Cheli Cresswell Sinclair

Cheli Cresswell Sinclair is the director of Conservation Optimism and also heads up engagement for conservation charity Synchronicity Earth. Her work focuses on how to connect people meaningfully with wild spaces and threatened and endangered species in ways that promote action.


Cheli is particularly interested in how to effectively inspire, motivate, and empower people to get involved in conservation policy and practice, with a focus on citizen science and community building. Her previous research has looked at understanding how the engagement of non-academics and non-scientists in the gathering, analysis, and use of scientific data — aka “citizen science” — has evolved over the last hundred or so years, and how we can capitalise on current technology to maximise conservation efforts by facilitating “regular folks” to contribute in substantial, robust, and significant ways. She brings these interest to her position on the board of Key Conservation.


Cheli lives in London with her husband, conservation scientist Dr. Sam Sinclair.  She enjoys hiking, wandering London’s many museums, and researching new and innovative ways to address conservation’s most pressing issues.

I am the Director of the Conservation Optimism movement. I came on board in 2016 before the first Conservation Optimism Summit in 2017, and have been involved in its inception and evolution ever since. I am passionate about working with other conservation organizations to help change the discourse away from “doom and gloom” messaging towards helping to empower people from all walks of life to take meaningful action for conservation.

As of 2018, I serve on the Board of Directors of Key Conservation, a non-profit tech start up which is developing a mobile app designed to connect conservation organizations and their supporters through real-time updates and opportunities for donation, volunteering, and skill-sharing, with a particular focus on advising on citizen science and strategic engagement. The app will be released summer 2018.

I am the Engagement Strategist at Synchronicity Earth, a research-driven conservation organization which acts to address overlooked and underfunded conservation challenges for globally threatened species and ecosystems by raising and distributing donor funding. My role involves innovating ways to connect our various networks with the work we are doing in meaningful and measurable ways, and maximizing impact through connection, creativity, and inspiration.

I am nearing the completion of my PhD (called a DPhil at Oxford) in the School of Geography and the Environment at University of Oxford. My research focuses on how conservation citizen science has evolved over the last hundred and twenty years, with particular regards to how digitally-mediated platforms and projects have fundamentally changed the relationships between creators, participants, and users.