Thomas Pienkowski

Tom’s research seeks to understand the ways that living alongside wildlife can affect people’s mental health, particularly in relation to disease transmission.

Photo credit: University of Oxford

twitter: @Tom__Pienkowski
skype: tom_pienkowski

PhD project

Mental health in a conservation landscape: psychological dynamics of living in proximity to primates in western Uganda


In the last 10 years, I’ve worked between research and practice, including in Belize, Jamaica, Singapore and the UK. I am interested in the public health implications of environmental change and conservation, particularly in relation to subjective and psychological aspects of health.


Humans and wildlife share many of the same spaces. This can bring people and wildlife into contact in many ways. The direct consequences of this contact – like crop raiding by elephants – are well recognised. However, much less attention has been paid to indirect impacts, such as the psychological consequences of living alongside wildlife. My research will explore how human-primate interactions influence peoples’ mental health through several mechanisms, including zoonotic disease transmission. This will help illustrate unexplored impacts of environmental protection on people and guide efforts for more fair and successful conservation. Moreover, understanding how ecosystems interact with mental and subjective aspects of health may help support a more holistic approach towards planetary health.


Pienkowski, T., Dickens, B.L., Sun, H., & Carrasco, L.R. 2018. Linking forests, deforestation, and nutritional outcomes: An observational study in nine African countries. The Lancet Planetary Health, 2 (meeting abstract S4).

Pienkowski, T., Dickens, B.L., Sun, H., & Carrasco, L.R. 2017. Empirical evidence of the public health benefits of tropical forest conservation in Cambodia: A generalised linear mixed-effects model analysis. The Lancet Planetary Health, 1(5), e180-e187.

Papworth, S., Rao, M., Oo, M.M., Latt, K.T., Tizard, R., Pienkowski, T., & Carrasco, L.R. 2017. The impact of gold mining and agricultural concessions on the tree cover and local communities in northern Myanmar. Scientific Reports, 7.

Prospere, K., McLaren, K., Pienkowski, T., & Wilson, B.S. 2016. Assessing the status of an artisanal shrimp fishery in a Ramsar wetland in Jamaica: The effects of extreme La Niña episodes, elevated temperature and seasonality on landings. Limnologica, 59: 140–154.

Pienkowski, T., Williams, S., McLaren, K., Wilson, B. & Hockley, N. 2015. Alien invasions and livelihoods: Economic benefits of invasive Australian Red Claw crayfish in Jamaica. Journal of Ecological Economics, 112: 68-77.

Grants & Awards

2018: Training and Travel Grant 2018 – British Ecological Society

2017: NERC DTP award – 4 year DPhil scholarship at the University of Oxford.

2014: CEU MA Research Grant & Lydia Press Memorial Fund – Thesis Research grant.

2013: Erasmus Mundus Scholarship – scholarship for the Masters of Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management Program.

2013: MESPOM Consortium Tuition Waiver – A tuition waiver to pursue a Masters of Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management Program.

2012: SENRGy Prize for Highest Honors Project Mark – Award for the best BSc. final year Honors project.