Congratulations to Dr Lydia Tiller
9th April 2018
Huge congratulations to Dr Lydia Tiller who successfully passed her viva voce after being a research student at DICE for the past four years. Her thesis, supervised by Dr Bob Smith and Dr Tatyana Humle, was entitled ‘Understanding how land-use change in the Trans-Mara District in Kenya is driving human-elephant conflict and elephant movement.’
The Trans-Mara District (2,900 km²) in Narok County, Kenya, neighbours the world-famous Masai Mara National Reserve and is an important dispersal area for elephants (Loxodonta africana) and other wildlife. Wildlife is attracted to the area due to Nyekweri Forest, which holds important resources including salt licks. The Mara and Trans-Mara are linked by >25 natural pathways which enable seasonal migration of elephants. However, unlike the Masai Mara, the Trans-Mara is unprotected and experiences high levels of habitat transformation through land clearing. The area also has high agricultural potential and a growing human population. Encroachment of agricultural land has destroyed and fragmented elephant habitat and increased conflict with local farmers, predominantly through crop-raiding. Crop-raiding has highly negative impacts on local farmers and creates fear and anger towards elephants, further intensifying conflict and resulting in retributive killing.
In her research, Dr Tiller studied land-use change in the area and looked at the impact of large-scale human influx into elephant areas, whilst monitoring elephant movement patterns. Her research has proved crucial to properly understand and manage human-elephant conflict and to ensure effective future land-use planning. Since submitting her PhD thesis in December, Dr Tiller has been working as the Research and Science Manager for the Human-Elephant Coexistence programme at Save The Elephants, based in Tsavo, Kenya.