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Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Biogeography

Dr. Malika Virah-Sawmy

Dr. Malika Virah-Sawmy





Office location



Visiting Scientist




Rudower Chaussee 16, Room 2'105

+49 (0)30 2093-5394

About me

I work in the Science and Policy interphase especially focussing in the agriculture-energy-environment nexus. My work in this field have involved improving sustainability standards, establishing deforestation-free supply chains, defining low-carbon pathways for urban development, enabling equitable green growth and responsible mining.

Previously, I have worked for many years on the ground on conservation and agricultural programmes in Madagascar, Congo and several Indian Ocean islands.

Lately, I have been exploring the use of games and mindful facilitation for strengthening Science and Policy. I am the Founder of Inspire, a spin-off of ETH Zurich, that offers these services. Know more about me at Terrleben.


My current or prospective projects in Science-Policy include:

  • Managing biodiversity risks in global supply chain with WWF and several universities
  • Use scenarios and games in sustainability, with ETH Zurich and several universities, boundary organizations and NGOs.
  • Assessing what constitutes eco-labels (certification) credibility license to operate, with university partners.
  • Developing games to tackle with wildlife trade, with ETH Zurich and other NGOs.
  • Using games to assess conservation impacts, with ETH Zurich and donor organizations.
  • Working with small holders in the Congo to improve agricultural supply chain.


Curriculum Vitae

2018 Founder, Inspire, a spin-off of ETH Zurich, and Terrleben, both offering facilitated and systems approaches to support multi-stakeholder initiatives and development projects run by NGOs, university and corporates

2015 - 2017

Science-Policy Lead in Sustainable Consumption and Production, Luc Hoffmann Institute, WWF International, Geneva.

2009 - 2012

Conservation Coordinator, WWF Madagascar and Western Indian Ocean, Madagascar.

2000 - 2004

Project Coordinator, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation




Durán AP, Green JHM, West CD, Visconti P, Burgess ND, Virah-Sawmy M, Balmford A. (2018) Putting species back on the map: devising a robust method for quantifying the biodiversity impacts of commodity-driven land conversion. Global Change Biology (in print).

Wyborn, C. including Virah-Sawmy, M. Did we have an impact? : Wresting the complexity of evaluation for organisations at the boundary of science, policy and practice. Conservation Biology (in print).

Joppa et al., including Virah-Sawmy, M (2016). Filling the Biodiversity Threat Gaps. Science 352, (6284), 416-418

Virah-Sawmy, M. et al. (2015). A landscape vulnerability framework for identifying integrated conservation and adaptation pathways to climate change: the case of Madagascar’s spiny forest. Landscape Ecology 31 (3), 637-654

Virah-Sawmy, M. Growing inclusive business models in the extractive industries: Demonstrating a smart concept to scale up positive social impacts. The Extractive Industries and Society 2 (4), 676-67

Virah-Sawmy, M, Stoklosa, J, Ebeling J. (2015). A probabilistic scenario approach for developing improved Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) baselines. Global Ecology and Conservation 4, 602-613

Virah-Sawmy, M. (2015). Extinct Madagascar: Picturing the island’s past. The Holocene 25, 3. 

Gardner CJ, Virah-Sawmy M, et al (2015). Oblique aerial photography: a novel tool for the monitoring and participatory management of protected areas. Parks 21, 13-28

M. Virah-Sawmy et al. (2014) Mining and biodiversity offsets: A transparent and science-based approach to measure “no-net-loss”. Journal of Environmental Management 143, 61-70

CJ Gardner, M Virah-Sawmy et al. (2013) Protected areas for conservation and poverty alleviation: experiences from Madagascar.. Journal of Applied Ecology 50, 1289-1294

M Virah-Sawmy et al. (2013). The Durban Vision in practice: participatory governance in Madagascar’s new protected areas. In I Scales (editor). Madagascar at Crossroads. Earthscan publication, UK

H Lawton-Smith, S Romeo and M Virah-Sawmy (2012). Business and professional networks: scope and outcomes in Oxfordshire. Environment and Planning A 44, 1801-1818.

M Virah-Sawmy and J Ebeling (2010). The difficult road toward real-world engagement: conservation science and mining in southern Madagascar. Conservation Letters 3, 288-289.

M Virah-Sawmy, KJ Willis and L Gillson (2009). Does heterogeneity enhance resilience to rapid climatic changes? Sea-level rise and ecological dynamics in Madagascar’s hottest hotspot. Ecological Monograph 79, 557–574.

M Virah-Sawmy (2009). Ecosystem Management in Madagascar during global change. Conservation Letters 2, 163-177.

M Virah-Sawmy, M Bonsall and KJ Willis (2009). ‘Tales of Symphonia’: extinction dynamics in response to past climate change in Madagascan rainforests. Biology Letters 5, 821-825

M Virah-Sawmy, KJ Willis and L Gillson (2009). Evidence for drought and forest declines during the recent megafaunal extinctions in Madagascar. Journal of Biogeography 37, 506 – 519

M Virah-Sawmy et al. (2009). Rapid forest degradation in a Mauritian rainforest following 60 years of invasion. Oryx 43, 599–607.

M Virah-Sawmy, KJ Willis and L Gillson (2009). Threshold Response of Madagascar’s littoral forest to sea-level rise. Global Ecology and Biogeography 18, 98-100.

J Ebeling, M Virah-Sawmy and P Moura Costa (2009). Using international carbon markets to finance forest restoration while mitigating climate change. In F.A. Comín (editor). Ecological Restoration: A Global Challenge. Cambridge University Press-CSIC

KJ Willis, L Gillson and M Virah-Sawmy (2008). Nature or nurture: the ambiguity of grasslands in Madagascar. Journal of Biogeography 35, 1741-1742.


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