Professor Stewart Thompson
Professor in Biodiversity Conservation
Department of Biological and Medical Sciences
I have been a practising conservation professional for over 25 years, the last seven of which at senior level. Throughout my career I have initiated and delivered a variety of applied conservation management projects, all of which I have endeavoured to translate into practical tools for conservation practitioners. My current position requires me to teach/run conservation biology courses to a variety of audiences and I am consistently recognised as an excellent communicator. I have a wide range of interests and contacts in conservation/biodiversity management, all of which I utilise wherever possible in my lectures and fieldwork, with much of my external research undertaken in collaboration with statutory and non-statutory organisations.
Teaching and supervision
- Threatened Species Conservation
- Advanced Topics in Wildlife Conservation
- Animal Behaviour
- Ecosystem Degradation and Management
- Science and Humanity
- Field Course - Identification and Methodology
- Field Course - Surveys and Licences
I am currently supervising one full time PhD student and one part-time PhD student. I have previously supervised 12 PhD students to completion as first supervisor and 2 as second supervisor. I have previously examined 13 PhD students.
Currently I am the Director of a research cluster in a University whose work explores the linkages between wildlife protection mechanisms/policies and landscape scale ecology; the effects of land-use change on wildlife; threatened species conservation in developing countries and wildlife tourism and human-wildlife conflict resolution. A considerable element of my research interests are underpinned by the use of Geographic Information Systems as data repositories and predictive management tools. Much of the work is supported by real-time mobile data collection and management software I have devised, and I have established particular expertise in the use of real-time data capture protocols for all my field-based activities. To that end I have started a University “spin-out” company – “WildKnowledge”, raised equity for it and we are now acknowledged as market leaders in the field of mobile technologies for data management across a range of disciplines.
In the UK I am regularly consulted by those government bodies responsible for aspects of biodiversity management and non-governmental organisations involved in the delivery of biodiversity strategies. I have developed a long-standing presence in the area of ecological impact assessment, being regularly invited by prominent networks of practitioners to join them on consultancy/research bids related to this area of expertise.
Research group membership
- Spatial ecology and land use (SELU)
Research grants and awards
- Patsy Wood Trust. Wildlife Conservancies in the Mara Ecosystem (2015) - £25,000
- Charities Aid Foundation - Martin & Audrey Wood. Wildlife Conservancies in the Mara Ecosystem (2015) - £50,000
- Charities Aid Foundation - Martin & Audrey Wood. Wildlife Conservancies in the Mara Ecosystem (2011) - £60,000
- Knowledge Transfer Partnership - Enhancing user generated content via native applications (2010). £96,627
- Leverhulme Trust. Modelling the ecological potential of mitigation banking (2005) - £70,564
- English Nature. BRANCH (Biodiversity requires adaptations in Northwest Europe under a changing climate) (2005) - £63,250
Currently the research group has four research strands.
1. A multi-disciplinary project exploring the efficacy of newly created wildlife conservancies (private agreements between investors and indigenous peoples) in Kenya in terms of their utility to wildlife. Under this research project we monitor and model the response of the landscape and its dependent wildlife to newly created conservancy areas and grazing management regimes. Much of the research surrounds the demographics of key ungulate species within the conservancy and to assess the impacts of the change in grazing regime upon the vegetation. To date, our contribution has been to begin to assess changes as a result of the reduction/removal of cattle and to determine the spatial and population response from the wildlife in the conservancy as a consequence. This project continues to provide detailed ecological and environmental monitoring and modelling in the Mara ecosystem, as an evidence-based approach to conservancy advocacy into the future.
2. The efficacy of mitigation measures in ecological impact assessment. Built development is one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss in the UK. Major built developments usually require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be conducted, which frequently includes an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) chapter. By identifying the flaws in EcIA mitigation measure proposals and their implementation in developments, this research seeks to develop measures to reduce biodiversity loss and help meet the UK’s EU obligation to halt biodiversity loss. Some of our work surrounds a case study where we are examining the use of predictive tools in EcIA in tandem with an "on the ground" assessment of the utility of mitigation habitat required under EU law as part of the plan-decision making process.
3. The use of genomic approaches to enable best management and conservation of species both in the wild, and in captivity. The development of the tools provided by Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies, have opened up the field of genomics to conservationists, allowing researchers to study population structure, dynamics and connectivity at a landscape scale. This is an approach that facilitates the identification of changes in population structure, genetic signatures and adaptive processes population-wide, in response to changing environmental parameters. Currently we are investigating the application a landscape genomic approach to determine the adaptive genomic response and impact of illegal shark fishing on prey species - the project is jointly supervised in a collaborative partnership with the University of Oxford and the University of Western Australia.
4. An assessment of the size and landscape scale distribution of the tiger prey base in Ranthambhore National Park. For the last seven years I have visited the Park to collect data on ungulate prey availability, using this to make population estimates for both the resident tiger population and the prey species they depend upon.
A key aspect of my recent research has been to examine the role of ecological networks in biodiversity offsetting. The work (funded by the Leverhulme Trust) is acknowledged as the first in this field in the UK and has subsequently underpinned future research across a number of organisations, most notably Natural England and defra. As a consequence of this work I led the team delivering the defra scoping study on the design of a biodiversity offsetting mechanism for England. This work has in turn led to several contract research calls from defra related to the outcomes of the report. The concept and our recommendations also feature in the Lawton Review – “Making Space for Nature”.
WildKnowledge® was originally a suite of wildlife/environmental recording software which runs on mobile ‘phones. Stemming from 2 research projects funded by the Royal Society and the Heritage Lottery Fund, the software was taken to “Venturefest” in 2006 where the product attracted both potential investors and an award – the “Technology Showcase Winner for Innovation”. In response to requests from a potentially wider user audience we devised an expanded suite of products (WildMap, WildForm, WildImage) offered under the banner of “WildKnowledge”and are now acknowledged as a market leader in the field of mobile technologies for data collection and management across a range of disciplines in both the UK and overseas. WildKnowledge specialises in recording and exploring mobile applications. In addition to operating its own “apps”, WildKnowledge also creates apps for external clients. Currently the business links itself to previous/ongoing research work which considered the need to generate (and subsequently manage) collaborative data creation and management projects; to link users to repositories of multimedia content, and to facilitate the repurposing of existing content.
Find out more
Howes B, Doughty LS, Thompson S, 'African elephant feeding preferences in a small South African fenced game reserve'
Journal for Nature Conservation 53 (2019)
ISSN: 1617-1381Abstract Published here
Wallis K, Hill D, Wade M, Cooper M, Frost D, Thompson S, 'The effect of construction activity on internationally important waterfowl species'
Biological Conservation 232 (2019) pp.208-216
ISSN: 0006-3207Abstract Published here
Drayson K, Wood G, Thompson S, 'An evaluation of ecological impact assessment procedural effectiveness over time'
Environmental Science and Policy 70 (April) (2017) pp.54-66
ISSN: 1462-9011 eISSN: 1873-6416Abstract Published here Open Access on RADAR
Thompson S, Avent T, Doughty LS, 'Range Analysis and Terrain Preference of Adult Southern White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) in a South African Private Game Reserve: Insights into Carrying Capacity and Future Management'
PLoS ONE 11 (9) (2016)
ISSN: 1932-6203Abstract Published here Open Access on RADAR
Drayson K, Wood G, Thompson S, 'Assessing the quality of the ecological component of English Environmental Statements'
Journal of Environmental Management 160 (2015) pp.241-253
ISSN: 0301-4797 eISSN: 1095-8630Abstract Published here Open Access on RADAR
Doughty LS, Slater K, Zitzer H, Avent T, Thompson S, 'The impact of male contraception on dominance hierarchy and herd association patterns of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in a fenced game reserve'
Global Ecology and Conservation 2 (2014) pp.88-96
ISSN: 2351-9894Abstract Published here
Thompson S, Drayson K, 'Ecological mitigation measures in English Environmental Impact Assessment'
Journal of Environmental Management 119 (-) (2013) pp.103-110
ISSN: 0301-4797Abstract Published here
McHugh N, Thompson S, 'A rapid ecological network assessment tool and its use in locating habitat extension areas in a changing landscape'
Journal for Nature Conservation 19 (4) (2011) pp.236-244
ISSN: 1617-1381Abstract Published here
Davies B, Biggs J, Williams P, Thompson S, 'Making agricultural landscapes more sustainable for freshwater biodiversity: a case study from southern England'
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 19 (4) (2009) pp.439-447
ISSN: 1052-7613Abstract Published here
Davies B R, Biggs J, Williams P J, Lee J T, Thompson S, 'A comparison of the catchment sizes of rivers, streams, ponds, ditches and lakes: implications for protecting aquatic biodiversity in an agricultural landscape'
Hydrobiologia 597 (1) (2008) pp.7-17
ISSN: 0018-8158Abstract Published here
Smith D, Thompson S, Nekaris K, 'An assessment of conservation initiatives and priorities, and the habitat risks of human land use to the primates (colobinae, hylobatidae and pongidae) of Kalimantan'
Folia Primatologica 79 (5) (2008) pp.385-386
ISSN: 0015-5713 eISSN: 1421-9980
Lee JT, Bailey N, Thompson S, 'Using Geographical Information Systems to identify and target sites for creation and restoration of native woodlands: a case study of the Chiltern Hills, UK'
Journal of Environmental Management 64 (1) (2002) pp.25-34
ISSN: 0301-4797Abstract Published here
Memberships of professional bodies
- Full member of the International Association of Landscape Ecologists
- Trustee of the NGO Tourism Operators for Tigers
- Associate of the The Environment Bank
- NERC Highlights Panel Member 2015 - Critical Natural Capital