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Dr Sara Zonneveld

Dr Sara Zonneveld

Impact Fellow

 Geoffrey Pope Lab 201 / XFi (LEEP) F14


Geoffrey Pope Building, University of Exeter , Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4QD, UK


I am a biologist based in both Biosciences and the LEEP (Land, Environment, Economics and Policy) Institute at the University of Exeter. I am an ecologist by training; my PhD research focused on the breeding ecology of ground-nesting birds on Dartmoor. I am interested in research and impact projects that sit on the interface of ecology, conservation and policy, and I currently work as an Impact Fellow in the SWEEP programme (


Broad research specialisms:

  • Ornithology
  • Ecology
  • Conservation
  • Natural Capital
  • Citizen Science
  • Impact planning & delivery,  stakeholder collaboration


PhD Biosciences  - Exeter University 

MSc Erasmus Mundus in Evolutionary Biology (MEME), an international two-year research MSc programme, during which I spent 6 months each at:

  • Uppsala University 
  • Yale University
  • LMU Munich
  • University of Groningen

BSc Biology – Newcastle University


Research interests

I am interested in research and impact projects that sit on the interface of ecology, conservation and policy. My PhD focused on the ecology of ground-nesting birds of Dartmoor, during which I for example assessed the potential conflicts between land management practices and the timing of bird breeding. I also conducted extensive field monitoring of bird nests, and set up a citizen science initiative to help better understand the distribution of the endangered Cuckoo in Devon.

Over recent years, I have thoroughly enjoyed broadening out my research and expertise to work on a wide range of interdisciplinary, impact-focused projects as an Impact Fellow on the SWEEP programme ( I have for example collaborated with environmental economists to assess the benefits and impacts of outdoor recreation, and to produce Natural Capital Accounts for local stakeholders. Currently, I am working with marine biologists to address current challenges in Water Quality and Aquaculture, and with geographers to develop and embed novel remote sensing products for improved habitat mapping into partner organisations.

Member of research group:

Land, Environment, Economics & Policy Institute (LEEP) – Business School

Environmental Biology – Biosciences (Streatham)


Invited lectures:

I regularly give lectures to local and national interest groups, as well as to academic audiences. Examples include:

2019 – Dartmoor Society Annual debate: “Recreation & wildlife futures on Dartmoor

2018 – Kent Ornithological Society: “Dartmoor’s ground-nesting birds”

2017 – British Trust for Ornithology annual conference: “Dartmoor’s ground-nesting birds”

2016: Cambridge Conservation Initiative Cuckoo Day: “Cuckoos and the upland bird community of Dartmoor”

2016 – University of Exeter Seminar Series on Advanced Methods and Techniques for Environmental Research: “Citizen Science in ecological and environmental research”

2015 – European Ornithology Union (Badajoz conference): “The use of Twitter in the Devon Cuckoo Citizen Science project.”

Research projects

Current Projects:

I currently work as an Impact Fellow in the South West Partnership for Environment & Economic Prosperity (SWEEP), a 5-year NERC-funded programme which brings together academic experts, businesses and policy makers to solve some of the challenges involved in managing, utilising and improving the natural environment. My role combines traditional academic research with stakeholder engagement, project management and impact planning & delivery. Examples of projects on which I currently work:

SWEEP 004 – Dartmoor & Exmoor Natural Capital:

SWEEP 023 – Quantitative Habitat Mapping:

SWEEP 019 – Water Quality and Aquaculture:

SWEEP 015 - Natural Environment Valuation Online tool:


Teaching responsibilities:

I have taught on a wide variety of undergraduate courses as a graduate teaching assistant. Examples include Ecology, Field Skills, Animal Ecophysiology, Marine Biology and Statistics in R. I have also taught scientific writing, journal reading and statistics on a one-to-one and small group basis, and have helped supervise several undergraduate students during their final year research projects.

Supervision / Group

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