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Shirley Atkinson

Wildlife Ecologist

"Our work focuses on building trust and bringing people to the table to mend the historical rift between the wildlife conservation and livestock sectors. We use health as the entry point – not disease – to focus on a better future for people and their livelihoods, and on a sustainable approach to land use so that both wildlife and cattle can thrive."

Shirley Atkinson is Regional Coordinator for the AHEAD (Animal & Human Health for the Environment And Development) program. In this role, she works to bring government partners and other stakeholders together to identify solutions to land-use conflicts that arise at the intersection of wildlife conservation, livestock agriculture, and rural livelihoods. Her focus is AHEAD’s ‘Beyond Fences’ work in southern Africa, where sustainable and more environmentally friendly beef production goes hand in hand with conserving habitat and migratory corridors for some of the world’s most iconic wildlife. Within the Cornell Yang Center for Wildlife Health, she also helps manage programmatic, development, and administrative operations.

Shirley holds a MSc in Tropical Resource Ecology from the University of Zimbabwe, and a BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences from the University of Plymouth, UK. Prior to joining Cornell University, she worked at the Wildlife Conservation Society where she oversaw a range of conservation and research efforts across North America. She later coordinated AHEAD program work on One Health-related issues in southern Africa. She began her career focusing on the nutritional ecology and conservation of black rhinos during the 1990s poaching crisis in Zimbabwe.