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Dr Francis Masse


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.

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. The effects of COVID-19 on the wildlife trade

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

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, and environmental security.

Francis Masse

Key Publications

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Ranger perceptions of, and engagement with, monitoring of elephant poaching, Kuiper, T., Massé, F., Ngwenya, N., Kavhu, B., Mandisodza‐Chikerema, R., Milner‐Gulland, E. 1 Feb 2021, In: People and Nature
  • Conservation and crime convergence? Situating the 2018 London Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference, Masse, F., Dickinson, H., Margulies, J., Joanny, L., Lappe-Osthege, T., Duffy, R. 21 Jan 2020, In: Journal of Political Ecology
  • Conservation Law Enforcement: Policing Protected Areas, Masse, F. 3 May 2020, In: Annals of the American Association of Geographers
  • The geopolitical ecology of conservation: The emergence of illegal wildlife trade as national security interest and the re-shaping of US foreign conservation assistance, Masse, F., Margulies, J. 1 Aug 2020, In: World Development
  • Anti-poaching’s politics of (in)visibility: Representing nature and conservation amidst a poaching crisis, Masse, F. 1 Jan 2019, In: Geoforum
  • Transnational environmental crime threatens sustainable development, Gore, M., Braszak, P., Brown, J., Casey, P., Duffy, R., Fisher, J., Graham, J., Justo-Hanani, R., Kirkwood, A., Lunstrum, E., Machalaba, C., Masse, F., Manguiat, M., Omrow, D., Stoett, P., Wyatt, T., White, R. Sep 2019, In: Nature Sustainability
  • Why we must question the militarisation of conservation, Duffy, R., Masse, F., Smidt, E., Marijnen, E., Buscher, B., Verweijen, J., Ramutsindela, M., Simlai, T., Joanny, L., Lunstrum, E. 1 Apr 2019, In: Biological Conservation
  • Linking green militarization and critical military studies, Masse, F., Lunstrum, E., Holterman, D. 4 May 2018, In: Critical Military Studies
  • Topographies of security and the multiple spatialities of (conservation) T power: Verticality, surveillance, and space-time compression in the bush, Masse, F. 1 Nov 2018, In: Political Geography
  • Inclusive anti-poaching? Exploring the potential and challenges of community-based anti-poaching, Masse, F., Gardiner, A., Lubilo, R., Ntlhaele Themba, M. 23 Jun 2017, In: South African Crime Quarterly


Geography PhD November 23 2017

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