Geography & The Ivory Trade

I’ve recently finished a critical review on the contribution of geography as an academic discipline (and geographers) to the understanding of the ivory trade. I imagined this would be a simple task. After all, the ivory trade has many important spatial considerations, warranting study in specific places, across spaces, and across and between scales.

I was grossly mistaken. The contribution of academic geography and geographers has been minimal (read: virtually non-existent). However, it has been studied extensively by ecologists, conservation biologists, economists, sociologists and so forth. Individuals outside of the academia, environmental NGOs and the popular press had also contributed significantly, particularly organisations such as the Environmental Investigation Agency and National Geographic. Notably, many of these individuals, disciplines and organisations had applied the lenses of geography to the study of the ivory trade (often as part of wider research on the transnational wildlife trade).

During my time researching, I contacted a number of academic geographers and key informants. Many of whom offered valuable contributions, others expressed great interest. I’m limited to what I can write at present as my submission is still under review. I will, however, add a full write up at a later date as it is (a) a topic of considerable interest and (b) may be useful to others.

I can, however, share a very informative “email interview” I conducted with Dr Richard Thomas, the Global Communications Coordinator at TRAFFIC.

1# What role do you think geography has played and could play in the study of the wildlife trade?

I think there is potentially enormous scope for geographers to bring their expertise and insights to the world of wildlife trade. Wildlife trade has gone way beyond its traditional environmental conservation niche – with only one dedicated specialist non-governmental organization dealing with the issue – ourselves. Much as governments are now seeing this as an issue beyond the Ministry of Environment. We’re now seeing the Finance, Tourism & National Security governmental sectors engaged. There’s been a similar shift and an emphasis for new skills and insights within the NGO world too – we need the expertise of criminologists, sociologists, behaviour change experts, even advertisiing agencies, economists, and geographers too could bring their skills to the table. Wildlife trade, or more specifically wildlife crime, which is currently at the fore and has been driving the global debate, is a highly complex issue requiring the active engagement of many stakeholders.

2# Following on from the previous question, do you believe academic geographers have a role to play? And if so, what do you believe academic geographers can contribute to the study of the wildlife trade?

Indeed, as I believe I mentioned in a message to you yesterday, we are actively seeking collaboration with geography departments in UK univerisites. I think geography skills could provide useful insights into understanding how best to interpret and act on information that was compiled by one of our staff members – a data specialist criminologist – looking at the spatial distribution of Tiger part seizures: how do we make best use of and interpret this information, and how should we advise enforcement authorities accordingly?

3# Having reviewed a substantial amount of literature, the geographic perspective (understanding phenomena through the lenses of place, space and scale, and combining human-physical interactions) appears to be already in use by those from other academic disciplines and by organisations such as TRAFFIC. Would you agree this to be the case?

As noted above, we are certainly expanding the fields of specialist expertise we beleive as important to devising workable solutions to many trade issues. Our limitation, as will come as no susprise I’m sure, is one of resources – both financial and human.

4# How influential are the geographic lenses of place, space and scale to TRAFFIC’s research and understanding of the wildlife trade? And if so, can you provide any examples?

I think the Tiger part seizure map I referred to above is pertinent [link]. If you download the report, you will see the ‘hotspot’ map referred to from India; a geographer’s interpretation of this could be very interesting: how do the hotspots relate to urban developments / the situation of parks / transport hubs etc. On a macro scale, the data we have compiled since 1989 on global ivory seizures provides a fascinating insight into global transportation routes and trade hubs. You can see crude maps of the trafficking routes identified and how they change over time in the report [link].

5# As you mentioned in your previous message, there is a current dearth of people with an academic geographic background studying the wildlife trade. Can you think of any reasons why this is the case?

I think it’s much like the reasons willdlife trade has been very much a niche interest among NGOs and government agencies; geographers haven’t seen it as an area where their expertise is relevant.

6# And finally, do you believe that the debates about the wildlife trade are dominated by certain epistemic communities? Is there a Western-world/Global North bias? And following on from those questions, how well represented are the views of African individuals and communities, many of whom have an explicit relationship, whether positive or negative, with the involved animals?

Very interesting final question. I think there is growing recognition that local communities have to be part of the solution: in the past, conservation has too often meant fencing somewhere off and preventing access to it. However, that’s a response that can alienate local communities who have very much to be brought into the mix. I think you’ll find this news item and the report fascinating [link] and also this report, where me advocate decriminalizing the bushmeat trade for refugee camps in Tanzania [link].”

“And yes, I think there is far too much of a Western bias in what you read on the internet; ‘it’s them not us” that are the problem. A lot of misunderstanding and misrepresntation of the views and beliefs of other cultures.


Apple Devices


Essential Websites for App Designers

I’ve designed quite a few apps (across many categories) over the past few months. I’ve found these websites particularly useful for inspiration and felt that sharing them would be worthwhile.

# Apple Human Interface Guidelines
Guidelines for designing the user interface of an iOS app.

# Android UI Overview
A very detailed yet accessible guide to best design practice for Android apps.

# Pttrns
Pttrns is a curated library of iPhone and iPad user interface patterns.

# iOS 7 App Redesigns
A tumblr blog of before and after iOS app screenshots.

# LaudableApps
My favourite website on this list. An independent showcase of beautiful iOS apps, created and maintained by Tobias Reich.

# Beautiful Pixels
Beautiful Pixels is a place where you admire the works of some of the greatest user interface designs of our time, as no other art is as scientific, restrictively creative, and most of all, utilitarian.

# Mobile Awesomeness
The projects on Mobile Awesomeness represent some of the best mobile designs, interfaces, and concepts on the market.

# Lovely UI
Another tumblr blog containing many amazing mobile app user interfaces and elements.

# Meerli
A catalog of inspirational iPhone, iPad, icon and Android UI designs and elements.

# Mobile Patterns
Similar to Pttrns, but also including Android user interface patterns.

# Mobile UI Inspiration
Another tumblr blog created and maintained by the Ramotion Agency.

# UX Archive
UX Archive lays out the most interesting user flows so you can compare them, build your point of view and be inspired.

# Creattica
Creattica is a gallery of great design and inspirational imagery.

# UI Parade
UI Parade is an online catalog of inspiration for UI designers. It features interface designs that are crafted by some of the worlds most talented designers and also develop tools, resources and workflows specifically with UI designers in mind.

# From Up North
From Up North is a design blog focused on promoting and inspiring creatives all over the world.

# 0to255
A simple tool that helps designers find lighter and darker colors based on any colour.

# Flat UI Colours
Twenty-three colour schemes as an inspiration or starting point for your Flat-UI design.

# Brand Colours
A beautifully designed, extensive listing of brand colours.

I’ll be adding to this list from time to time. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to contact me by tweet or email.


Monkeys Writing Shakespeare


Introducing Monkeys Writing Shakespeare

I’m not going to say too much about my new project … at least not yet. Not giving too much away, I will say that it is a company focused on designing and developing beautiful, fully functional, minimalist mobile applications for smartphones and tablets running iOS and Android. I will also admit that I’ve been working on it for around 6-8 months and that I’m really excited about the apps that are in the pipeline.

I’m not going to say anything more for the time being. I’ll be posting further information about the company and its app in coming weeks. In the meantime you can visit the website ( and/or social media pages ( / googleplus / ).


Conservation in the Anthropocene

I’m currently writing a critical review on species and ecosystem conservation in the Anthropocene and came across a very interesting video lecture by Dr. Jamie Lorimer of Oxford University.

For those interested in this topic, I would also recommend you to read Hilary Rosner’s article titled “Is Conservation Extinct?“. It offers a very informative and thought provoking synthesis of the radical beliefs about the role and function of conservation in this Anthropocene period.

I would also recommend (with some caution) the journal article “Conservation in the Anthropocene“. The authors (Robert Lalasz, Peter Kareiva, and Michelle Marvier) argue for a radical paradigm shift. Contrasting the predominant approach to conservation, which they deem to be back-looking, reactive and defensive, they argue that:

About Me

50 Unsung Heroes to Watch

I’m delighted to feature as one of the 50 Unsung Heroes to Watch in 2014. It’s a list of absolutely fantastic people and I’m very fortunate to feature on it. I would highly recommend you to view the full list and follow the work of these extraordinary people.

In particular, I would recommend you to follow:

And, of course, I would recommend you to follow Marieme Jamme (@mjamme).



Learning Italian

After many holidays to beautiful Italy, I’ve decided to start seriously learning Italian. Over the past year or so I’ve made a number of piecemeal attempts to learn Italian. I’ve used Rosetta Stone and Duolingo, and bought many phrasebooks and textbooks. The problem, however, has been a lack of commitment. My attempts have been inconsistent and unsustained. I’ve begun, paused, restarted, stopped, restarted and so on.

I’m going to continue using Rosetta Stone (L1-5) and Duolingo as they provide a helpful structure to my learning. I’m also going to supplement these applications with a number of Italian language learning books, including:

# Speak Italian – The Fine Art of Gestures [Amazon],
# Italian Idioms [Amazon],
# Colloquial Italian [Amazon],
# Colloquial Italian 2 [Amazon],
# Collins Italian Phrasebook [Amazon], &
# Italian Short Stories – Racconti Italiano [Amazon].

I’m also going to start having private tuition as a means to tailor and personalise my Italian language learning. Such tuition should help to supplement the generic resources listed above.

In coming weeks and months, I will be blogging about my language learning journey and providing reviews of the resources I use. And finally, I would recommend the video above to anyone wanting to learn a new language, especially those lacking enthusiasm and motivation.




Using an iPad in Lectures

Without doubt, I would recommend the iPad (& iPad Mini) to anyone in higher education. It’s a truly revolutionary device that can dramatically improve your productivity and transform the way you work. I’ve used my iPad – or more correctly, iPads – in every lecture I’ve attended at university. I’ll never go back to a notepad and pen, or a laptop. The impact is truly remarkable. Many people, however, fail to understand the true potential of the iPad for education and university use. In this post I’m only going to discuss the apps and ways I use the iPad in lectures. In later posts I’ll be discussing some of my other educational uses.


On the iPad you have two options – hand-write or type your notes. I do both, however, it depends on the lecturer. As many of you will have already experienced, some lecturers include very little information on the slides and speak at great length, other tend to include lots of detail on the slides and don’t speak at such great lengths. While the format differs, the amount of information is roughly the same.

In lectures with text-heavy slides, you don’t (usually) have to make lots of notes and you shouldn’t be copying the text from the slides. Your notes should be an addition to the information on the slides, not a replication of them. In these situations, I would advise hand-writing notes on the iPad. There many, many apps providing the ability to hand-write notes, however, I would recommend only two of them: Penultimate [iTunes Link] & Bamboo Paper [iTunes Link]. Both are excellent apps and simulate a realistic, elegant, and easy-to-use notebook and pen simulation. I personally prefer Penultimate because of its Evernote integration. I would advise you to try both (as they’re free) and choose the app which suits you best. You can find out more about Bamboo Paper in this Vimeo video and about Penultimate in this YouTube video.

While you can hand-write notes with your finger, a stylus makes it much easier and neater. If you are interested in hand-writing notes, I would advise you to purchase the Wacom Bamboo Solo Stylus. It’s well designed, durable, comfortable to use, and reasonably priced [Amazon]. There are many styluses available and some may suit you better than others. Accepting that no stylus is universally perfect, The Verge has produced one of the most comprehensive reviews available.

N.B. When hand-writing notes, I would advise you to turn off Multitasking Gestures and enable Guided Access Mode in the Settings app to avoid any unnecessary interference.

In some lectures you have to write lots of detailed notes, often as a result of text-sparse slides. Hand-writing might not be the most appropriate method of note-taking in these lectures. From my experience, you can type quicker than you can hand-write on the iPad. You could use the preinstalled Notes app, however, I’ve found the Evernote app to be far superior [iTunes Link].

Evernote makes note-taking effortless. You open the app, tap the plus button to create a new note, and start typing. It’s that simple! You can also attach photos, audio recordings, tags, and locations. Best of all, every time you save or update a note, Evernote automatically syncs it to your account and all of your devices. This means that you can create a note on your iPhone, and then access it the next time you launch Evernote on your desktop computer. All your notes are arranged in notebooks, and you can also create stacks of notebooks. My workflow consists of creating a notebook for each module (e.g. Geography of Life) and a stack of notebooks for each semester (e.g. Y4 S1). You can find out about the Evernote app by watching this YouTube video or by visiting their website.


I record every lecture. Why? Audio recordings take the pressure off note-taking and allow you to revisit the information through an alternative medium. I often play, and replay, the recordings whilst traveling to and from destinations as a replacement of music. On the iPad, like the iPhone, you have many options. I prefer the InClass app [iTunes Link] – the essential app for students. It includes a calendar/schedule, a planner, reminders, alerts, notes, and voice recording. I’ve used this app since my very first lecture and I’ve had no problems whatsoever. It’s reliable, the sound quality and size of the recording are reasonable, it’s easy to transfer the audio files, and free!

N.B. Make sure you follow your university’s policies on recording lectures. Some universities allow it, others attach specific conditions (e.g. deleting the files after the completion of the module, not publicly distributing the audio-files). It’s also courteous to ask the lecturer.

Diagram Annotation

Sometimes you may need to annotate a diagram, chart, table, or illustrations that is displayed on the projector screen or white/blackboard. You could draw the item, however, time is usually against you. I’ve tried and failed, many times! By the time you’ve draw the item, the lecturer is moving on and you’ve missed the important information. If you’ve audio-recorded the lecture, you could draw and annotate the item after the lecture. While this works to an extent, the annotated item will be separated from the appropriate/relevant place in your notes.

The Skitch app, also by Evernote, offers the perfect solution to “in-class” annotation [iTunes Link]. The app allows you to quickly take a photograph of the item and add many different types of annotations. You can also sync your annotated item to Evernote and / or add it to your lecture notes on your iPad. You can find out more about the Skitch app by watching this YouTube video.

There are, of course, many educational uses of the iPad; too many to discuss in this single post. In coming weeks and months, I will be writing a series of additional article about the iPad in higher education. Stay tuned!