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Dr Ben Phillips

Dr Ben Phillips

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

 01326 259468

 Environment and Sustainability Institute 


Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK


I'm an environmental scientist who is interested in how we can balance the needs of both people and nature.

To date, my research has focused on (i) public engagement with nature, (ii) the environmental and social benefits that we get from nature ('ecosystem services'), and (iii) pollinator conservation. My research has used many different approaches, including ecological surveys and experiments, evidence synthesis, spatial modelling, and social science methods. However, a common theme of my research is that it is practical and solution-oriented - finding ways to benefit nature, whilst taking into consideration the needs and constraints of land managers, local communities, and other stakeholders.

Currently, I'm working on the RENEW (Renewing biodiversity through a people-in-nature approach) project. The project aims to put people at the centre of action on biodiversity renewal and build expertise across different sectors and communities to address the environment and climate crisis. I am working with Prof Kevin Gaston, Dr Becca Lovell, Dr Lewis Elliott, Dr Jo Garrett, and colleagues at Natural England, the National Trust and other partner organisations. Our role on the project is to better understand individuals' engagement with nature to improve the effectiveness of the methods used by environmental organisations to develop support for nature recovery.

In my previous role (2021-2022), I worked as part of a team to develop a Species Conservation Strategy pilot for hazel dormice, led by Prof Robbie McDonald, and funded by Natural England.

For my PhD (2017-2021), I studied the potential of road verges for conserving nature, and for providing broader environmental and social benefits, such as storing carbon, mitigating pollution, and improving people's access to nature. This work was supervised by Prof Juliet Osborne, Prof Kevin Gaston and Prof James Bullock. I worked in partnership with the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) unit, and with various conservation organsations and highways managers, to develop and communicate road verge management guidance. For a summary of this research, see the webinar linked below that I led alongside partners from Plantlife and Butterfly Conservation.

Previously, I've been involved in projects across broad disciplines within the Environment and Sustainability Institute whilst working as the Research Impact Coordinator. Wherever beneficial, I take an interdisciplinary approach throughout my own research.


2021 PhD in Biological Sciences, University of Exeter

         Thesis: "Roads, verges and nature".

2017 MSc by Research in Biological Sciences, University of Exeter

         Thesis: "Pollinator community and function: in oilseed rape fields and in drought-stressed grassland".

2013 BSc (Hons) Biology, University of Bristol


2021-Present Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter

2021 (Jan-Apr) PhD Intern, Connecting People with Nature Programme, Natural England

2017-21 PhD Researcher, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter

2017 Research Impact Coordinator, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter

2015-17 MSc by Research, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter

2015-16 Research Technician, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter

2012-13 Research Technician, University of Bristol


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Research interests

  • Nature conservation
  • Public engagement with nature
  • Ecosystem services
  • Pollinator conservation
  • Road verges, hedgerows and road ecology


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