UCL Division of Biosciences


The Ben Collen Memorial Lecture - 2 March 2020 - Professor Julia PG Jones, Professor of Conservation

02 March 2020, 5:30 pm–8:30 pm


The Ben Collen Memorial Lecture is an annual event at which UCL's Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research hosts a world-leading, mid-career scientist in the field of conservation biology. The lecture is in honour of Dr Ben Collen who was a renowned conservation scientist and greatly admired colleague. Ben died in 2018 aged 40.

Event Information

Open to





Amy Godfrey


JZ Young LT
Anatomy Building
Malet Place
United Kingdom

Title: Does conservation work and how do we know?

Professor Julia P G Jones, Professor of Conservation Science, Bangor University

Research profile: https://www.bangor.ac.uk/natural-sciences/staff/julia-jones/en

Venue: J Z Young LT (Anatomy Building)

Host: Dr Alex Pigot (a.pigot@ucl.ac.uk)

Abstract: The 2019 Nobel Prize for economics was won by Banerjee, Duflo and Kramer for their experimental approach to alleviating poverty. While the trio are considered heroes by many, their use of Randomized Control Trials to evaluate the impact of development interventions has been controversial. Conservation scientists are increasingly aware of the urgent need for better evidence of what works and what doesn’t, but experimental evaluation of the effectiveness of conservation interventions at the landscape scale remain rare. Using the example of a Randomized Control Trial of a Payment for Ecosystem Services scheme in the Bolivian Andes, I will illustrate some of the pros and cons of experimental evaluation in the complex socio-ecological context in which many conservation interventions are implemented. I will highlight that while randomization holds many advantages and we could be doing more, it is not practical or desirable for many common interventions (can you imagine randomizing the allocation of protected areas in a landscape?). I will show that robust statistical methods, ideally in combination with publication of pre-analysis plans, will be the best approach in many conservation contexts. The ultimate desire is that conservation science can avoid the acrimonious debate which has plagued the use of Randomized Control Trials in the field of poverty alleviation, and take a pragmatic approach to improving our understanding of what works in conservation.

About the Speaker

Professor Julia P G Jones

Professor of Cnservation Science at Bangor University

Julia Jones is professor of conservation science at Bangor University in the UK. She is interested in conservation impact evaluation (using quasi-experimental and experimental approaches and participatory impact evaluation) and the impacts of conservation interventions (including Payments for Ecosystem Services, community forest management, protected areas and biodiversity offsets). She has a particular focus on the social dimensions of conservation and greatly enjoys working with people and methods from across disciplinary divides. She has a strong interest in Madagascar where she has worked, with many Malagasy colleagues, for 20 years on issues around conservation and development.

More about Professor Julia P G Jones