Dr Olivia Norfolk

Senior Lecturer in Animal & Environmental Biology

Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

School:Life Sciences

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Animal and environmental biology

Research Supervision:Yes

Olivia is a community ecologist interested in the development of nature-based solutions that regenerate biodiversity and sustain ecosystem functioning.

ResearchGate: Olivia Norfolk


Twitter: @olivianorfolk


Olivia joined ARU in 2016. Prior to this, she was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of York, where her research evaluated the impacts of tropical deforestation and agricultural land-use on biodiversity in East Africa. She completed her PhD at the University of Nottingham under supervision of Professor Francis Gilbert and Dr Markus Eichhorn. Her postgraduate research explored how traditional Bedouin farming practises influence biodiversity and ecosystem services in South Sinai, Egypt.

In 2020, Olivia became Vice Chair of the Cambridge Conservation Forum (CCF) Committee and is committed to building research collaborations between ARU academics (students and staff) and conservation organisations. Her current projects aim to enhance the sustainability of global food production systems through the incentivisation of dryland agroforestry across the Middle East and Northern Africa; the development of novel organic vermi-culture composts in Malawi; and, collaborations with the Royal Society for Protection of Birds to inform the use of novel cropping practises on their exemplar arable farm in Cambridgeshire.

Olivia is registered severely sight impaired and is blind.

Research interests

  • Agro-ecology
  • Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning
  • Conservation Evidence
  • Dryland agroforestry and rainwater harvesting
  • Pollination ecology (mutualistic networks, functional traits, crop pollination)
  • Nature-based farming solutions
  • Tropical ecology
  • Urban biodiversity and conservation.

Areas of research supervision

Olivia welcomes enquiries from prospective postgraduate students in the areas of her research interests.

Find out more about our Biology PhD and our exciting PhD project opportunities.


  • Animal Behaviour – BSc (Hons)
  • Animal Behaviour Applications for Conservation - MSc
  • Applied Wildlife Conservation – MSc
  • Marine and Terrestrial Conservation - BSc (Hons)
  • Zoology – BSc (Hons)


  • PhD in Life Sciences, University of Nottingham
  • MRes in Ecology, University of Nottingham
  • BSc Hons in Zoology, University of Nottingham
  • PG Cert in LEarning and Teaching, ARU
  • Fine Art Foundation Diploma, University of West England

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Vice Chair of Cambridge Conservation Forum Committee
  • Member of British Ecological Society
  • Member of the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) Working Group on Drylands
  • Reviewer for journals including Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment; Diversity & Distributions; Journal of Applied Ecology

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

Research Grants

2020 - Principal investigator – School of Life Sciences, ARU - Project title: “Growing Hope: Could Organic Vermi-compost Fertiliser End Soil Degradation in Malawi?” – Funding: Project Development Grant from Global Challenge Research Fund.

Policy Engagement

  • June 2019 - Consultative workshop on post-2020 Sustainable Wildlife Trade, Cambridge Conservation Initiative, University of Cambridge.
  • January 2019 - Advisory consultant to Makhad Trust on pollinator conservation in South Sinai
  • March 2017 - Expert workshop on the development of an EU Pollinator Initiative, Brussels.

Selected recent publications

Norfolk, O., and Dathe, H.H. (2019) Filling the Egyptian pollinator knowledge-gap: checklist of flower-visiting insects in South Sinai, with new records for Egypt. Beiträge zur Entomologie = Contributions to Entomology, 69(1), pp.175-184.

Norfolk, O., Gilbert, F. and Eichhorn, M.P. (2018) Alien honeybees increase pollination risks for range‐restricted plants. Diversity and Distributions, 24(5), pp.705-713.

Norfolk, O., Jung, M., Platts, P.J., Malaki, P., Odeny, D. and Marchant, R. (2017) Birds in the matrix: the role of agriculture in avian conservation in the Taita Hills, Kenya. African Journal of Ecology, 55(4), pp.530-540.

Norfolk, O., Asale, A., Temesgen, T., Denu, D., Platts, P.J., Marchant, R. and Yewhalaw, D. (2017) Diversity and composition of tropical butterflies along an Afromontane agricultural gradient in the Jimma Highlands, Ethiopia. Biotropica, 49(3), pp.346-354.

Hudson, L. et al. (2017) The database of the Predicts (Projecting responses of ecological diversity in changing terrestrial systems) project. Ecology and Evolution, 7(1), pp.145-188.

Norfolk, O., Eichhorn, M.P. and Gilbert, F. (2016) Flowering ground vegetation benefits wild pollinators and fruit set of almond within arid smallholder orchards. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 9(3), pp.236-243.

Norfolk, O., Power, A., Eichhorn, M, Gilbert, F. (2014) Migratory bird species benefit from traditional agricultural gardens in arid South Sinai. Journal of Arid Environments, 114, 110-115.

Hudson, L. et al. (2014). The PREDICTS database: a global database of how local terrestrial biodiversity responds to human impacts. Ecology and Evolution, 12, 1-35.

Norfolk, O., & Gilbert, F. (2014). Floral visitation rates to wild plants increase in the presence of traditional agriculture in arid South Sinai, Egypt. Journal of Arid Environments, 109, 83-87.

Norfolk, O., Eichhorn, M. & Gilbert, F. (2013) Traditional agricultural gardens conserve wild plants and functional richness in arid South Sinai. Basic and Applied Ecology, 14, 659-669.

Norfolk, O., Abdel-Dayem, M. & Gilbert, F. (2012) Rainwater harvesting and arthropod biodiversity within an arid agro-ecosystem. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environments, 162, 8-14.

Norfolk, O., Sadiki, L., Broughton, B., Oteino, M. & Nuttman, C. (2012) Tea Breaks: how flower visitors benefit from unplanned floral buffer strips in a Tanzanian tea plantation. African Journal of Ecology, 51, 380-384.

Recent presentations and conferences


Norfolk, Eichhorn and Gilbert (2020) Sustainable agroforestry in a drier world: lessons from Sinai. Oral presentation accepted for ISCRAES 2020 (International Symposium on Climate-Resilient Agri-Environmental Systems), Dublin, Ireland.

Norfolk, Marchant et al. (2016) Tropical butterfly diversity across a forest-disturbance gradient in East Africa. Oral presentation at the British Ecological Society Annual Meeting, Liverpool, UK.

Norfolk, Eichhorn and Gilbert (2014) Crop diversity & pollinator conservation: what can we learn from traditional systems? Oral presentation at Joint Annual Meeting of British Ecological Society and Société Française d’Ecologie. Lille, France.

Norfolk, Eichhorn and Gilbert (2014) Contrasting patterns of turnover in plants, pollinators and their interactions. Oral presentation at BES Macroecology Meeting, University of Nottingham, UK.

Norfolk 2013 Crop diversity and seasonal planting increase the resilience of plant-pollinator networks. Poster at Biodiversity Resilience Symposium, University of Oxford, UK.


Feb 2020: ARU and Cambridge Conservation Forum Joint Research Symposium. The first occurrence of an annual event designed to foster research collaboration between ARU Master’s students and conservation organisations.

Media experience

Radio Interviews:

  • 2020 BBC Cambridge Breakfast Show, the impact of lock-down on nature.
  • 2019 BBC Essex, roadside wildflower meadows.
  • 2019 Vancouver Radio’s ‘Animal Voices’, promoting pollinator conservation and discussing issues associated with honeybee-keeping.
  • 2018 BBC World Service, impact of honeybees on wild bees and the environment.

TV interviews:

  • 2018 Interview with Associated Press for Egyptian TV about research featured in Nature Middle East and Scientific American Arabic.

National press coverage:

  • 2019 Independent, roadside wildflower meadows
  • 2018 Daily Mail, i Newspaper, The Sun, impact of honeybees on wild bees and the environment
  • 2015 Der Standard, “Biblical rest-stops and winter residences”, the value of Bedouin gardens for migratory birds

Commissioned Articles:

Norfolk, O. “Roadside wildflower meadows are springing up across the UK – and they’re helping wildlife in a big way” The Conversation. July 2019. 60,000 reads

Norfolk, O. “Keeping honeybees doesn’t save bees – or the environment” The Conversation. Sept 2018. 30,000 reads.