators). I lead the Agroecology research group in the Zoology Department.

If I were an animal, I would be: An Arctic tern, because I love to travel far north and far south.

If I were a fictional character, I would be: Hope Clearwater, from William Boyd’s Brazzaville Beach. Waiting for the moment I give it all up to hang out with chimpanzees in West Africa.

A song that might have been written about/for me: I Like the Flowers. Must be sung as a round.

Mastermind specialist subject: The Adventure books of Willard Price

Name: Ash Simkins

Hometown: Dobcross, a small village north-east of the West Yorkshire part of the Peak District

Years working with CE: 2

Role in CE: 2nd year PhD student, aiming to understand how generalisable species’ responses are to different conservation actions, and so determine suitable conservation actions for a wide range of animal species based on existing information. Have also previously collaborated with and volunteered for Conservation Evidence.

Other research/scientific interests: My research interests are broadly around applying ecological knowledge to solve conservation problems across a range of animal groups. This includes working on threatened species, species recovery, species’ extinction risk, the IUCN Red List of threatened species, and leveraging big data/modelling to answer questions in conservation.

If I were an animal, I would be: A capybara; these species are very abundant and seem quite relaxed/chilled out, which sounds like a nice pace of life!

If I were a fictional character, I would be: Professor Oak (from Pokémon) as he studies and learns about a wide range of entirely different organisms for a job!

A song that might have been written about/for me: Somewhere Only We Know (either Keane or Lily Allen version); just one of my favourite songs which takes me back to spending time in a secluded part of nature as a child where it is like the world has stopped/an escape from the busyness of life.

Mastermind specialist subject: Chinchillas

Name: Dr Rebecca Smith

Hometown: Born in Epping, lived in almost London (ok Essex…just), moved to Bristol, the Kalahari Desert, Norwich, the Peruvian Amazon, back to Bristol, De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa and then Cambridge! 

Years working with CE: 2 + 12

Role in CE: Project Manager. I previously worked on a systematic review, the Farmland Synopsis and produced the Amphibian Synopsis. As manager I have overseen the production of most synopses, helped develop What Works in Conservation and the broader aims of the project.

Other research/scientific interests: Management of endangered/declining mammals.

If I were an animal, I would be: A lammergeier so I can do some excellent soaring over mountains but not be as bald as other vultures…could I be vegetarian still? 

If I were a fictional character, I would be: Doctor Dolittle

Mastermind specialist subject: Chocolate

Name: Dr Nigel Taylor

Hometown: Solihull, UK

Years working with CE: 6

Role in CE: Research Associate, currently working on a synthesis of evidence for the conservation of aquatic vegetation (in rivers, lakes, ponds, reservoirs, lagoons etc.) around the world. Previously worked on syntheses for other wetland habitats: peatlands, marshes and swamps. I also coordinate our Blog: please get in touch if you’d like to write a guest post.

Other research/scientific interests: Invasive species impacts and management, human interactions with nature.

If I were an animal, I would be: a solitary sandpiper Tringa solitaria. I’m quite content in my own company, but I occasionally congregate in suitable feeding areas.

If I were a fictional character, I would be: Phileas Fogg (Around the World in Eighty Days), because I enjoy traveling but without flying, so it would take me 80 days (or more) to get around the world.

A song that might have been written about/for me: Making Plans for Nigel (for obvious reasons)! This was also a regular on the Sunday afternoon playlist at the bar I used to work in.

Mastermind specialist subject: Futurama (1999-2013)

Name: Dr Ann Thornton

Hometown: settled in Ely, Cambridgeshire (born in Lancashire, toddler in Hertfordshire, child in the West Midlands, teenager and adult in Dorset).

Years working with CE: 4 

Role in CE: I have two part-time roles within CE: As Conservation Biology Coordinator I am responsible for organising the annual Horizon Scan of issues for biological conservation and I am the Managing Editor of the Conservation Evidence Journal. My other role is Research Associate compiling a synthesis of evidence for the conservation of coral reefs.

Other research/scientific interests: Intertidal mudflats (particularly the invertebrates that live there). I am also fascinated by the ocean mesopelagic (or ‘twilight’) zone. I am always interested in, as Douglas Adams put it, ‘the fundamental interconnectedness of all things’.

If I were an animal, I would be: A humpback whale because I love being underwater and they migrate long distances between tropical and polar waters.

If I were a fictional character, I would be: Eowyn (Lord of the Rings). Like her I would fear being in a cage. ‘To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them’. She defies the conventions of her position as a high ranking woman and rides into battle.  

A song that might have been written about/for me: ABBA’s Thank You for the Music. Music is central to my life – I play French horn and piano (I used to play the violin). I have performed in concerts across the UK and Europe – including at the Royal Albert Hall.   

Mastermind specialist subject: Pink Floyd (post 1970)

Image credits: White-tailed sea eagle: CC0 Public Domain; Brazzaville Beach:; Capybara: Tambako The Jaguar/Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0; Lammergeier/Bearded vulture: triruntu/DeviantArt, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0; Futurama Volume 1:; Humpback whale:

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