Milena Beekmann

PhD Student in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology

About myself

Of French and German nationality, I joined the Global Mammal Assessment lab after five years working at the intersection between the climate and biodiversity fields. While graduating from a master’s degree in Environmental Policy from the Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs, I joined the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where I was a member of the COP21 interministerial task force and participated in climate change negotiations under the UNFCCC. I then moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where I worked as an Associate Project Officer for the United Nations Environment Programme’s Wildlife Unit and its Great Ape Survival Partnership. My role entailed project management on a whole range of topics related to wildlife conservation: habitat protection, illegal wildlife trade, green infrastructure, and climate change. Through my work, I came across the silo approach separating climate and biodiversity into separate practice and epistemological communities. I became interested in integrated research methodologies on the interlinkages between the two, which prompted me to develop my PhD project.

About the PhD

I designed an interdisciplinary research project focusing on the interlinkages between climatic and biodiversity changes in the Congo Basin. The Congo Basin is a region of global ecological significance, from a climate mitigation, adaptation and ecosystem conservation perspective, but it is threatened by accelerating global changes creating complex feedback loops with cascading effects over its ecological and social systems. Currently, a lack of geoscientific and meteorological information impedes a comprehensive analysis of global change impacts at the local level. My project seeks to fill this knowledge gap, by providing the bottom-up data necessary for regional conservation and development policy-making. I wish to investigate both the direct impacts of climate changes on ecosystem dynamics, and its indirect impacts, via the responses of local human communities to their changing environment. To this end, I plan to use an approach combining ecological keystone species (i.e. species with a large impact on their ecosystem health) and cultural keystone species (i.e. species playing a cultural salient role for human local communities) as indicators of climate and ecological changes at the landscape level.

Research interests

  • Conservation biology
  • Macroecology
  • Climate change and biodiversity interlinkages
  • Conservation planning
  • Socio-ecological systems