PhD Student

About me

My broad interest in science lead me to a BSc in Natural Sciences at Durham University. Here my main focus was on Molecular Biology but towards the end I strayed to ecology, completing an extended review on the causes of declines in UK farmland birds. Coupled with my keen interest in ornithology this lead me onto an MSc in Applied Ecology at the University of Exeter, Cornwall campus. Here I undertook a dissertation project understating the genetic basis of colour variation in aphids to hone my analytical skills. I am currently a PhD student with the WWT and University of Exeter supervised by Prof Stuart Bearhop, Dr Geoff Hilton and Dr Larry Griffin.

Outside of science I am an avid birder in my local Cornish areas, especially seawatching off windswept cliffs in gale force winds but I also enjoy birding further afield, searching for rare endemics in the leaf litter of sweaty tropical rainforests.

My project

My PhD focuses on understanding the decline of Greenland White-fronted Geese. The population, which winters solely in the British Isles, nearly halved between 1999 and 2015. The drivers behind this sharp fall are not fully understood and could be a precursor to more widespread declines in waterfowl taxa so it is important we learn all we can from this species.

My work explores how climate change and hunting could be reducing the population size. I use GPS and accelerometer data from biologging devices to understand how changing climate patterns impacts on the breeding success and migratory journeys of individuals and make inferences on how this is driving demographic patterns at that population level. I also work extensively in the field on Islay, Scotland x-raying birds to look for the presence of shot embedded in tissues to try and calculate the number illegally shot annually. Faecal sampling of these birds also allows me to determine if they are suffering poisoning from spent lead ammunition.

Skills

  • Statistical analysis and modelling using R
  • Handling and analysis of spatial data using QGIS
  • Analysis of animal movement data
  • Application of remote sensing data
  • Conducting ecological fieldwork