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Virginia Thomas

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

I’m an honorary research fellow with the Centre for Rural Policy research with a background in literature, science communication and sociology, and was a veterinary nurse before returning to academia. As a result I have a deep interest in human-animal interactions, particularly human-wildlife-conflicts, and scientific and knowledge controversies more broadly. I employ an interdisciplinary approach in my research and am particularly interested in a ‘one health’ approach to the global challenges we face.  

Research group links

Research interests

I’m a research fellow on a project funded by the Wellcome Trust entitled ‘From Feed the Birds to Do Not Feed the Animals’. This is an interdisciplinary project involving cross-disciplinary and trans-institutional collaborations.  


Together we are investigating the human proclivity to feed animals and the consequences of this for the animals, the environment and the humans themselves.   


The team includes anthropologists, geochemists, sociologists and zooarchaeologists from the National Museum of Scotland and the universities of Exeter, Roehampton and Reading. 


As part of my broader research interests I co-convene the Exeter Animal Studies Reading Group and am a member of several research networks: Biodiersity and People, Environmental Intelligence at Exeter, and Policy at Exeter. I am also a member of the ECR board of the AgriFood4NetZeroNetwork+

External impact and engagement

News media 

Article in The Independent: English rewilding projects not wild enough, study suggests 

Article in The Scottish Farmer: Agricultural rewilding means you can have biodiversity and quality meat 


The categorisation of cats is a difficult matter

Rewilding - the conservation approach that dare not speak its name 


The Animal Feeding Podcast on Spotify 

Public talks

New Scientist 2023: The Science of Rewilding 

Pint of Science 2022: Whose countryside is it anyway? Rewilding and the battle for the soul of England's countryside. 

Guest lectures

University of Sussex: Rewilding, wild farming and ecotourism: ecosystem services and public money for public goods

University of Manchester: Rewilding in England's green and pleasant land

Conferences & Meetings

October 2023 (Un)Common Worlds III Conference 'No Strings Attached: the changing fortunes of the red kite in the anthropocene' 

September 2023 MANCEPT Political Theory Workshops 'The Road to Peace is Paved with Violence: renewed coexistence as a possible route to mutual flourishing of humans and reintroduced species' 

September 2023 Animal History Group Conference 'No Strings Attached: the changing fortunes of the red kite in the anthropocene'  

July 2023 Euopean Society for Rural Sociology 'Rewilding: a transformative solution to rural crises across Europe' 

June 2023 International Society for Anthrozoology Conference 'More than one way to feed a cat: human-cat relations and cat feeding in the Anthropocene' 

April 2023 Human-Animal Relations:  Beyond the Wild and Domesticated Symposium 'Cat in the box - conceptions of human cat relations' 

September 2022 European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics Conference 'Domesticating rewilding: combining rewilding and agriculture offers environmental and human benefits'

August 2022 Royal Geographical Society Conference 'Conservation in the Anthropocene: recovering other-than-human animals in an anthropocentric world'

July 2022 European Society of Environmental History Conference 'Brave Zoom World: the possibilities and pitfalls of physically distant interdisciplinary research' 

May 2022 British Animal Studies Network 'Do(n’t) feed the animals: Mixed messages and the multiple meanings of care’

September 2021 Royal Geographical Society Conference 'Conservation borders: to feed or not to feed'

July 2021 Animal History Group Conference 'An osteobiography of Choppers the PG Tips Chimp'

June 2021 Research Ethics Conference 'Brave Zoom World: The ethics of conducting engaged, interdisciplinary research at a distance'

May 2021 Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference 'Brave Zoom World: Exploring engaged research in a strange, new, physically distanced world'

May 2021 Contemporary Issues in Participatory Geography Conference 'The Art and Practice of Participatory Research at the Science-Policy Interface'


2018-2021 PhD in Sociology with the University of Exeter entitled ‘Navigating the landscapes of rewilding: A comparative case study of ‘rewilding’ in the Avalon Marshes and Wild Ennerdale’.  


2016-2017 MSc in Science Communication with Dublin City University 



2003-2013 BA (hons) Literature with the Open University 



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