My primary intellectual and research interests broadly focus on environmental criminology and crime science, wildlife crime, wildlife law enforcement, human dimensions of conservation science, and conservation social science. As part of such research endeavors, I also explore the broader areas of police culture and police innovation. Currently, I have an active research agenda in four associated areas: (1) understanding the situational, environmental, and motivational characteristics of wildlife crime, (2) the intersection of wildlife crime with other criminal activity, including corruption, (3) developing and empirically testing elements that form the front-line ranger culture, and (4) adapting policing innovation approaches for wildlife law enforcement initiatives.
My doctoral dissertation involved an ethnographic study of law enforcement ranger culture and operations in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. During an eight-week period, I lived amongst and with rangers working for the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in order to understand their experiences and orientations towards their occupation and illegal activities that occurred within the protected area (PA). In doing so, I completed 24 extended face-to-face interviews and performed 500 hours of participant observation, including joining several ranger foot patrols. My dissertation led to several publications that appeared in leading academic outlets, including the British Journal of Criminology and Oryx: The International Journal of Conservation. In 2014, I returned to Uganda to extend upon the findings from my dissertation. For this study, I visited five study sites (three PAs, the UWA headquarters, and Entebbe airport) and completed a total of 89 extensive face-to-face interviews, 80 close-ended surveys, and collected approximately 600 hours of participant observation. I am currently working on several manuscripts based on this data with several of my students.
From a theoretical perspective, my colleague, Stephen Pires (Florida International University) and I were one of the first to advocate and promote the use of situational crime prevention to prevent and reduce wildlife crime (Pires & Moreto, 2011). Additionally, I have adapted established environmental criminological concepts specifically for the study of wildlife crime. For example, my colleague Andrew Lemieux (Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement) and I developed a product-based framework, referred to as CAPTURED (Moreto & Lemieux, 2015a), to specifically examine wildlife trafficking by extending the CRAVED theft model (Clarke, 1999). I have also published research on poacher motivation and the spatial and temporal characteristics of poaching in Uganda, which led to the elaboration of the routine activity crime triangle to account for poaching activities that do not require the immediate intersection between target and victim (Moreto & Lemieux, 2015b). Currently, I am working with a doctoral student to examine poaching and other illegal activities in seven countries, including Bhutan, China, and Laos.
I have also examined the intersection between wildlife crime and other criminal activities. For example, I recently published a paper in the British Journal of Criminology with my colleague Daan van Uhm (Utrecht University) where we utilized Passas’ symbiotic and antithetical enterprise framework to assess corruption within the illegal wildlife trade in China, Morocco, Russia, and Uganda (van Uhm & Moreto, in press). I am currently working on manuscripts that examine the convergence of wildlife trafficking and organized crime, as well as illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing and labor trafficking.
In addition to my research on wildlife crime, I have also conducted extensive research on wildlife law enforcement. I have published articles on ranger job stress and job satisfaction (Moreto, 2016; Moreto, Lemieux, & Nobles, 2016) and ranger roles and responsibilities (Moreto & Matusiak, 2017). I have also published research examining ranger perceptions of community-ranger relations (Moreto, Brunson, & Braga, 2017) and ranger deviance (Moreto, Brunson, & Braga, 2015), both published in the British Journal of Criminology. I also recently published in Oryx: The International Journal of Conservation the only empirical study to examine rangers in Asia, and the first study on rangers that involved multiple countries (Moreto et al., in press).
As a result of my research on wildlife crime and wildlife law enforcement, I have been fortunate to be invited to give presentations at a number of meetings and symposia, including:
2017 - Science and law enforcement meeting (Phnom Penh, Cambodia) - hosted by the World Wild Fund for Nature
2016 - Conference on Conservation, Computation, and Criminology (Ithaca, NY, USA) - hosted by Cornell University
2016 - Presidential Taskforce on Wildlife Trafficking (Springfield, VA, USA) - hosted by National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and Co-Chaired by the Department of State, Department of Interior, and Department of Justice
2015 - Wildlife Trafficking - The New Supply Chain: An International Security Challenge (Tampa, FL, USA) - hosted by US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Counter Threat Finance (CTF) Working Group (WG)
2015 - Tiger Week (Amsterdam, Netherlands) - hosted by the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement
2015 - U.S. – France Cooperative Futures Forum: Anticipating Transnational Threats and Risks (Washington, DC, USA) - hosted by
U.S. Department of State, National Institute of Justice, George Mason University, and the University of Paris-Sorbonne
2014 - Wildlife Crime Workshop (Washington, DC, USA) - hosted by University of Southern California
2014 - Wildlife Criminology Symposium (Washington, DC, USA) - hosted by the World Bank
2013 - Wildlife Crime Symposium (Newark, NJ, USA) - hosted by Rutgers School of Criminal Justice