Staff profile

Dr Joana Carvalho

Lecturer in Spatial Ecology and Biosciences

Square image of staff member Joana Carvlho undertaking field work


Biology and Zoology


College of Science and Engineering


School of Built and Natural Environment

Research centre

Environmental Sustainability Research Centre




Kedleston Road, Derby Campus



I am a Lecturer in Spatial Ecology and Biosciences. I am a wildlife biologist with research interests in behaviour, ecology, and conservation. My current research involves the use of cutting-edge spatially-explicit analytical approaches to study the synergies between climate, land use/cover and human population changes on primates, particularly great apes. I have broad experience working in an interdisciplinary research environment, field-based ecological research, ex-situ research, and capacity building in developing countries as well as strong quantitative and GIS skills.

Teaching responsibilities

I am module leader of Elective Advanced Topics (6BY509), Applied GIS (6EV500), Wildlife Conservation (6BY508) and Tropical Conservation Biology (7EV503). I also contribute to other modules in Biology, Zoology and Environmental Sciences UG programmes and Conservation Biology PG programme, including:

Professional interests

During my study years, I developed a particular interest in animal behaviour, and it was particularly primates that drew my attention, inspired by books by renowned conservationist Jane Goodall. My Master’s thesis focused on assessing the hierarchy and social status of chimpanzees in Lisbon Zoo (Portugal). After helping to improve their captive conditions through environmental enrichment, I decided to go further with my studies and focus my research on questions related to the behavioural ecology and conservation of primates and their natural habitats.

I was successful in a highly competitive funding scheme and obtained a PhD fellowship from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT). I additionally sought and was awarded a Conservation International Primate Action Fund research grant to investigate the nesting behaviour, ecology, and population status of the western chimpanzee in a protected area in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. My research made an important contribution to better understanding the species’ nesting behaviour, diet and overall ecology, and to future assessments of the subspecies’ conservation status, which was recently reclassified to critically endangered.

During my PhD, I realized the real extent to which our closest relatives are threatened by human activities and my desire deepened to contribute to their protection so that my children would be able to see them in the wild. Towards the end of my PhD, my research interests thus converged on examining the synergistic interactions between climate, land use, and human population changes on primates. For this, I established collaborations with an international team of scientists from Germany (Dr Hjalmar Kuehl and Dr Gaelle Bocksberger, MPI-EVA, iDiv and the University of Dresden), and UK (Prof Serge Wich, LJMU; Dr Fiona Maisels and Dr Elizabeth Williamson, University of Stirling, IUCN and WCS), and more than 60 stakeholders and policymakers worldwide.

Research interests

The focus of my research has been contributing to filling important knowledge gaps regarding how wildlife conservation can best be achieved given the multiple threats it is facing. For that, I have been working in an inter-disciplinary academic manner and using spatially-explicit analytical approaches to

For most of my research, I use primates as a model group given their central importance to tropical biodiversity and to many ecosystem functions, processes and services – known as ecosystem engineers.

The key success of my research is working directly with a range of stakeholders and decision-makers worldwide. I was recently invited by GRASP-UNEP to conduct a vulnerability assessment of mountain gorillas and local communities to climate change ( This project involves a range of academic institutions and conservation organizations such as DFGF (Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund), GVTC (Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration), ITFC (Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation), MPI-EVA (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology), MGVP (Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project), RMI (Rwanda Meteorological Institute), UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority), WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), WCRC (Woodwell Climate Research Center). Other ongoing research activities include collaborations with Dr Chris Barrat (iDiv, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research) and Dr Fiona Maisels (WCS) in developing future scenarios to evaluate the effects of global change drivers on African elephant distribution. I am also contributing to the A.P.E.S. Wiki project and co-supervising a research project student looking at the effects of extreme events on African apes’ study sites together with Dr Hjalmar Kuehl (MPI-EVA and the University of Dresden), Dr Stephanie Heinicke (Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research), Dr Isabel Ordaz-Némethand and Dr Tene Sop (iDiv and MPI-EVA).

Membership of professional bodies


Recent conferences

Heinicke S, Ferreira J, Carvalho JS, Lange S, Ordaz-Németh I, Mengel M, Kühl H (2022) Exposure of Ape Habitat to Extreme Events and Climate Change Impacts. 6th European Congress of Conservation Biology. Prague, Czech Republic

Carvalho JS, Graham B, Rebelo H, Bocksberger G, Meyer CFJ, Wich S, Kühl H (2019) Global Analysis of Exposure Risk of Primates to Climate and Land Use Changes. European Federation of Primatology and Primatological Society of Great Britain. Oxford, UK

Heinicke S, Mundry R, Boesch C, Amarasekaran B, Barrie A, Brncic T, 9th out of 40 authors Carvalho JS (2018) Modelling Western Chimpanzee Densities to Support Regional Conservation Planning. 27th International Primatological Society Congress. Nairobi, Kenya

Heinicke S, Mundry R, Boesch C, Amarasekaran B, Barrie A, Brncic T, 9th out of 40 authors Carvalho JS (2018) Applying the Positive Deviance Approach to Identify Sustainable Social-Ecological Settings. 5th European Congress for Conservation Biology. Jyväskylä, Finland

Heinicke S, Mundry R, Boesch C, Amarasekaran B, Barrie A, Brncic T, 9th out of 40 authors Carvalho JS (2018) Applying the Positive Deviance Approach to Conservation Management. Pathways Europe. Goslar, Germany

Experience in industry

International experience

Additional interests and activities

Public Engagement Activities

Participation in an expert meeting to discuss opportunities for women in science. 49th Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation. Brazil (2012)

Implementation of monitoring plans for surveying wildlife and forests in Lagoas da Cufada Natural Park. Guinea-Bissau (2009-2011)

Promoting environmental education and environmental awareness through presentations in several primary schools in Lagoas da Cufada Natural Park. Guinea-Bissau (2009-2011)

Dissemination of PhD findings among national and international NGOs through talks and workshops. Guinea-Bissau (2009-2011)

In the media

The findings from my research were featured in various news outlets and reached a multi-million audience:

2021: LJMU, University of Stirling, Max Planck Gesellschaft, The University of British Columbia, TRT World Istanbul, Documentary ‘Planet without apes’, The Guardian, Mongabay, WCS, WWF, African Wildlife Foundation, Spiegel, Scienmag, Dailymail, Science alert,, CTV news, TechregisterChanging times, One News Page, TreeHugger

2019: University of Stirling, Science Daily, Eureka, Convention on Biological Diversity, Environmental News Network

Recent publications

Carvalho JS, Stewart F, Marques TA, Bonnin N, Pintea L, Alimas M, Chitayat A, Piel A (2022) Spatio-temporal Changes in Chimpanzee Densities and Abundances in the Greater Mahale Ecosystem, Tanzania. Ecological Applications. DOI: 10.1002/eap.2715

Carvalho JS, Graham B, Maisels F, Williamson EA, Wich S and Kuehl H (2021). Predicting Range Shifts of African Apes and Effectiveness of Protected Areas under Global Change Scenarios. Gorilla Journal. Journal of Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe

Ordaz-Németh I, Sop Tenekwetche, Amarasekaran B, Bachmann M, Boesch C, Brncic T, 9th of 47 authors Carvalho JS (2021) Range-Wide Indicators of African Great Ape Density Distribution. American Journal of Primatology. DOI: 10.1002/ajp.23338

Barrat CD, Lester JD, Gratton P, Onstein RE, Kalan AK, McCarthy MS, Bocksberger G, 18th out of 489 authors Carvalho JS (2021) Quantitative Estimates of Glacial Refugia for Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) since the Last Interglacial (120,000 BP). American Journal of Primatology

Carvalho JS, Graham B, Bocksberger G, Maisels F, Williamson EA,Wich S,... Kuehl H (2021) Predicting Range Shifts of African Apes Under Global Change Scenarios. Diversity and Distributions. DOI: 10.1111/ddi.13358 (covered by numerous media outlets such as The Guardian, Mongabay, WCS, WWF, Spiegel, FAZ, TRT World Istanbul, reaching a multi-million audience

Carvalho JS, Graham B, Rebelo H, Bocksberger G, Meyer CFJ, Wich S, Kuehl H (2019) A Global Risk Assessment of Primates Under Climate and Land Use/Cover Scenarios. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14671 (covered by numerous media outlets such as Convention on Biodiversity Diversity, ScienceDaily, Eurekalert)

Heinicke S, Mundry R, Boesch C, Amarasekaran B, Barrie A, Brncic T, 9th out of 43 authors Carvalho JS (2019) Advancing Conservation Planning for Western Chimpanzees Using IUCN/SSC A.P.E.S. – The Case of a Taxon-Specific Database. Environmental Research Letters. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab1379

Heinicke S, Mundry R, Boesch C, Amarasekaran B, Barrie A, Brncic T, 9th out of 40 authors Carvalho JS (2019). Characteristics of Positive Deviants in Western Chimpanzee Populations. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00016