Personal profile

Research interests

I am an animal and environmental historian, working primarily on human engagements with the non-human animal world across the nineteenth and twientieth centuries. Currently engaged in studies of nocturnal natures.

Present research interests:

I'm currently working on a project that confronts the history of the so-called 'nocturnal problem': the challenge of encountering and understanding nature by night. 'Nights on Earth' investigates nineteenth- and twentieth-century scientific and popular engagement with animals that dwell in dark environments. Focusing on caves, deep sea, the poles and 'everyday' night-time environments more broadly, the project is structured around a number of key research questions:

1. how have new technologiees allowed naturalists to colonise the night in search of the secrets of animal bodies and behaviours?

2. what have been the consequences of this colonisation of the dark on animals and environments?

3. how have understandings of the ways in which animals sense the world in darkness changed over time and how did this impact on changing notions of what it meant to be human?

As part of tackling question 3, above, I presently undertaking an18-month AHRC Leadership Fellowship to investigate te ways in which scientific and popular cultures have nocturnal animal senses, and the ways in which threats to the nocturnal world have been identified and represented.  

A sight-impaired historian, I also have an activist and intellectual interest in disability studies. My work on dark environments is also, in some ways, about what it means for vision to be obscured and the adapatations - of humans and animals - that allow them to survive and thrive in those conditions. 

Previous research

My doctoral research focused on the animal and environmental histories of Bristol Zoo Gardens from 1835 through to the early twenty-first century. This work represents the first extensive academic history of a provincial zoo, examining the vast array of human relationships with animals and their wild worlds in modernity. My work engaged with themes at the very forefront of animal, environmental, and imperial histories. In particular, I examined the human commodification of nature, its transformation into objects of science and spectacle, the creation of ‘almost-people’, animals in death (and dying), and human understandings of the world in an era of ecological impoverishment. Most significantly, I worked on the ways in which captve creatures might be said to have 'agency' in a context often perceived to be wholly oppressive. This work followed on from my earlier study of the phenomenon of celebrity beasts in Victorian culture, and human-nature conflict on the Australian frontier in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Also emerging from these interests have been a conference on the theme of Animals and Empire in 2013; the curation of an exhibition by the same name for the Animal History Museum in Los Angeles in 2014; and work as part of the REACT Object Sandbox cohort.


Recent media engagements include appearances on BBC Radio 2 and 3, BBC Points West, and BBC Inside Out West. I have previously appeared on BBC 4’s Timeshift and consulted for an episode of Great British Railway Journeys. Ialso consulted on the BBC's 'What are Zoos for?' website.

Teaching and Research Supervision

I am an experienced Higher Education teacher. During the 2019-20 session I shall be teaching

  • War and Society (Yr 1)
  • Wild Things: humans and other animals in the modern world (Yr 2)
  • Filming the Past (Yr 3)

In the past I have taught:

  • Approaching the Past (Yr 1)
  • Introduction to the British Empire (yr 1)
  • Rethinking History (Yr. 2)
  • Britain's Cold War (Yr 1)
  • Travels in Space and Time (Yr 2)
  • The American West: An Environmental History (Yr 2)
  • Bringing History (and Historians) Down to Earth (Yr 3)
  • Genocide (Yr3)
  • History, Law and Memory: The Holocaust on Trial (Yr3)

I also supervise undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations and supervised individual studies. I am presently supervising four PhD students and three MScR students on topics relating to the senses, sensory environmental histories, rights of nature, wildlife documentary, space exploration, and the teaching of environmental history in secondary schools.

I am available for Masters and Doctoral research supervision and particularly invite research degree proposals on the following subjects:

 - 19th and 20th-century British animal history

 - histories of dark and/or nighttime environments

 - senses, emotions and environments.

 - scientific and technological cultures.

 - tourism.

 - disability histories.

Structured keywords and research groupings

  • IASworkshop
  • Centre for Environmental Humanities
  • Centre for Humanities Health and Science
  • Cabot Institute City Futures Research
  • Cabot Institute Environmental Change Research


  • Animal History
  • Environmental history
  • History of ideas
  • History of science and technology


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