Centre for Wildlife Management

Staff Profile

Professor Philip McGowan

Dean for Engagement and Internationalisation, Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering; Professor of Conservation Science and Policy


Phil is interested in research that can inform global policy on biodiversity and especially species conservation. He is particularly interested in looking more broadly and systematically at species research that has potential to inform both the development of policy and its effective implementation. Phil is Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Post 2020 Biodiversity Targets Task Force that contributes to species aspects of the negotiations on the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Global Biodiversity Framework. He is also involved in promoting the potential of universities to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals through sharing experience and understanding. He chairs the university's Sustainable Development Goals Committee.

He joined Newcastle University in 2013 having worked for many years in international species conservation. Phil conducted research on critically endangered species in Asia, Africa and South America, with a particular focus on the Galliformes, a highly threatened group of birds that includes turkeys, pheasants, grouse and the wild ancestor of the chicken. 25% of Galliformes are currently at risk of extinction, typically because of people hunting them for food, and, because of this are thought to be important indicators of overall pressures facing bird species. All of this work was carried out, and continues, with a large network, especially in Asia, conducting fieldwork in order to build better conservation projects and improve policy responses to increase biodiversity. He is committed to capacity development for species conservation research in areas where resources are limited, and biodiversity is under pressure.


Phil's work has expanded from a relatively narrow disciplinary focus on a single group of species, albeit a highly important one, to close engagement across species science-policy issues. In the 1980s and 1990s his research sought to uncover the basic ecology of a highly threatened, yet little known, group of birds (Galliformes: pheasants, partridges and allies), typically in parts of the world with little infrastructure, challenging terrain and little resident research expertise. During that time significant collaborations were established, in particular in Asia (but also in the Americas and Africa), that led to applied ecological research to inform management and resulted in many collaborators producing postgraduate theses and publications. 

These diverse collaborations increasingly undertook interdisciplinary research to understand the local human dimension of natural resource use and conservation. His current research and engagement focusses on the interface of science and management/policy, and capacity building. Particular issues are conservation planning for species, global biodiversity targets, developing robust and meaningful indicators for such global targets, and developing global standards for practice and reporting on species conservation.

Phil works closely with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an intergovernmental body that has observer status at the UN General Assembly since the 1990s. He led the compilation of several IUCN Action Plans for threatened bird groups (including pheasants and parrots) in the 1990s and a range of guidelines for global management issues, such as strategic planning for speciesreintroduction of Galliformes and ex situ management. He has had leadership roles within IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) for a decade. SSC is a conservation science-practitioner body whose >10,000 members includes more than 2,000 academics in 130 countries. This leadership role was critical in the run up the 2020 reporting by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on existing global biodiversity targets, and the setting of a new global framework for biodiversity, which are closely linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Phil is the Degree Programme Director for Biology (Ecology and Conservation). He contributes to a first year module on biosciences skills, a third year module on biodiversity conservation and management and a leads a Masters module on global policy assessments. He also supervises final year and Masters (MSc and MBiol) projects).