Dr Cristina Banks-Leite, Reader in Conservation Ecology

Dr Cristina Banks-Leite's work is about understanding what drives species decline and what happens to the environment when biodiversity changes. Her greatest achievement has been to influence policy in two different countries, helping protect biodiversity and ensuring a more sustainable use of nature.

"My interests are very much driven by my experiences in childhood. I was born and raised in Brazil, and grew up hearing stories from my family about gigantic anacondas, jaguars, dolphins. I grew with much nature and much environmental degradation around me. I also saw clearly the impact this has on people."

Cristina moved to the UK in 2010 when she took up a fellowship at Imperial and later moved to an academic position.

"Much has changed since my childhood and it’s often hard to be positive about the future of the environment, but it is ever more crucial to continue working, and to engage and inspire as many people as possible.

There are many theories and pieces of work that inspire me, but I try to not conflate the author with their work. Nobody is perfect, and people can be amazing scientists but have less than ideal views on other topics. In my opinion, academia would be a much better place if we stopped putting people on a pedestal and instead celebrated ideas.

I have been working on a big report on gender issues for the Department of Life Sciences and I have so many thoughts and feelings about the difficulties women face in the workplace. Things have definitely improved since I’ve started as an academic, but there is still much to change before we have real gender equity. My suggestion for early career women in science is to read about gender bias, racism and other forms of bias, because knowledge gives you power. Importantly, this knowledge will also allow you also to disrupt existing biases and will help you navigate uncomfortable situations you may encounter at work and in wider society."