ZSL Scientist receives prestigious Society for Conservation Biology Early Career Award

Congratulations are due to Dr Piero Visconti, Research Fellow at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology and University College London’s Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, who has been awarded the prestigious European Early Career Conservation Award from the Society of Conservation Biology Europe Section. 

The award recognises Piero’s outstanding contributions to the understanding of species and ecosystems response to global environmental change, as well as the real-world impact of his science, which informs international conservation policy.

After completing a PhD in Conservation Planning at James Cook University and the Global Mammal Assessment programme (GMA) at Sapienza University of Rome in 2011, Piero researched global scenarios for terrestrial mammals in Rome, before moving to Microsoft Research Cambridge in the Computational Ecology group in 2012. His research has focussed on understanding species responses to land-use and climate change and projecting these responses under future global change scenarios.

Piero has developed analytical methods that integrate statistical models of distribution and abundance of species that use presence data and species' life-history traits with expert-based information on species habitat preferences. Piero has also developed methods to plan conservation interventions under severe uncertainty, and methods to survey species’ cost-efficiently borrowing sampling techniques from computer science.

Piero Visconti receives his award
Left to right Francisco Moreira and Anikó Kovács-Hostyánszki, present Piero Visconti with the Society of Conservation Biology European Early Career Award.

This work continued in 2015, when Piero joined UNEP-WCMC to establish the ground-work for exploring whole-ecosystem responses to global change and operationalize the concept of a Biodiversity Planetary Boundary based on loss of ecosystem functioning.

Piero now holds a joint position at ZSL and UCL, where he continues to work on Biodiversity Planetary Boundaries and investigate biodiversity scenarios under alternative socio-economic pathways.  He is also interested in predictive models of population dynamics, in particular, using models to inform conservation management decisions.

Piero has engaged in the science-policy interface of conservation through his role of coordinating lead author of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Regional Assessment of status and trends and future scenarios of biodiversity and ecosystem services for Europe and Central Asia. He has contributed to the Global Biodiversity Outlook 4, and the IUCN Guidelines on Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment. Piero was also on the scientific advisory board of the IUCN task-force that established the criteria for the identification of the IUCN Key Biodiversity Areas.

Piero is involved in the conservation of the Marsican Bear, a critically endangered subspecies of brown bear in central Italy. Piero has developed guidelines and conservation interventions to reduce human-wildlife conflicts and non-invasive monitoring of the bear population. More recently he has been appointed to the advisory board of Rewilding Apennines, the Italian partner of the Rewilding Europe Network that focuses on Marsican bear conservation.

As well as his award-winning research and policy engagement, Piero engages whole-heartedly in the teaching and supervision of future scientist and conservation practitioners.

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