Research excellence at the University of Kent

School of Anthropology and Conservation

The Research Excellence Framework also assesses the impact that the research has outside academia. The case studies below are a selection of the research submitted by the School of Anthropology and Conservation.

Protecting agricultural heritage systems

Professor Stuart Harrop

Traditional agricultural systems are often able to integrate sustainably with their environments, supporting a wealth of biodiversity. These characteristics are usually due to the long-evolved adaptation of rural communities to the environment.

Those recognised as ‘Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems’ (GIAHS) are supported by policies created by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. The measures are designed to protect these traditional landscapes along with the linked biodiversity, knowledge systems, livelihoods and cultures.

Stuart Harrop’s research provided the FAO with valuable advice on how international law and policy could protect GIAHS in many areas, including the intellectual property rights related to land management practices. His findings in this area continue to underpin the approach to the FAO’s most recent work, which uses existing legal and policy arrangements to protect these important landscapes and communities


Surveys of amphibians and reptiles

Professor Richard Griffiths

Innovative new survey protocols for amphibians and reptiles are already changing conservation and planning practice in the UK. Prior to Richard Griffiths’ research, survey protocols had changed little in 20 years. This issue was particularly pressing in the commercial sector, with developers spending up to £125 million a year to mitigate impacts on some species.

Using statistical models, Griffiths’ team determined the combination of survey visits and methods needed to obtain reliable data on population status. This resolved a long-standing debate within the fields of conservation and ecology and has made surveys significantly more cost-effective and reliable.

The protocols are being adopted into policy guidance in England, Wales and Scotland and will help to improve the management and conservation of important amphibian and reptile species.

Saving Species

Dr Jim Groombridge

Islands host a high proportion of global biodiversity and are important to evolutionary science. These ‘living laboratories’ also host many of the world’s rarest species, making them a global conservation priority.

Work by Jim Groombridge at Kent has identified that rare populations of birds and frogs on Mauritius and in the Seychelles have surprising levels of evolutionary distinctiveness. This led to them – and other island species – becoming a high priority for conservation efforts.

With his focus on evolutionary and molecular research, Groombridge uses innovative techniques within his work. For instance, one project involved sequencing the DNA of extinct species, relying on 200-year-old parrots that had been preserved as museum specimens. This helped to provide more information to protect an endangered species of parakeet on Mauritius.

Designing nature reserve networks

Dr Bob Smith


Identifying priority areas for conservation is an important global issue. However, much of the related research fails to account for the factors that lead to action on the ground.

Research by Bob Smith sought to address these limitations in conservation planning. Working with communities in South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique, a project, led by Smith, incorporated new data into a transnational conservation plan. It assessed possible reductions in farming opportunities, as well as the potential revenues from wildlife ranching. Combined with data on species and habitats, the study identified priority conservation areas that met biodiversity targets while protecting the livelihoods of local people.

Smith’s work has guided the development of 25,000 hectares of nature reserves, including a corridor that connects a previously fragmented elephant population. It has also been used by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund to identify priorities for its US$6.5 million funding programme.

Corporate Communications

The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T: +44 1227 764000

Last Updated: 11/02/2015

Banner photo (c) Simon Tollington, DICE