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Dr Francis Masse

Assistant Professor

Department: Geography and Environmental Sciences

Broadly, my research bridges political ecology and political geography to understand the intersections between conservation, human-biodiversity relations, and broader state concerns. I am particularly concerned with how efforts to address environmental and specifically wildlife crime re-shape human-environment relations, conservation space and practice, and state security and development concerns. Much of my research approaches these themes by examining the political ecologies and political geographies of wildlife crime, inclusive of poaching, trafficking, and law enforcement/security responses and their impacts.

My research on the intersections between the illegal wildlife trade and concerns about law enforcement and security helps me conceptualise the political, economic, and socio-ecological dynamics that underpin efforts to address environmental crime, and in particular the illicit use and flows of wildlife. Much of my research since 2012 has taken an ethnographic approach understanding the rhino poaching economy and subsequent law enforcement and security response in the Mozambique-South Africa borderlands, namely the areas within and around the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. I also am beginning to look at more global and comparative trends and patterns.


Recent work begins to look more closely at the intersections between wildlife trade/trafficking, conservation and zoonotic disease risk through a political ecology framework.

I joined Northumbria in January 2020 as a Lecturer in Human Geography. Previous to this post I worked as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Sheffield University on the ERC-funded project BIOSEC:Biodiversity and Security: Understanding Environmental Crime, illegal wildlife trade and threat finance where I researched changing dynamics of conservation law enforcement in response to surges in commercial poaching and growing intersections between the illegal wildlife trade, conservation and security.

My current research can be grouped into four cross-cutting themes:


Research Themes


1. Conservation Law Enforcement

I am particularly interested in how law enforcement and policing approaches to address wildlife crime materialise at and across various scales from the level of the protected area, across the supply & enforcement chain, to legal systems, and global patterns of donor funding. What do the shifting ways in which spaces and flows of wildlife are policed tell us about state-nature relations and practices of state-making?


2. The Securitisation of Conservation

In this theme I am interested in how concerns about conservation and wildlife become a security and geopolitical issue. I look at the discursive and material processes through which threats to wildlife, particularly with regards to wildlife crime, become securitised on-the-ground in particular locales, in broader policy discourse and development and with what implications.


3. Lived Realities and Gendered Dynamics of Commercial Poaching Economies

Drawing on long-term ethnographic and collaborative research, I use a feminist political ecology approach to understand the lived and embodied realities of the rhino poaching conflict, inclusive of the violent poaching economy and the militarised and securitised response in Mozambique and South Africa. Of primary interest are the gendered dynamics and consequences of the rhino poaching economy, the militarised response and what this means for broader development trajectories in the are a and how to understand wildlife crime-development connections.


4. Political Ecologies of Zoonosis

In response to current events I have begun collaborative research via the Wildlife Trade Futures project on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the wildlife trade and related economies, with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. This work also contributes to and forms the basis of broader conceptual thinking and scholarship on the links between global health and global environmental governance and the political ecologies of zoonosis.

I’m happy to chat with anyone interested in pursuing a PhD on or related to these themes, and more broadly around empirical and conceptual themes related to the political ecology/political geography of conservation, poaching, IWT, the wildlife trade, environmental crime and enforcement, zoonoses, and environmental security.

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Illicit geographies and contested environments: An introduction, Margulies, J., Massé, F., VandeBerg, B. 1 Mar 2023, In: Political Geography
  • The rhino horn trade and radical inequality as environmental conflict, Lunstrum, E., Giva, N., Masse, F., Mate, F., Lopes-Jose, P. 16 Apr 2023, In: Journal of Peasant Studies
  • Vulnerability and coping strategies within wild meat trade networks during the COVID-19 pandemic, Enns, C., van Vliet, N., Mbane, J., Muhindo, J., Nyumu, J., Bersaglio, B., Massé, F., Cerutti, P., Nasi, R. 1 Oct 2023, In: World Development
  • Accurate characterization of wildlife trade and policy instruments: Reply to D'Cruze et al. (2022) and Frank and Wilcove (2022), Challender, D., Brockington, D., Hinsley, A., Hoffmann, M., Kolby, J., Massé, F., Natusch, D., Oldfield, T., ’t Sas‐Rolfes, M., Milner‐Gulland, E. Jan 2022, In: Conservation Letters
  • Disaster Making in the Capitalocene, O’Lear, S., Masse, F., Dickinson, H., Duffy, R. 1 Aug 2022, In: Global Environmental Politics
  • Mischaracterizing wildlife trade and its impacts may mislead policy processes, Challender, D., Brockington, D., Hinsley, A., Hoffmann, M., Kolby, J., Massé, F., Natusch, D., Oldfield, T., Outhwaite, W., ’t Sas‐Rolfes, M., Milner‐Gulland, E. 1 Jan 2022, In: Conservation Letters
  • Police power in green: Furthering political ecologies of the state, Masse, F. 1 Aug 2022, In: Political Geography
  • Understanding Factors that Shape Exposure to Zoonotic and Food-Borne Diseases Across Wild Meat Trade Chains, van Vliet, N., Muhindo, J., Nyumu, J., Enns, C., Massé, F., Bersaglio, B., Cerutti, P., Nasi, R. 1 Dec 2022, In: Human Ecology
  • Wildlife Trafficking via Social Media in Brazil, Wyatt, T., Miralles, O., Masse, F., Lima, R., Vargas da Costa, T., Giovanini, D. 1 Jan 2022, In: Biological Conservation
  • Women in the Rhino Poaching Conflict: A Feminist Political Ecology Analysis, Massé, F., Givá, N., Lunstrum, E. 1 Jan 2022, Women and Wildlife Trafficking, London, UK, Taylor & Francis

Mridula Paul The making of One Health: political ecology and cultural politics of the global response to zoonoses Start Date: 01/10/2021

Geography PhD November 23 2017

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