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Josephine Head

Senior Research Lead


Dr Josephine Head - Senior Research Lead for Sustainable Agriculture in the Science, Policy and Innovation team at Earthwatch.  

Josephine received a BA degree in Anthropology from Durham University (UK); and a PhD (Magna Cum Laude) in Biology from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Primatology, Faculty of Biosciences, Leipzig (Germany).

Josephine began her career as a primatologist, researching the feeding ecology and habitat use of chimpanzees and gorillas in Gabon, Central Africa. 

After her PhD, she worked extensively on exploring the drivers of bushmeat hunting in Africa and Asia, and identifying opportunities for behaviour change and alternative livelihoods for those involved in the bushmeat supply chain. Josephine also worked on tropical conservation more broadly, around issues of habitat integrity, industrial agriculture, and protected area management. This led Josephine to observe how wildlife conservation fits into the wider picture of global issues like climate change, food systems, security and public health, and how the food we produce and eat lies at the heart of so many environmental challenges and solutions. 

As a result, her research focus has shifted towards sustainable agriculture, and the role of food systems in ensuring we remain within the safe operating limits of our planetary boundaries. At Earthwatch, Josephine works with farmers to develop farmer-led monitoring, and to act as a convener between farmers, businesses and policy makers to drive forward the sustainable agriculture agenda.




  • 2016 – present: Member of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group 

  • 2019 – present: Mission assembly member for the European Union’s Soil Health and Food research and innovation mission (Part of Horizon Europe 2021-2027)

Research interests

  • Sustainable agriculture and food systems
  • Citizen science
  • Soil health, biodiversity, trees on farms
  • Links between sustainable and healthy diets
  • Conflict mitigation between wildlife habitat and agricultural expansion
  • Bushmeat trade
  • Behaviour change
  • Wildlife impacts of development projects (e.g. mining, logging)
  • Population dynamics of large mammals in Central Africa



Primates in flooded habitats: ecology and conservation. Cambridge University Press. Pp.77-88

Head, J., Healy, A. & Nowak, K., 2019. Primates in African mangroves. In: Barnett, A.A., Matsuda, I. & Nowak, K. (eds)

Soil Health, Biodiversity and the Business Case for Sustainable Agriculture. Earthwatch Europe Report, Oxford, UK

Head, J., 2019

Human impact erodes chimpanzee behavioral biodiversity. Science, 363, pp.1453-1455

Kuhl, H., Boesch, C., Kulik, L., Haas, F., Head, J. et al., 2019

What is the connection between infectious diseases in humans and livestock? (Foodsource: chapters). Food Climate Research Network, University of Oxford

Lee-Gammage, S., Atherton, E., Head, J. & Stewart, S., 2018

Nocturnal activity in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): Evidence for flexible sleeping patterns and insights into human evolution. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 166, pp.510-529

Tagg, N., McCarthy, M., Dieguez, P., Head, J. et al., 2018

A Healthy and Sustainable Food Future: Policy recommendations to embed sustainability in the Eatwell Guide and wider UK food policy.” Medact Policy Briefing, London, UK

Head, J., 2017

How do the UK dietary guidelines compare for sustainability? Medact, London, UK

Head, J., 2017

What are the links between sustainable and healthy diets? The Institute of Food Safety, Integrity and Protection, London, UK

Head, J., 2016

Primate abundance and distribution: background concepts and methods. In: An Introduction to Primate Conservation. Edited by: Wich, S. & Marshall, A.J., Oxford University Press

Campbell, G., Head, J., Junker, J. & Nekaris, A., 2016

Can UK horticulture meet the demands of our dietary guidelines? The Institute of Food Safety, Integrity and Protection, London, UK

Head, J., 2016

The new Eatwell Guide – what should we all be eating? The Institute of Food Safety, Integrity and Protection, London, UK

Head, J., 2016

How environmentally sustainable are the UK’s new dietary guidelines? British Medical Journal Blogs, The BMJ Opinion, London, UK

Head, J., 2016

The bigger picture: indirect impacts of extractive industries on apes and habitat. In: State of the Apes: Extractive Industries and Ape Conservation. Cambridge University Press, UK. pp. 196-225

White, A., Fa, J., Arnhem, E., Colchester, M., Cugniere, L., Fankem, O., Hatchewell, M., Head, J., Kenrick, J., Meijaard, E., Morgan, D., De Ornellas, P., Paul, B., PNCI, Ransom, C., Sanz, C., Tolisano, J., Victurine, R., Vosper, A., WCS, Wich, S., 2014

Sympatric chimpanzees and gorillas in Loango National Park, Gabon: Dietary composition, seasonal changes and inter-site comparisons. International Journal of Primatology, 32:755-775

Head, J., Boesch, C., Makaga, L. & Robbins, M.M. (2011). 


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