Thalassa McMurdo Hamilton
- 2016–Present: PhD Researcher, London NERC DTP, Institute of Zoology and UCL
- 2016 Durrell Endangered Species Management Course Coordinator, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
- 2015 Chesil Beach Little Tern Project Officer, RSPB
- 2014–2015: Marine Species Recovery Officer, RSPB
- 2013 Seabird Surveyor, RSPB
- 2011–2012: MSc Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, Imperial College London
- 2011 Species Protection Ranger, National Trust
- 2009–2011: Field Biologist, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation
- 2004–2007: BSc Biology (Hons), Newcastle University
My research and experience are centred around threatened species conservation, particularly seabirds. I am interested in population modelling, understanding population declines and quantifying the efficacy of conservation interventions. Conservation managers are faced with difficult decisions, and while scientific evidence must inform decisions, it is not the only value that should be considered. In reality, species conservation is a mix of ecological, social, political and economic values, made more complex by uncertainty and thus risk. In light of this, I have developed an interest in how decision analysis can help conservationists make improved decisions for more sustainable and effective species recovery programmes.
My PhD research mainly focuses on recovery planning for New Zealand’s rarest indigenous bird, Tara iti / New Zealand fairy tern (Sternula nereis davisae). There are a few parts to my work with Tara iti. Firstly, I am using a Structured Decision Making (SDM) framework to help decision-makers decide the best course of action to recover tara iti populations. This is a multi-stakeholder environment, with government, Māori, local community and academic values all present. I am interested in how SDM provides tools to use these values (objectives) to formulate alternative management strategies, and deals with the uncertainties associated with using untested management techniques on very small populations. Concurrently, using long-term breeding and mark-recapture datasets, I am analysing population dynamics and investigating the impacts of current and future management options (such as captive rearing and reinforcements) on breeding productivity and population growth. The stakeholders’ principle objective is to increase the probability of persistence of tara iti. I am using expert judgement techniques to elicit demographic parameters that will be used in integrated population models to predict how alternative management strategies will affect this. Finally, this information, and the estimated consequences of all alternatives against the other objectives, will be integrated. We will articulate uncertainty and work through a risk analysis with the NZFT Recovery Team to help them find an agreed best course of action.
Dr John Ewen, Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society London
Professor Tim Blackburn, Centre for Environmental and Biodiversity Research, UCL
Dr Stefano Canessa (Wildlife Health Ghent, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University; Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society London)
I worked with Professor Trenton Garner on my MSc thesis, investigating the drivers of infection by Amphibiothecum species in an isolated Palmate newt (Lissitriton helveticus) population on the Isle of Rum in Scotland. Amphibiothecum meredithae (previously known as Amphibiocystidium sp.) is a novel, aquatic, fungal-like parasite. Whilst this parasitic infection is prevalent in amphibians across Europe, arguably the worst cases are found on Rum. My research found that environmental conditions of low pH, and to a lesser extent higher altitude, are regulating the parasite in this landscape.
I found severe examples of external and internal infection, with newts’ mouths and livers with multiple lesions observed in dead specimens for the first time. After finishing my MSc, I worked on cataloguing these external and internal lesions on newt specimens collected from the field.
McMurdo Hamilton, T., Brown, A. & Lock, L. Kittiwake declines extend to southern England and beyond: an update on colonies at the southern edge of the species’ Northeast Atlantic range. British Birds 2016 109 (4): 199-210.