Harriet Croome

Investigating how changing interactions between humans and elephants affect forest socio-ecological systems in drylands: A case study of Mukogodo Forest, Kenya

Supervisors: Brock Bersaglio (lead supervisor); Fiona Nunan (co-supervisor)

As dryland forests are made venues for wildlife conservation, interactions between human and nonhuman forest users can Harriet-Croomechange. Focusing on interactions between Maasai pastoralists and African elephants in Laikipia, Kenya, my research project aims to understand how elephant behaviours have changed with wildlife conservation initiatives in Mukogodo Forest and what affect these changes have had on forest socio-ecological services (FSES). I will pursue this aim through the following objectives:

1. To document how the behaviours of individual elephants and elephant herds have changed with wildlife conservation initiatives in Mukogodo Forest;
2. To investigate the effects of these changes on FSES, focusing on key aspects of socio-ecological systems shared by people, their livestock, and elephants, such as migratory routes, vegetation, and water;
3. To evaluate how human-elephant interactions have altered the form, function, and existence – materially and ontologically – of Mukogodo Forest.

By relying on the experiences, observations, and understandings of Maasai pastoralists who embody generations of knowledge about Mukogodo Forest, my research aims to provide insights into how changing human-nonhuman interactions associated with wildlife conservation initiatives in FSES can affect the material and ontological existence of dryland forests.



Harriet joined the International Development Department as a postgraduate researcher in 2020 and is part of BIFOR’s Forest Edge Doctoral Programme. Harriet has come to the social sciences via history (BA) and science communication (MSc), and her current work focuses on the effects of conservation initiatives on human and non-human forest users in Kenya. Using the global news media as a lens, Harriet's MSc final project explored the representation of African elephant conservation in African and UK newspapers, asking how the privileging or omission of certain voices and viewpoints in the media may impact elephant conservation policy and practice. Most recently, Harriet has been working for a global wildlife conservation charity, supporting the management of grant-funded programmes in Madagascar and India. Harriet is also a qualified field guide with the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa having worked in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. Harriet's research interests include the links between conservation, rural livelihoods and development; natural resource governance and management; and how local and global voices join forces, or lock horns, in response to conservation challenges, primarily in sub-saharan Africa.

Research Interests 

  • Conservation, rural livelihoods and development
  • Socio-cultural context and construction of wildlife conservation
  • Natural resource governance and management
  • Global politics of biodiversity conservation
  • Links between poverty and the natural environment
  • Wildlife conservation in the media


  • BA History & Ancient History (University of Exeter)
  • MSc Science Communication (UWE Bristol)

Conference Papers

Who speaks? Who knows? Who listens? Achieving Diversity in Global Conservation Communications. International Congress for Conservation Biology (2019) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Croome, H. & Wilkinson, C. (forthcoming) ‘How African Is the African Elephant? Reflections on elephant poaching and conservation in newspapers’ in Freedman, E., Sachsman, D. & Shipley Hiles, S. (Eds.). Communicating Endangered Species: Extinction, News and Public Policy. Michigan: Routledge.