School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Niki Rust

Research Associate


As an environmental social scientist, I study sustainable food systems where I work to understand what prompts people to be more (or less) sustainable. I'm interested in the barriers and enablers for farmers to try more sustainable agricultural practices and for consumers to eat more sustainable food. I use mixed methods and qualitative approaches to understand the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of people to find out what drives them to do what they do.

Skilled in strategic communications, I use the power of words and photos to engage, inspire and inform. My written communication portfolio spans academic publications such as journal articles and book chapters to press articles for the general public and science communication on Twitter. I have given oral evidence at the House of Commons, fed into multiple policy consultations and authored numerous policy briefings and letters to Ministers. I am a trained media spokesperson and some of my TV and radio interviews can be found here. I have provided training workshops to academics in effective science communication. Please do get in touch if you need to speak to a nature conservation expert or you are interested in receiving scicomm training.



  • PhD in Biodiversity Management, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent, UK, 2012-2015
  • MSc in Conservation Biology, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent, UK, 2010-2011
  • BSc in Zoology at Cardiff University, UK, 2002-2005



2019: Consultant, Luc Hoffmann Institute, UK

2018 onwards: Research Associate, Newcastle University, UK

2016-2018: Technical Adviser in Wildlife, WWF, UK

2016: Postdoctoral Researcher, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, USA

2015: Sustainability Science Manager, Compassion in World Farming, UK

2015: Systematic reviewer, International Institute for Environment and Development, UK

2014-present: Freelance journalist and science communicator

2011-2012: Ecologist, Cheetah Conservation Fund, Namibia

2009-2010: Conservation and Communications Associate, BirdLife Malta, Malta

Service to profession:

  • Expert Adviser, Population Matters, 2019-present
  • Strategic communications manager, IUCN's Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group, 2019
  • Chairman of the board of trustees for the Tulsi Foundation, 2018-present
  • Handling Editor at Conservation Biology2018-present 
  • Handling Editor at Journal of Population and Sustainability, 2018-present 
  • Member of Society for Conservation Biology' Social Science Working Group, 2014-present
  • Member of IUCN Species Survival Commission and the Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group, 2016-present 
  • Mentor of WWF staff, 2016-2018
  • Member of Society for Conservation Biology's Diets, Health and Conservation group, 2015-2018
  • Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime member, 2016-2018
  • Wildlife & Countryside Link ‘Wildlife Crime’ member, 2016-2018
  • Grant reviewer, British Ecological Society, 2016-2017
  • Pathways Human Dimensions of Wildlife Conference Adviser, 2014-2015
  • Board member, Waterberg Conservancy community-based conservation management, 2011 –2012
  • Board member, Namibian Protected Landscape Initiative (NAMPLACE), 2011 –2012
  • Board member, Large Carnivore Management Association of Namibia, 2011 – 2012


At Newcastle University, I am working on a number of global and European environmental projects including two large EU Horizon 2020 grants (Soilcare and SolAce) and a Defra Sustainable Intensification scoping study, which aim to help improve the sustainability of food production. I am also working on a number of multi-stakeholder projects looking into how we can transition towards more sustainable diets.

Working across multiple European countries and with a wide variety of partners from different sectors, I use qualitative and mixed-method participatory research approaches to understand the barriers and enablers for adopting more sustainable agricultural practices and food consumption. Using a multi-actor approach, I’m involved in stakeholder engagement, communication and dissemination strategies to ensure the results of our research are locally applicable and acceptable.

My research interests and experience include:
  • sustainable agriculture and diets, 
  • socio-ecological systems, 
  • political ecology,
  • systems thinking,
  • human-wildlife conflict, 
  • legal and illegal wildlife trade,
  • carnivore conservation, 
  • community-based conservation, 
  • sustainable use of natural resources,
  • participatory methods,
  • science communication. 

I make sure my research is collaborative so that the end result is useful, applicable and is designed for full impact. Do get in touch if you'd like to work with me.


I am a course lecturer on ACE8101 on Food Security, organised by Dr Julia Cooper, and on the Coupled Human and Natural Systems course organised by Marion Pfiffer. I also contribute to the Science Communications course for the Faculty of Medical Sciences.

I am supervising a number of undergraduate and postgraduate students on topics related to sustainable agrifood systems, participatory research and wildlife conservation.

I also provide ad hoc training via tailor-made workshops to staff, students and conservation professionals in a wide variety of subjects, including the following:

  • social science methods in conservation
  • carnivore conservation
  • human-wildlife conflict
  • Twitter for academics
  • science communication

Do get in touch if you'd like to discuss how I can assist with training you or yourr students on the above topics.