What do these:

and these have in common?

Well that is what my students found out today!

It’s getting towards the end of semester. Exams are coming up, coursework’s been handed in and people are knackered! My students had an in -class exam today, followed by a lecture so I thought for the group-work bit of the class I’d do something a little more fun.

The tragedy of the commons is a key bit of theory my students need to know, but it can be a little bit dry and the original paper is one you really have to wade through. In summary what it  is basically talking about is situations where you have a resource (e.g. a lake full of fish) that people have access to. One researcher, Hardin proposed in 1968 that in such situations people will always use the resource for short term gains, NOT long term sustainability. By this I mean they will take as many fish as they can now, rather than leaving some in the lake to reproduce for next year. He proposed that users of these types of “open access resources” (i.e. resources anyone can access), tend not to establish rules about how to use the resource and as such it will end up being depleted – this is the tragedy of the commons.

In contrast another group of researchers, Ostrom et al, in 1999, proposed that in situations like this the resource is never truly open access and that in fact there will be rules and regulations about who can use the resource and how. It recognises that one person’s actions will impact on other people’s. So in the lake example – you might have  a village of fishermen and it may be that only the older men are permitted to fish, and only in certain months. These resources are in effect communally owned which is why the rules exist.

So in order to get my students thinking about this, and to have some fun, we did a little bit of group work. They were divided into groups of 4 or 5. Each group represents a village of fishermen. Each village has a lake within which are enough fish for 4 per person (or smarties in this case!). If they go fishing and catch only 1 fish their family will starve. If they catch 2 their family will have enough food to survive until next year. I however they take 3 or 4 fish they can sell the surplus for money.

In the first round no one is allowed to communicate, so each “fisherman or woman” is acting indepently. The fishing season opens and in year one they are allowed to take 0 – 4 fish – it’s up to them how many they choose.

At the end of the first year of fishing we see how many fish (smarties!) are left in the lake. The fish then reproduce – so if there were 4 left they each reproduce resulting in 8 (hence the big bag of smarties!). Then the second year of fishing begins and once again they can take as many fish as they want to (up to 4).

This continues year by year until there are no fish in the lake.

Now the first time around, remember no one is allowed to talk to each other, so they’re all acting for themselves. What they very quickly find out is that the fish run out! In today’s example  – one group only had 2 years fishing before the lake was left with no fish, the other groups only got 3 years. Meanwhile some fishermen had starved and others had grown fat on the profit of excess fish sales. This is an example of the tragedy of the commons – people tend to act more selfishly which results in not only depletion of the resource but also social inequalities.

So in the next round they are now allowed to communicate and decide as a community how they want to operate the fishing and what people will be allowed to take. So the fishing starts again – back at year 1, but this time it takes a bit longer as everyone discusses how many fish to take….

After year 1 the fish reproduce again and we move to year 2 etc. Interestingly this time around everyone takes only 2 fish. So no one starves, and no one benefits from extra money from selling fish. As a result they can continue to fish well into year 5, 6, 7, etc (until I run out of smarties!) because the lake is now sustainable. They are taking enough fish to feed themselves but not so much that the populations is depleted. And of course there are no social inequalities – everyone is getting the same.

So as a result all the villages keep on fishing, every year – well until the very last year.. when they know it’s the end and all dive in for the smarties!

So this demonstrates Ostrom et al’s idea of common property resources. Everyone has access to the resource but they all have a stake in wanting that resource to be maintained. They’ve all seen the consequences of acting selfishly (they all starved after 3 years), so rules come in to play – only 2 fish can be taken by each person.

Now this was a bit of fun for the students, a chance to have a bit of a less intense class (and have some chocolate) but it does very nicely demonstrate the principles of these theories. So what? Well let’s have a think about this and how it might impact on us – the most obvious example that springs to mind is the North Sea Fisheries. There we have a potential open access resource which, aside from close to national coastlines, is basically a big free for all. One country takes all it can of one species, whilst others try to get more for their own country etc and what do we end up with? Massively depleted fish stocks. Now of course in national waters there are quotas and rules introduced (just like in round 2 of the exercise) which help to control fish stocks and try to maintain them…

This can be applied to a whole variety of conservation scenarios (and economic ones) and is a really important thing to consider when trying to manage resources and local people. The assumption that people will act altruistically when given the chance is generally wrong – most people tend to go for looking after themselves and their family in the here and now.

Anyway – something to think about and the students certainly seemed to enjoy it!

Bushmeat Trade – again!

Once again I was teaching my class about the bushmeat trade today. To follow on from the lecture about the bushmeat trade two weeks ago we had a groupwork session on it today. This is another great session as it’s a bit different and a bit of fun but really gets students thinking about the real-life issues that face people dealing with the bushmeat issue. In small groups they have to work together on a scenario. They have to agree how they will deal with the opening up of a new logging consession a fictional government want to open up. Each person represents a different stakeholder e.g. villagers, traders, the logging company, conservationists and the government. They have to work together to think about all the potential issues and conflicts and then come up with workable solutions to try to minimise the conflict for all stakeholders. I get them to draw up their plans on big sheets of paper. Once again it always stimulates lots of discussion and this year was no excpetion. They came up with some pretty interesting options too.

Finding solutions to the bushmeat trade problem is critical. Although habitat destruction is often hailed as the biggest threat to wildlife, hunting of wildlife for meat has become the most significant, immediate threat to wildlife conservation around the world. There have already been local extinctions of species in West Africa and parts of Asia. Many people view this as a crisis, particularly as hunting is now occurring in regions where it wasn’t previously widespread, mainly due to increased commercial logging. Logging opens up forests through the creation of roads and transport links which enable hunters to get their catches to markets from areas they weren’t previously able to reach. It isn’t just wildlife that suffers, it also threatens the livelihod of indigenous populations who traditionally relied on small-scale hunting and gathering for food. Commercial hunting is on a much larger scale and takes this resource away from these people. In addition there’s increasing evidence that the sipread of certain diseases such as Ebola and foot and mouth disease are linked to bushsmeat consumption. It’s therefore critical that conservation and development groups can come up with solutions to this problem. Many organisations, including WWF and the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force are working on this.
This is why I get my students to think about this and to think about it in terms of the real-life conflicts it produces. Here’s what they came up with:

I had the pleasure of teaching one of my favourite classes today. I teach an undergraduate module called “Human Resource Ecology”.  It’s all about humans and how they interact with the environment and looks at issues of how humans subsist and where conflicts arise. Today’s session was a lecture about the Bushmeat trade followed by a seminar on human-wildlife conflict.

The lecture is always interesting – it throws up some really interesting questions about the sustainability of bushmeat for communities that rely upon it. It also reminds the students that it’s not all about remote populations of hunter-gatherers but that actually bushmeat can form a major part of the economy in many Central and West-african countries.

People often forget that bushmeat hunting and trade brings not only food to hunter-gathering communities but also can bring money too. In fact studies have shown it can account for up to 90% of household income in parts of Cameroon. It’s not just the local communities that benefit though, taxi drivers who transport the meat to markets and market traders also benefit. Bushmeat is a luxury food item in many parts of Africa so it can be a lucrative trade.

However it’s pretty much impossible for bushmeat to be sustainable and if you care about wildlife conservation, which I do, then it’s very hard to defend. People have to eat but the majority of the bushmeat trade revolves around hunters and urban dwellers who do not rely on bushmeat as a food source and have plenty of other options. Bushmeat can only support a maximum of 1 person per square km of tropical forest. In most places population densities are far higher than that now so it’s only a matter of time until bushmeat supplies i.e. wild animal species, are hunted to extinction. This is a topic I’ll be exploring with my students in more detail in a couple of weeks time and it always stimulates excellent debate as it’s such an emotive issue. If you want to find out more – check out the UK Bushmeat Working Group.


The seminar part of today’s class was the really fun bit (at least in my humble opinion – and the students seem to enjoy it too…).  I get them to think about a specific issue of human-wildlife conflict – that of carnivores and people and we do a bit of a role play debate. The issue is the re-introduction of wolves to Scotland and the students are split into groups of the 3 main stakeholders – the NGO/charity who want to reintroduce the wolves, the local sheep farmers living in the area, and the local community. We then stage a “community meeting” where the NGO have to present their proposal to the local farmers and community. It’s such fun and really gets students thinking about the issues. Today was no exception. A fab group of students really got in to their roles – discussing the pro’s and con’s of such a scheme and how it might impact on local communities and livelihoods.  It’s a great way to get everyone engaged, sharing ideas and thinking about all the issues that surround these sorts of situations.



It’s not such a crazy idea either. The idea of reintroducing wolves to Scotland has been raised a number of times (you can read more here). It’s been argued that introducing wolves to Scotland again (where they’ve been extinct since the 1700’s) would help to control Red Deer numbers. Red Deer are very destructive to the native pine forests and currently expensive culling programmes are used to control them – wolves, it’s proposed, could do this job for free. Naturally though there are serious concerns from local farmers who are woried that their sheep would become prey for the wolves, and from local people who feel the safety of their children and pets would be at risk. Reintroduction of wolves is a long way off becoming reality, but other species reintroductions have taken place already – such as wild boar and beaver in parts of the UK so it’s certainly something that could happen and it will be extremely interesting to see how it develops.

What do you think about it?




I presented my research on Tuesday morning here at the Pathways to success: Integrating human dimensions in to wildlife management conference. There was a good audience and it seemed to go down really well. There were lots of questions and a lively discussion afterwards. It was so nice to be able to discuss my work with like-minded people and other conservationists working in the field.

I wouldn’t want you lot to feel left out so I managed to get someone to take some footage of the presentation. It was filmed on my iphone so the sound isn’t great but you can just about hear me if you turn up the volume. It’s the entire presentation and the questions. I’ve also uploaded the presentation slides with a voice over of the talk so you can see the talk in more detail.

There are some video clips in the presentation (easiest to see in the second video) which show the monkeys crop-raiding up close.

Here is the full talk:

And here are the slides with a voice over of the talk

I hope you enjoy them – do let me know what you think


So I’ve made it to Breckenridge, Colorado to the conference I told you about in my last post. It’s being held in a conference centre just outside of town right up in the Rockies. The scenery is beautiful and there is plenty if wildlife about (so I’m happy! 🙂 ). On the bus ride up here I saw buffalo, prairie dogs and big horn sheep and have seen some cool birds and a fox since arriving last night. The aspen are just turning so it’s really stunning and I’m looking forward to a walk in the forests at some point (if the weather doesn’t get too bad!)



So far it’s been really interesting. I’ve listened to some talks on human-big cat conflict in Kenya and India – studies trying to reduce retaliatory killings of lions and mapping of local tolerance to tigers (who have been attacking villagers). There’s also been a fascinating session about a project in Bolivia and how they have worked with local communities to help them conserve and manage their wildlife and forests.


There are so many enthusiastic, passionate and intelligent, like-minded people here – it’s fab!

There are plenty more sessions and talks to hear yet – can’t wait! 🙂 My talk is tomorrow morning so I’m hoping to get a good audience and a lively debate going! 🙂

The work I do in Buton not only has real-life, on the ground application but is also helping to advance the science of wildlife conservation and management.

So, although I’m only just back from Indonesia, I’m off to Colorado on Saturday (22nd) to present the work I’ve been doing in Buton for the past years at a conference that takes place every 2 years which focuses on human-wildlife conflict and it’s management:  Pathways to success: Integrating Human Dimensions into Fish and Wildlife Management

It should be a a really interesting 4 days. I’ve presented here before and it’s full of like-minded people working in conservation and wildlife management and the program  looks great so it should be fun 🙂

I’ll be giving my presentation on Tuesday 25th (this is my session)

So for a short while you’ll have a break from seeing more footage and info from my recent trip and instead I’ll be posting interesting (in my humble opinion 🙂 ) insights from the conference 🙂














The talk I’m giving is:

Buton Macaques (Macaca ochreata brunnescens): Crops, Conflict,and Behavior on Farms

One consequence of anthropogenic habitat alteration is that many nonhuman primates are forced into conflict interactions with humans and their livelihood activities, especially through crop raiding. These problems are particularly acute for the endemic and threatened Buton Island macaque (Macaca ochreata brunnescens), in southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. Our study investigated the crop raiding behavior of this species over time. Foods eaten and the behavioral repertoire exhibited by macaques during crop raiding at and inside farm perimeters were observed over a period of 8 years (2002-2009). Storage organ crops (e.g. sweet potato) were abundant and most frequently raided by macaques. Individual macaques were most commonly observed to raid close (0-10 m) to farm perimeters. Activities such as feeding, resting, moving, and social interaction varied significantly as a function of penetration distance into the farm, but only marginally between age-sex classes. The annual average raid frequency per farm decreased over the latter years of the study period, raising questions about changes in macaque foraging and ranging behavior over time and their response to farm management and mitigation strategies. Characterizing raiding behavior and understanding daily activity budgets are essential from a conservation perspective. Human-macaque interactions have yet to escalate into overt conflict at this study site as religious and traditional views on nonhumans promote some sense of co-existence. It is therefore vital that we help manage this rare instance of ‘‘tolerant” human-wildlife interaction before it reaches an escalated and crisis conflict situation.

I’m now back in the uk and before I start posting some other footage and photos I took whilst I was away I’d like to say a final thank you to everyone that supported this project this summer. I am so very grateful to everyone for all the donations 🙂 Your donations enabled me to: – run education workshops in 5 local schools for over 500 seven to eleven year olds all about monkeys, conservation and protecting the forests. Particular thanks to The Canning Trust for this element of the project.



– work with local communities to install netting around farmer’s fields to help prevent monkeys coming in to the farm and stealing crops. This reduces conflict with farmers and helps protect the monkeys. 25 farmers benefitted this year.

– Provide farmers in the village of Kawelli with chilli and vegetable seeds to plant in their farms. These crops aren’t damaged by monkeys so frequently so this helps to reduce conflict and protect the monkeys.

– Employ 6 local people for 9 weeks to track the monkeys in the forest. They collected data on home range, feeding, behaviour and group composition. This information is vital to monitor the population sizes of the macaques and to help create sustainable management plans to mitigate conflict with local people.

There is so much more to do but none of this would have been possible without your help so thank you!

You can read all about the monkeys and the school visits and the wildlife of the Island on my previous posts – just scroll down 🙂

Thank you thank you thank you! 🙂 xxx

If anyone wants to donate to the project you can do so here :

Help save the Buton Macaque!!

Every Step Fitness

With you every step of the way

Travel Gourmet

Travel tips-Restaurant reviews-Recipes (Formerly The Single Gourmet & Traveller blog)

The Holistic Ingredient

One woman's take on whole foods, clean living and boundless energy.


{salty wit + a sweet tooth}

Wuthering Bites

Simple Gluten Free recipes for any time of day.




This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees