Imperial College London


Faculty of Natural SciencesCentre for Environmental Policy

Research Associate







502Weeks BuildingSouth Kensington Campus





Publication Type

7 results found

Pienkowski T, Keane A, Castell√≥ y Tickell S, de Lange E, Hazenbosch M, Khanyari M, Arlidge WNS, Baranyi G, Brittain S, Kapoor V, Mohan V, Papworth S, Ravi R, Smit IPJ, Milner-Gulland EJet al., 2023, Supporting conservationists’ mental health through better working conditions, Conservation Biology, Vol: 37, ISSN: 0888-8892

Biodiversity conservation work can be challenging but rewarding, with potential consequences for conservationists’ mental health. Yet, little is known about patterns of mental health among conservationists and its associated workplace protective and risk factors. A better understanding might help improve working conditions, supporting conservationists’ job satisfaction, productivity, and engagement, while reducing costs from staff turnover, absenteeism, and presenteeism. We surveyed 2311 conservation professionals working across 122 countries, asking about experiences of psychological distress, working conditions, and personal characteristics. Over half were from and worked in Europe and North America, and most had university-level education, were in desk-based academic and practitioner roles, and responded in English. Heavy workload, job demands, and organizational instability were linked to higher distress, but job stability and satisfaction with one's contributions to conservation were associated with lower distress. Respondents with low dispositional and conservation-specific optimism, poor physical health, limited social support, women, and early-career professionals were most at risk in our sample. Our results flag important risk factors that employers could consider, though further research is needed among groups under-represented in our sample. We suggest ways employers and others might promote the positives and manage the risks of working in the sector, potentially supporting conservationists’ mental health and abilities to protect nature.

Journal article

Pienkowski T, Keane A, de Lange E, Kapoor V, Khanyari M, Ravi R, Smit IPJ, Castelló y Tickell S, Hazenbosch M, William ANS, Baranyi G, Brittain S, Papworth S, Saxena S, Hout V, Milner-Gulland EJet al., 2023, Psychological distress and workplace risk inequalities among conservation professionals, Conservation Science and Practice, Vol: 5, ISSN: 2578-4854

Workplaces can be sources of both stress and support, affecting employees' mental health and productivity. Yet, little research has investigated variability in workplace risk factors for poor mental health in conservation. We aimed to explore how patterns of psychological distress—a state of emotional disturbance—and associated workplace risk factors vary between conservation job roles. Working with three case study organizations in India, South Africa, and Cambodia, we surveyed 280 field-based, office-based, and research staff. Moderate or severe psychological distress was reported by 28.9%. Field-based practitioners reported a greater imbalance between workplace efforts and rewards (0.35 standard deviation (SD), 95% credibility interval (CI) 0.03–0.67) than their colleagues, which was associated with greater psychological distress (0.24 SD, 95% CI 0.10–0.39). After controlling for this mediated relationship, researchers reported greater psychological distress than field-based practitioners (0.37 SD, 95% CI 0.02–0.72). However, when accounting for all direct and indirect effects, there was no overall difference in distress between roles. Employers, funders, professional societies, and other institutions seeking to support conservationists' mental health should understand and offer support tailored to role-specific challenges. Doing so might enhance conservationists' wellbeing while strengthening their ability to reverse global nature loss.

Journal article

Pienkowski T, Kiik L, Catalano A, Hazenbosch M, Izquierdo-Tort S, Khanyari M, Kutty R, Martins C, Nash F, Saif O, Sandbrook Cet al., 2022, Recognizing reflexivity among conservation practitioners, Conservation Biology, Vol: 37, Pages: 1-12, ISSN: 0888-8892

When deciding how to conserve biodiversity, practitioners navigate diverse missions, sometimes conflicting approaches, and uncertain trade-offs. These choices are based not only on evidence, funders’ priorities, stakeholders’ interests, and policies but also on practitioners’ personal experiences, backgrounds, and values. Recent scholarly literature has called for greater “reflexivity” – an individual or group's ability to examine themselves in relation to their actions and interactions with others – in conservation science. But what role does reflexivity play in conservation practice? Here, we explore how self-reflection can shape how individuals and groups conserve nature. We provide examples of reflexivity in conservation practice by drawing on a year-long series of workshop discussions, online exchanges, conversations with ten experts, peer-reviewed and grey literature, and our own experiences. We find that reflexivity among practitioners spans individual and collective levels and informal and formal settings. Reflexivity may also encompass diverse themes, including practitioners’ values, emotional struggles, social identities, training, cultural backgrounds, and experiences of success and failure. However, reflexive processes have limitations, dangers, and costs; both informal and institutionalized reflexivity requires allocation of limited time and resources, can be hard to put into practice, and alone cannot solve conservation challenges. Yet, when intentionally undertaken, reflexive processes might be integrated into adaptive management cycles at multiple points, helping conservationists and organizations better reach their goals. Reflexivity could also play a more transformative role in conservation, motivating practitioners to re-evaluate their goals and methods entirely. Ultimately, we highlight how reflexivity might help the conservation movement imagine and thus work towards a better world for wildlife, pe

Journal article

Pienkowski T, Keane A, Castello y Tickell S, Hazenbosch M, Arlidge WNS, Baranyi G, Brittain S, de Lange E, Khanyari M, Papworth S, Milner-Gulland EJet al., 2022, Balancing making a difference with making a living in the conservation sector, CONSERVATION BIOLOGY, Vol: 36, ISSN: 0888-8892

Journal article

Pienkowski T, Keane A, de Lange E, Khanyari M, Arlidge WNS, Baranyi G, Brittain S, Tickell SCY, Hazenbosch M, Papworth S, Milner-Gulland EJet al., 2022, Personal traits predict conservationists' optimism about outcomes for nature, CONSERVATION LETTERS, Vol: 15, ISSN: 1755-263X

Journal article

Booth H, Ramdlan MS, Hafizh A, Wongsopatty K, Mourato S, Pienkowski T, Adrianto L, Milner-Gulland EJet al., 2021, Designing locally-appropriate conservation incentives for small-scale fishers

<p>Large, long-lived marine animals (‘marine megafauna’) are amongst the world’s most threatened taxa, primarily due to overfishing. Reducing fisheries’ impacts on marine megafauna is particularly challenging in small-scale fisheries (SSFs), where endangered species can have important consumptive use values. Payments for ecosystem services (PES) have been proposed as a potential solution, but there is a lack of empirical data on if and how they might work in this context. We present a novel combination of methods – scenario interviews with contingent valuation (CV) – for exploring and designing locally-appropriate PES schemes, and apply these methods to investigate how different types of incentives might influence fisher behaviour and mortality of Critically Endangered taxa in two case study SSFs in Indonesia. Fishers almost unanimously supported positive performance-based incentives: 98% and 96% of fishers would stop landing hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna spp.) and wedgefish (Rhynchobatus spp.), respectively, in contrast to 1% and 6% under a business-as-usual scenario, and 52% and 46% in response to a negative incentive (fine). CV results showed that an incentive-based scheme for catch mitigation of all hammerheads and wedgefish across both sites could cost US$71,408 - 235,927 annually, and save up to 18,500 and 2,140 individuals, respectively. This study provides empirical evidence that PES could offer a cost-effective and socially-just approach for marine conservation in SSFs, and offers a scalable method for designing locally-appropriate investment-ready schemes, which could support the delivery of global policy goals such as net positive outcomes for marine biodiversity and a sustainable and equitable blue economy.</p>

Journal article

Pienkowski T, Keane A, Kinyanda E, Knizek BL, Asiimwe C, Muhanguzi G, Milner-Gulland EJet al., 2021, The role of nature conservation and commercial farming in psychological distress among rural Ugandans

<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:p>Mental illness is a leading contributor to the global burden of disease, but there is limited understanding of how it is influenced by socio-ecological context, particularly in the global south. We asked how interactions with ecological systems influence stressors associated with psychological distress in a rural Ugandan case study. We conducted and thematically analyzed 45 semi-structured interviews with residents of Nyabyeya Parish, Masindi District. Our results suggest that poverty and food insecurity were the primary reported causes of <jats:italic>“thinking too much”</jats:italic> and related idioms of psychological distress. The expansion of commercial agriculture may have been associated with the contraction of subsistence farming, reportedly exacerbating poverty and food insecurity among poorer households but contributing incomes to wealthier ones. Furthermore, households bordering a conservation area reported that crop losses from wildlife contributed to food insecurity. However, forest resources were important safety nets for those facing poverty and food insecurity. Our study suggests how two globally prevalent land uses – commercial agriculture and nature conservation – may influence social determinants of psychological distress in our study area. Psychological distress does not necessarily imply mental disorder. Nonetheless, exploring socially-mediated interactions with ecosystems may help explain the etiology of psychological distress. Furthermore, we suggest opportunities to manage socio-ecological systems to support mental health, such as promoting equitable access and control of livelihood resources. We also highlight co-benefits and trade-offs between global sustainability goals that could be managed for mental health, and why these should be recognized in the anticipated ‘New Deal for Nature.’</jats:p><jats:sec><jats:title>H

Journal article

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