School of Anthropology & Conservation

Excellence in diversity Global in reach



Dr Bob Smith

Reader in Conservation Science

Identifying priority conservation areas; protected areas; conservation and corruption; conservation and marketing


profile image for Dr Bob Smith

School Roles and Responsibilities

Director of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE)

Academic Background

My work as a conservation scientist has mainly focused on identifying priority areas for conservation and designing protected area networks. Much of this work has involved leading long-running projects in Southern Africa and the UK, but I have worked on projects in 22 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.

My research also encompasses a broad range of conservation topics, including understanding spatial patterns of deforestation and human-wildlife conflict. In particular, I have published seminal work on the influence of corruption in conservation and the role of marketing in conservation.

I am also an Honorary Senior Fellow at the United Nations Environment Programme – World Conservation Monitoring Centre, the Founder of the Izele online conservation social network, on the Editorial Board of the journal Oryx and a member of the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission and World Commission on Protected Areas Joint Task Force on Biodiversity and Protected Areas.


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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

D. Veríssimo, Campbell, H., Tollington, S., MacMillan, D., and Smith, R., "Why do people donate to conservation? Insights from a 'real world' campaign", PLOS ONE, vol. 13. p. e0191888, 2018 [Online]. Available:
J. McGowan, Smith, R., Di Marco, M., Clarke, R., and Possingham, H., "An Evaluation of Marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in the Context of Spatial Conservation Prioritization", Conservation Letters. Wiley, 2017 [Online]. Available:
I. Arroyo-Quiroz, García-Barrios, R., Argueta-Villamar, A., Smith, R., and Salcido, R., "Local perspectives on conflicts with wildlife and their management in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, Mexico", Journal of Ethnobiology, vol. 37. Society of Ethnobiology, pp. 719-742, 2017 [Online]. Available:
S. Katsanevakis, Mackelworth, P., Coll, M., Fraschetti, S., Mačić, V., Giakoumi, S., Jones, P., Levin, N., Albano, P., Badalamenti, F., Brennan, R., Claudet, J., Culibrk, D., D'Anna, G., Deidun, A., Evagelopoulos, A., García-Charton, J., Goldsborough, D., Holcer, D., Jimenez, C., Kark, S., Sørensen, T., Lazar, B., Martin, G., Mazaris, A., Micheli, F., Milner-Gulland, E., Pipitone, C., Portman, M., Pranovi, F., Rilov, G., Smith, R., Stelzenmüller, V., Vogiatzakis, I., and Winters, G., "Advancing marine conservation in European and contiguous seas with the MarCons Action", Research Ideas and Outcomes, vol. 3. p. e11884, 2017 [Online]. Available:
D. Biggs, Holden, M., Braczkowski, A., Cook, C., Milner-Gulland, E., Phelps, J., Scholes, R., Smith, R., Underwood, F., Adams, V., Allan, J., Brink, H., Cooney, R., Gao, Y., Hutton, J., Macdonald-Madden, E., Maron, M., Redford, K., Sutherland, W., and Possingham, H., "Breaking the deadlock on ivory", Science, vol. 358. pp. 1378-1381, 2017 [Online]. Available:
E. McIntosh, Pressey, R., Lloyd, S., Smith, R., and Grenyer, R., "The Impact of Systematic Conservation Planning", Annual Review of Environment and Resources, vol. 42. Annual Reviews, pp. 677-697, 2017 [Online]. Available:
D. Megias, Anderson, S., Smith, R., and Veríssimo, D., "Investigating the impact of media on demand for wildlife: A case study of Harry Potter and the UK trade in owls", PLOS ONE, vol. 12. Public Library of Science, p. e0182368, 2017 [Online]. Available:
D. Veríssimo, Vaughan, G., Ridout, M., Waterman, C., MacMillan, D., and Smith, R., "Increased conservation marketing effort has major fundraising benefits for even the least popular species", Biological Conservation, vol. 211. Elsevier, pp. 95-101, 2017 [Online]. Available:
A. Shwartz, Davies, Z., Macgregor, N., Crick, H., Clarke, D., Eigenbrod, F., Gonner, C., Hill, C., Knight, A., Metcalfe, K., Osborne, P., Phalan, B., and Smith, R., "Scaling up from protected areas in England: The value of establishing large conservation areas", Biological Conservation, vol. 212. Elsevier, pp. 279-287, 2017 [Online]. Available:
J. Bicknell, Collins, M., Pickles, R., McCann, N., Bernard, C., Fernandes, D., Miller, M., James, S., Williams, A., Struebig, M., Davies, Z., and Smith, R., "Designing protected area networks that translate international conservation commitments into national action", Biological Conservation, vol. 214. Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam., pp. 168-175, 2017 [Online]. Available:
H. Brink, Smith, R., Skinner, K., and Leader-Williams, N., "Sustainability and Long Term-Tenure: Lion Trophy Hunting in Tanzania", PLOS ONE, vol. 11. p. e0162610, 2016 [Online]. Available:
P. Visconti, Bakkenes, M., Smith, R., Joppa, L., and Sykes, R., "Socio-economic and ecological impacts of global protected area expansion plans", Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 370. The Royal Society, 2015 [Online]. Available:
S. Butchart, Clarke, M., Smith, R., Sykes, R., Scharlemann, J., Harfoot, M., Buchanan, G., Angulo, A., Balmford, A., Bertzky, B., Brooks, T., Carpenter, K., Comeros-Raynal, M., Cornell, J., Ficetola, G., Fishpool, L., Fuller, R., Geldmann, J., Harwell, H., Hilton-Taylor, C., Hoffmann, M., Joolia, A., Joppa, L., Kingston, N., May, I., Milam, A., Polidoro, B., Ralph, G., Richman, N., Rondinini, C., Segan, D., Skolnik, B., Spalding, M., Stuart, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Visconti, P., Watson, J., Wood, L., and Burgess, N., "Shortfalls and Solutions for Meeting National and Global Conservation Area Targets", Conservation Letters, vol. 8. Wiley, pp. 329-337, 2015 [Online]. Available:
M. Di Marco, Brooks, T., Cuttelod, A., Fishpool, L., Rondinini, C., Smith, R., Bennun, L., Butchart, S., Ferrier, S., Foppen, R., Joppa, L., Juffe-Bignoli, D., Knight, A., Lamoreux, J., Langhammer, P., May, I., Possingham, H., Visconti, P., Watson, J., and Woodley, S., "Quantifying the relative irreplaceability of important bird and biodiversity areas", Conservation Biology, vol. 30. Wiley, pp. 392-402, 2015 [Online]. Available:
M. Struebig, Wilting, A., Gaveau, D., Meijaard, E., Smith, R., Fischer, M., Metcalfe, K., and Kramer-Schadt, S., "Targeted Conservation to Safeguard a Biodiversity Hotspot from Climate and Land-Cover Change", Current Biology, vol. 25. Elsevier, pp. 372-378, 2015 [Online]. Available:
C. Gardner, Raxworthy, C., Metcalfe, K., Raselimanana, A., Smith, R., and Davies, Z., "Comparing Methods for Prioritising Protected Areas for Investment: A Case Study Using Madagascar's Dry Forest Reptiles", PLOS ONE, vol. 10. p. e0132803, 2015 [Online]. Available:
R. Smith, Biggs, D., St. John, F., 't Sas-Rolfes, M., and Barrington, R., "Elephant conservation and corruption beyond the ivory trade", Conservation Biology, vol. 29. pp. 953-956, 2015 [Online]. Available:
K. Metcalfe, Vaughan, G., Vaz, S., and Smith, R., "Spatial, socio-economic, and ecological implications of incorporating minimum size constraints in marine protected area network design", Conservation Biology, vol. 29. Wiley, pp. 1615-1625, 2015 [Online]. Available:
S. Willis, Foden, W., Baker, D., Belle, E., Burgess, N., Carr, J., Doswald, N., Garcia, R., Hartley, A., Hof, C., Newbold, T., Rahbek, C., Smith, R., Visconti, P., Young, B., and Butchart, S., "Integrating climate change vulnerability assessments from species distribution models and trait-based approaches", Biological Conservation, vol. 190. Elsevier, pp. 167-178, 2015 [Online]. Available:
D. Baker, Hartley, A., Burgess, N., Butchart, S., Carr, J., Smith, R., Belle, E., and Willis, S., "Assessing climate change impacts for vertebrate fauna across the West African protected area network using regionally appropriate climate projections", Diversity and Distributions, vol. 21. pp. 991-1003, 2015 [Online]. Available:
K. Metcalfe, Vaz, S., Engelhard, G., Villanueva, M., Smith, R., and Mackinson, S., "Evaluating conservation and fisheries management strategies by linking spatial prioritization software and ecosystem and fisheries modelling tools", Journal of Applied Ecology, vol. 52. Wiley, pp. 665-674, 2015 [Online]. Available:
D. Veríssimo, MacMillan, D., Smith, R., Crees, J., and Davies, Z., "Has climate change taken prominence over biodiversity conservation?", Bioscience, vol. 64. American Institute of Biological Science, pp. 625-629, 2014 [Online]. Available:
O. Venter, Fuller, R., Segan, D., Carwardine, J., Brooks, T., Butchart, S., Di Marco, D., Iwamura, T., Joseph, L., O'Grady, D., Possingham, H., Rondinini, C., Smith, R., Venter, M., and Watson, J., "Targeting Global Protected Area Expansion for Imperiled Biodiversity", PLoS Biology. Public Library of Science, 2014 [Online]. Available:
D. Veríssimo, Pongiluppi, T., Santos, M., Develey, P., Fraser, I., Smith, R., and MacMillan, D., "Using a Systematic Approach to Select Flagship Species for Bird Conservation", Conservation Biology, vol. 28. Wiley, pp. 269-277, 2014 [Online]. Available:
T. Humle, Duffy, R., Roberts, D., Sandbrook, C., St. John, F., and Smith, R., "Biology's drones: undermined by fear", Science, vol. 344. Amer Assoc, pp. 1351-1351, 2014 [Online]. Available:
E. Di Minin, Hunter, L., Balme, G., Smith, R., Goodman, P., and Slotow, R., "Creating Larger and Better Connected Protected Areas Enhances the Persistence of Big Game Species in the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Biodiversity Hotspot", PLoS ONE, vol. 8. p. e71788, 2013 [Online]. Available:
D. Veríssimo, Fraser, I., Girão, W., Campos, A., Smith, R., and MacMillan, D., "Evaluating Conservation Flagships and Flagship Fleets", Conservation Letters, vol. 7. Wiley, pp. 263-270, 2013 [Online]. Available:
K. Metcalfe, Roberts, T., Smith, R., and Harrop, S., "Marine conservation science and governance in North–West Europe: Conservation planning and international law and policy", Marine Policy, vol. 39. Elsevier, pp. 289-295, 2013 [Online]. Available:
E. McCreless, Carwardine, J., Visconti, P., Wilcox, C., and Smith, R., "Cheap and Nasty? The Potential Perils of Using Management Costs to Identify Global Conservation Priorities", PLoS ONE, vol. 8. p. e80893, 2013 [Online]. Available:
H. Brink, Smith, R., and Skinner, K., "Methods for lion monitoring: a comparison from the Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania", African Journal of Ecology, vol. 51. Wiley, pp. 366-375, 2013 [Online]. Available:
K. Metcalfe, Delavenne, J., Garcia, C., Foveau, A., Dauvin, J., Coggan, R., Vaz, S., Harrop, S., and Smith, R., "Impacts of data quality on the setting of conservation planning targets using the species-area relationship", Diversity and Distributions, vol. 19. pp. 1-13, 2013 [Online]. Available:
D. Veríssimo, Barua, M., Jepson, P., MacMillan, D., and Smith, R., "Selecting marine invertebrate flagship species: Widening the net", Biological Conservation, vol. 145. p. , 2012 [Online]. Available:
J. Delavenne, Metcalfe, K., Smith, R., Vaz, S., Martin, C., Dupuis, L., Coppin, F., and Carpentier, A., "Systematic conservation planning in the eastern English Channel: comparing the Marxan and Zonation decision-support tools", ICES Journal of Marine Science, vol. 69. pp. 75-83, 2012 [Online]. Available:
R. Smith, Veríssimo, D., Isaac, N., and Jones, K., "Identifying Cinderella species: uncovering mammals with conservation flagship appeal", Conservation Letters, vol. 5. Wiley, pp. 205-212, 2012 [Online]. Available:
D. Veríssimo, MacMillan, D., and Smith, R., "Marketing diversity: a response to Joseph and colleagues", Conservation Letters, vol. 4. pp. 326-327, 2011 [Online]. Available:
B. Nhancale and Smith, R., "The influence of planning unit characteristics on the efficiency and spatial pattern of systematic conservation planning assessments", Biodiversity and Conservation, vol. 20. pp. 1821-1835, 2011 [Online]. Available:
A. Knight, Sarkar, S., Smith, R., Strange, N., and Wilson, K., "Engage the hodgepodge: management factors are essential when prioritizing areas for restoration and conservation action", Diversity and Distributions, vol. 17. pp. 1234-1238, 2011 [Online]. Available:
D. Veríssimo, MacMillan, D., and Smith, R., "Toward a systematic approach for identifying conservation flagships", Conservation Letters, vol. 4. pp. 1-8, 2011 [Online]. Available:
A. Knight, Grantham, H., Smith, R., McGregor, G., Possingham, H., and Cowling, R., "Land managers' willingness-to-sell defines conservation opportunity for protected area expansion", Biological Conservation, vol. 144. pp. 2623-2630, 2011 [Online]. Available:
R. Smith, Monadjem, A., Magagula, C., and Mahlaba, T., "Conservation planning and viability: problems associated with identifying priority sites in Swaziland using species list data", African Journal of Ecology, vol. 48. pp. 709-717, 2010 [Online]. Available:
R. Smith, Di Minin, E., Linke, S., Segan, D., and Possingham, H., "An approach for ensuring minimum protected area size in systematic conservation planning", Biological Conservation, vol. 143. pp. 2525-2531, 2010 [Online]. Available:
J. Carwardine, Wilson, K., Hajkowicz, S., Smith, R., Klein, C., Watts, M., and Possingham, H., "Conservation Planning when Costs Are Uncertain", Conservation Biology, vol. 24. pp. 1529-1537, 2010.
M. Linkie, Rood, E., and Smith, R., "Modelling the effectiveness of enforcement strategies for avoiding tropical deforestation in Kerinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra", Biodiversity and Conservation, vol. 19. pp. 973-984, 2010 [Online]. Available:
C. Martin, Carpentier, A., Vaz, S., Coppin, F., Curet, L., Dauvin, J., Delavenne, J., Dewarumez, J., Dupuis, L., Engelhard, G., Ernande, B., Foveau, A., Garcia, C., Gardel, L., Harrop, S., Just, R., Koubbi, P., Lauria, V., Meaden, G., Morin, J., Ota, Y., Rostiaux, E., Smith, R., Spilmont, N., Verin, Y., Villanueva, C., and Warembourg, C., "The Channel habitat atlas for marine resource management (CHARM): an aid for planning and decision-making in an area under strong anthropogenic pressure", Aquatic Living Resources, vol. 22. pp. 499-508, 2009 [Online]. Available:
R. Smith, Veríssimo, D., Leader-Williams, N., Cowling, R., and Knight, A., "Let the locals lead", Nature, vol. 462. pp. 280-281, 2009 [Online]. Available:
R. Smith, Eastwood, P., Ota, Y., and Rogers, S., "Developing best practice for using Marxan to locate Marine Protected Areas in European waters", ICES Journal of Marine Science, vol. 66. Oxford Journals, OUP, pp. 188-194, 2009 [Online]. Available:
G. Shannon, Matthews, W., Page, B., Parker, G., and Smith, R., "The affects of artificial water availability on large herbivore ranging patterns in savanna habitats: a new approach based on modelling elephant path distributions", Diversity and Distributions, vol. 15. pp. 776-783, 2009 [Online]. Available:
R. Smith, Easton, J., Nhancale, B., Armstrong, A., Culverwell, J., Dlamini, S., Goodman, P., Loffler, L., Matthews, W., Monadjem, A., Mulqueeny, C., Ngwenya, P., Ntumi, C., Soto, B., and Leader-Williams, N., "Designing a transfrontier conservation landscape for the Maputaland centre of endemism using biodiversity, economic and threat data", Biological Conservation, vol. 141. Elsevier, pp. 2127-2138, 2008 [Online]. Available:
Book section
Y. Reecht, Gasche, L., Lehuta, S., Vaz, S., Smith, R., Mahévas, S., and Marchal, P., "Toward a Dynamical Approach for Systematic Conservation Planning of Eastern English Channel Fisheries", in Marine Productivity: Perturbations and Resilience of Socio-ecosystems, H. -J. Ceccaldi, Hénocque, Y., Koike, Y., Komatsu, T., Stora, G., and Tusseau-Vuillemin, M. -H., Eds. Springer International Publishing, 2015, pp. 175-185 [Online]. Available:
R. Smith, "Conducting systematic conservation planning in the terrestrial environment: a Maputaland case study", in Conservation Biogeography, R. J. Ladle and Whittaker, R. J., Eds. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2011, pp. 145-146.
R. Smith, Adams, W., and Leader-Williams, N., "Another entangled bank: making conservation trade-offs more explicit", in Trade-offs in Conservation: Deciding What to Save, N. Leader-Williams, Adams, W. M., and Smith, R. J., Eds. London: Blackwell, 2010, pp. 365-376.
N. Leader-Williams, Adams, W., and Smith, R., "Deciding what to save: trade-offs in conservation", in Trade-offs in Conservation: Deciding What to Save, N. Leader-Williams, Adams, W. M., and Smith, R. J., Eds. London: Blackwell, 2010, pp. 3-13.
R. Smith, Veríssimo, D., and MacMillan, D., "Marketing and conservation: how to lose friends and influence people", in Trade-offs in Conservation: Deciding What to Save, N. Leader-Williams, Adams, W. M., and Smith, R. J., Eds. London: Blackwell, 2010, pp. 215-232.
M. Linkie and Smith, R., "Measuring the effectiveness of conservation spending", in Conservation Biology For All, N. S. Sodhi and Ehrlich, P. R., Eds. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 291-292.
N. Leader-Williams, Baldus, R., and Smith, R., "The influence of corruption on the conduct of recreational hunting", in Recreational Hunting, Conservation and Rural Livelihoods: science and practice, B. Dickson, Hutton, J., and Adams, B., Eds. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, pp. 296-316.
Showing 55 of 72 total publications in KAR. [See all in KAR]

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I convene and teach on the Masters Module DI841 Managing Protected Areas.

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Identifying priority areas for conservation

The majority of my research focuses on designing protected area networks and conservation landscapes using the systematic conservation planning approach, with recent projects on Guyana, South Korea and West Africa. I also run two long-term projects that: (a) work with local partners to design a transnational conservation planning system for the Maputaland Centre of Endemism, a region that falls within Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland, and; (b) involve collaborating with Natural England to investigate the trade-offs between different approaches for creating large conservation areas.

I am also interested in the broader aspects of identifying priority areas and my research has informed policy and practice at the local and global scale. I have published work on the importance of local involvement in conservation planning and I am collaborating with a range of partners on a project to identify trends and gaps in the global protected area network. I am also involved in a project led by the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and the Species Survival Commission (SSC) to update the Key Biodiversity Area approach for identifying priority areas.

Systematic conservation planning software

I have developed two software packages for identifying priority conservation areas and designing conservation landscapes and seascapes:

  • CLUZ (Conservation Land-Use Zoning software) is a user-friendly QGIS plugin for the Marxan conservation planning software that also lets people develop and modify plans on-screen. The CLUZ homepage is here.
  • MinPatch lets users design viable protected area networks, where each protected area is larger than a specified minimum size threshold. It modifies outputs from the Marxan conservation planning software. The MinPatch homepage is here.

Corruption and conservation

My work on conservation and corruption initially focused on broad trends and the potential impacts of corruption on conservation project effectiveness. More recently I have published on the potential impacts of corruption on elephant conservation. In 2016, I co-organised a workshop together with Transparency International and WWF as part of the inaugural meeting of the Network for Countering Conservation-related Corruption.

Large mammal conservation

My work in Africa has also focused on large mammal conservation and I am particularly interested in human-wildlife conflict and understanding the spatial and anthropogenic factors that determine conservation success.

Marketing and conservation

I am interested in how marketing is used in conservation and the role of flagship species for raising funds and awareness. As part of this work I led a project that developed the concept of “Cinderella Species”, which are aesthetically appealing but currently overlooked species that could be used in future flagship species campaigns.

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Current PhD students

  • Gwili Gibbon, DICE: Understanding elephant habitat use and impacts in Kenya's montane forests
  • Thirza Loffeld, DICE: Professional Development in Wildlife Conservation: identifying gaps and barriers from case studies in developing countries (co-supervisor)
  • Trang Nguyen, DICE. The impact of Traditional Chinese Medicine on African Wildlife: The role of East Asian immigrants (co-supervisor)
  • Jack Slattery, DICE: Feasibility of reintroducing the red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) to Kent
  • Claire Stewart, DICE: Modelling future scenarios for conservation land-use in England
  • Rachel Sykes, DICE. Measuring the effectiveness of the global protected area network: how much is enough and how close are we?
  • Lydia Tiller, DICE. Understanding how land-use change in the Transmara District in Kenya is driving human-elephant conflict and elephant movement
  • Laura Thomas-Walters, DICE: Social marketing and behaviour change for demand reduction in wildlife trade

Previous PhD Students

  • Dr Henry Brink (2010). Hunting for sustainability: lion conservation in Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania.
  • Dr Mark Darmaraj (2012). Conservation and ecology of tigers in a logged-primary forest mosaic in Peninsular Malaysia.
  • Dr Juliette Delavenne (2012). Conservation of marine habitats under multiple human uses. Methods, objectives and constraints to optimize a Marine Protected Areas network in the Eastern English Channel
  • Dr Nico Galvez (2016). Conservation of elusive forest carnivores: effects of fragmentation on the small felid güiña or kodkod (Leopardus guigna) in the temperate forest of Southern Chile
  • Dr Winnie Kiiru (2012). Understanding the spatial, temporal and socio-economic factors affecting human-elephant conflict around Amboseli National Park in Kenya
  • Dr Barney Long (2005). Identification of priority areas for integrated conservation management in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam.
  • Dr Kristian Metcalfe (2013). Investigating the biological and socio-economic impacts of potential marine protected area networks in the Eastern English Channel.
  • Dr Bruno Nhancale (2011). Strengthening the Maputaland systematic conservation planning system.
  • Dr Diogo Veríssimo (2013). Advancing the flagship concept through conservation marketing,.
  • Dr Charlotte Walters (2014). Present and future conservation of European bats.
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School of Anthropology and Conservation, Marlowe Building, The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NR, T: +44 (0)1227 827056

Last Updated: 12/12/2017