School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Event items

Understanding the role of social factors in environmental decision making

Biology Seminar Series - Dr Sam Sinclair, Imperial College London

Date/Time: Wednesday 31 October 2018, 13:00 - 14:00

Venue: Lecture Theatre C, Dental School


Conservation scientists have engaged with decision makers across the globe in an attempt to manage humanity’s impact on the environment.

Spatial tools such as conservation planning have been used to communicate and mainstream biodiversity.

Yet there is increasing awareness of the importance of the social aspects of decision making and the need to address the complexity of these processes in practice.

This study of the realities of South African environmental impact assessment advances our understanding of the role of social factors in environmental decision-making.

Through the use of qualitative approaches, the motivations of stakeholders are explored, and a system level view is taken to understand what governs this process in practice.

These findings are then used to provide insights into how conservation organisations can practically achieve influence.

These findings are then used to indicate consequences for conservation planning, biodiversity offsetting, EIA and conservation scientists who wish to engage with government decision making across the world.


I studied Biology for my undergrad in Bristol. I then rapidly got interested in conservation and did the Conservation Science Msc at Imperial College.

My early career was spent living in remote locations across Africa where I worked closely with local people to find ways help them coexist with wildlife and manage their natural resources.

I worked in 9 African countries over 5 years, working with a range of NGOs and governments. I worked on a broad range of topics, from anti-poaching, to land use planning and species surveys.

Since then I have taken the lessons I learnt about the realities of conservation practice and studied how societies make decisions about their environments.

I recently completed my PhD at Imperial College London with E.J. Milner-Gulland. I worked with the South African government to examine the realities of decision-making processes.

In particular, I looked at environmental impact assessment and conservation plans.

I focused on understanding the social mechanisms that surround decision making processes with the aim of improving the influence of scientific evidence across society.

Since finishing my PhD I have started a consultancy, called Biodiversify. We work with a range of governments, NGOs and private businesses to tackle complex, real-world problems usually related to biodiversity.