2013-Present: PhD candidate, Institute of Zoology ZSL and University College London
2013: Field Assistant Manager, FERA (Food and Environment Research Agency, DEFRA)
2012-2013: Round Island Nature Reserve Warden, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, Mauritius
2011-2012: Seabird Ecologist & Assistant Warden on Round Island, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, Mauritius
2005-2010: BSc Zoology with placement year, Cardiff University
Working for wildlife has never been a question for me – it has always been a major part of who I am, and I love that so many years on I am still following my passion. I am lucky to have had a range of experiences working in wildlife and conservation; from sitting on the committee for Gwent Wildlife Trust, catching storm petrels by night with the A Rocha bird ringing organisation in Portugal, to following Hornbills in Borneo to understand the impacts of logging.
The natural world fascinates me, but I have a keen interest in animal behaviour, physiology, and ultimately, their conservation. I am in my element when out in the field, but exploring the data we collect is just as exciting and can be very revealing of what is really happening in the environment.
Biodiversity has been exhibiting a decline for several decades at genetic, population and ecosystem levels. In response to this, numerous conservation programmes have been, and continue to be established in order to secure the long-term viability of populations. Each conservation programme is faced with a unique set of circumstances based on the biology of the target species, the threats to the species’ survival and the local economic and political climate, all of which can change over time.
However, the immediate needs of most endangered species are often identical (e.g. increasing food availability and breeding habitat, alleviation of predation and diseases) hence a series of common principles are frequently shared in the design and implementation of conservation management.
For the species, it is important to understand their ecology and dynamics, whilst at a programme level, we must assess the effectiveness of the techniques employed. Such research aims to ensure the long-term viability of threatened species, and contribute to the global, ecological tool box for effective and practical management.
My PhD research focuses on one such example of conservation success, the recovery of the Echo Parakeet, Psittacula eques. Endemic to the Island of Mauritius, this parakeet was nearing extinction by the late 1980’s with less than 20 individuals in the wild. Through the intense work and monitoring of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation from 1993 onwards, the population has been carefully managed to a present day population of ~500 birds. Yet no study has closely examined the underlying demography of the population and in particular, its response to environmental conditions, disease and management actions.
Such a rare, long-term data set will facilitate the examination of population and individual-level patterns in breeding success (e.g. timing of breeding, clutch size and fledglings), survival and recruitment. I am particularly keen to explore how the provision of supplementary food has altered demographic rates and may influence future population growth, in addition to challenging the concerns of PBFD outbreaks (Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease) in Mauritius and its impact on the ground. Understanding of these is fundamental to the development of an appropriate monitoring and management strategy to ensure the long-term viability of the parakeets.
The integration of research with conservation management is becoming more common place in conservation biology and has been termed ‘Adaptive Management’. Successful adaptive management can lead to better targeting and more efficient use of resources and ultimately ensure the long–term survival of the species. The PhD will play an important role is advancing this process and hence the conservation of the Echo parakeet in the wild.
Collaborations & Links:
- MWF http://www.mauritian-wildlife.org/application/index.php?tpid=30&tcid=82
- Durrell Wildlife Trust https://www.durrell.org/wildlife/
- Ambassador for STEMNET http://www.stemnet.org.uk/
- Member of BES (British Ecological Society), EWDA (European Wildlife and Disease Association), and IOU (international ornithology Union)
- Student Representative for IOZ, ZSL.