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Dr Harry Hilser

Dr Harry Hilser

Research Fellow




Harry is an experienced conservation practitioner, behavioural scientist and environmental educator. His research explores the cultural roots of our relationship with nature, specialising in human values and behaviour change. He is most recently working with Exeter's Geography Department in collaboration with his environmental education consultancy, Lestari on an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded partnership bringing together regional and national environmental education organisations to explore how best to update education responses to the climate and ecological emergency.

Harry's doctoral research in Human Geography primarily focused on the understudied area of conservation advocacy and nature connectedness. He investigated pro-social and pro-environmental behaviours and assessed potential of behaviour change strategies, focusing on addressing hunting as a practice. An immersive 14-month ethnographic study explored the cognitive, social, and spiritual histories of four rural communities in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Emergent from his research is a nuanced understanding of cultural dynamism and the links between pro-social and pro-environmental behaviours, which may help to normalise more harmonious relationships between people and nature.

With a background in biology, Harry sought to pursue interests in ecology and anthropology, leading into a specialization in primatology. Deepening these core interests, he explored Indonesia’s rich diversity of primate species, beginning research in South East Sulawesi in 2005. Since then he investigated crop-raiding and social interactions in Buton macaques (Macaca ochreata brunescens), parasitism in orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), gibbons (Hylobates albibarbis) and red langurs (Presbytis rubicunda), and longitudinal conservation social and ecological research of the Critically Endangered Sulawesi crested black macaques (Macaca nigra).

Harry's primary interest trajectories developed from the biological to social science domains, being based in North Sulawesi in Indonesia for the past 9 years as Director of a conservation Programme focused on protecting M. nigra and its native habitat. 

Broad research specialisms:

Behaviour Change Science; Primatology; Conservation Biology; Empathy; Human Values; Social Psychology


PhD Human Geography

BSc Biological Sciences
MSc Primate Conservation


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Research projects


Hilser, H. (2021). Collective stewardship and pathways to change: understanding pro-social values, connectedness to nature and empathic capacity to cultivate ecocentrism in rural communities of North Sulawesi, Indonesia. PhD Thesis, the University of Exeter.

Bailey, C., Hilser, H., Siwi, Y., Lawe, Z., Waterman, J., Loffeld, T. A. C., Sampson, H., Tasirin, J., Melfi, V., & Bowkett, A. E. (2021). Trends in the bushmeat market trade in North Sulawesi and conservation implications. Animal Conservation.

Johnson, C. L., Hilser, H., Linkie, M., Rahasia, R., Rovero, F., Pusparini, W., ... & Bowkett, A. E. (2020). Using occupancy-based camera-trap surveys to assess the Critically Endangered primate Macaca nigra across its range in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Oryx, 54(6), 784-793.

Johnson, C. L., Hilser, H., Andayani, N., Hunowu, I., Linkie, M., Patandung, A., ... & Bowkett, A. E. (2019). Camera traps clarify the distribution boundary between the crested black Macaque (Macaca nigra) and Gorontalo macaque (Macaca nigrescens) in North Sulawesi. International Journal of Primatology40(2), 162-166.

Hilser, H., Bowkett, A., Melfi, V., Tasirin, J., Siwi, Y., Agung, I., Masson, G., Plowman, A. (2013). A substantial non-native population of the Critically Endangered Sulawesi crested black macaque persists on the island of Bacan, North Maluku. Oryx, 47, 479-480.

Hilser, H., Melfi, V., Sampson, H., Tasirin, J. (2013). Species Conservation Action Plan – Sulawesi Crested Black Macaques (Macaca nigra). 

Hilser, H., Ehlers-Smith, D., Ehlers-Smith, Y. (2014). Mortality as a Result of an Elevated Parasite Load in Presbytis rubicundaFolia Primatologica.

Bowkett, A., Farmer, H., Hilser, H., Melfi, V. (2013). Working to save Sulawesi crested black macaques. BIAZA Lifelines.

Hilser, H., Cheyne, S., Morrogh-Bernard, H., Ehlers-Smith, D. (2011). Socioecology and Gastro-Intestinal Parasites of Sympatric Primate Species Inhabiting the Sabangau Peat-Swamp Forest, Central Kalimantan. Presentation at the European Federation of Primatologists Meeting, Portugal.

Hilser, H. (2012). Selamatkan Yaki – Working to Save Sulawesi crested black macaques and their naïve habitat. Oral presentation at the Wallace Darwin Symposium, Hassanudin University, Makassar.

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