Chair in Conservation Science


Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 274181
The University of Aberdeen Institute of Biological & Environmental Sciences,
University of Aberdeen,
Zoology Building,
Tillydrone Avenue,
AB24 2TZ,


  • 2007-       Chair in Conservation Science, Aberdeen University.
  • 2008-2011 Director of ACES 
  • 1997-2007 Research Scientist at CEH, Banchory.
  • 1990-1997 Research Scientist at ITE, Monks Wood.
  • 1985-1989 PhD Leeds University.
  • 1982-1985 BSc (Ecology) Leeds University.

Research Interests

My core research interests lie in conservation and ecology. My work has focused on long-term and large-scale field systems, using experiments to tease out the impact of population processes and land use on individual behaviour, populations and communities. Current research is on conservation conflicts - how do we enable coexistence between livelihoods and biodiversity conservation?

Current Research


CONSERVATION CONFLICTS. I take a broad cross-disciplinary approach to examine how we understand and tackle the conflicts that threaten biodiversity conservation and human livelihoods. 


Photo: Pete MooreRaptors & red grouse. The impact of raptors on game has been one of the most contentious conflicts in UK conservation. I have worked on this problem since 1985, quantifying the impact of hen harriers and other raptors on red grouse populations through long-term studies and exploring alternative mitigation strategies. I continue to work with others to explore how we can use robust science, stakeholder dialogue and knowledge exchange to resolve these challenging conflicts.


Snow leopards. I am working with Charudutt Mishra and Kulbhushansingh 


Suryawanshi in the Snow Leopard Trust and the Nature Conservation Foundation to help develop and test conservation stratgies that allow pastoralists and snow leopards to coexist in the high Himalayas. This work is funded by a Darwin grant. See here.


Conflicts and adaptive management in Scotland. I am working with Juliette Young, Nils Bunnefeld, Justin Irvine and Scottish Natural Heritage to understand the conflicts that arise over certain species in Scotland and to explore the role of adaptive management. Following our 2012 report we are now producing guidance for conflict management principles for SNH.


Rabbits, predation risk & myxomatosis. Declines in rabbit populations in Spain have profound consequences for hunting practices and for the wide guild of predators that is dependent on them. I am working with Rafael Villafuerte to test the role of predation risk and disease in preventing population recovery. 




I am an adjunct member of faculty at the Nature Conservation Foundation in Mysore, India.

Currently my team consists of:



Zara Morris-Trainor's PhD is on "The impact of cashmere production on wild herbivores and snow leopards in the Trans-Himalaya" and aims  to explain variation in abundance of wild herbivores, demography and performance of wild herbivores and snow leopard/wolf diet and seasonality in livestock predation rates. This research will feed into the development of novel management strategies and ongoing community projects that seek to balance human livelihoods with wildlife conservation.


Isla Hodgson. Isla's PhD is entitled: "Predators, tolerance and conflict: determining the drivers of tolerance towards raptors across Scotland". She seeks to understand the role of tolerance in disputes over species management, focussing on raptor species in Scotland, and will explore 1) variation in tolerance between individuals and social groups; 2) the determinants of this variation, and 3) its role in informing attitudes towards raptor management. 

External students.

George Swan. George is based at Exeter University with Prof Robbie McDonald. His PhD is on: "Understanding conflicts surrounding buzzards, predation and pheasant shooting interests". The buzzard is an abundant generalist predator that is perceived to impact game shooting through predation. Hi focus is on the functional response of individual pairs of buzzards to undertand how their diet is influenced by the abundance of prey and foraging specialisation, using nest cameras, prey remains and isotope analysis. 


Chris Pollard. Chris is based at Strirling University with Nils Bunnefeld. His PhD is on: "Linking game theory and structured decision-making for the resolution of conservation conflicts." The project aims to use game theoretical and structured decision making methods to understand the rules that govern how parties search for solutions to conservation conflicts, working with conflicts over hen harriers and over geese


Christina Romero is doing her PhD with Karen Mustin, Morena Mills and James Watson at University of Queensland. The title is: "Evaluating interventions to manage conservation conflicts". 



Ranjini Murali is doing her PhD with Dr Charudutt Mishra of the Nature Conservation Foundation in India: "Ecosystem services and human well-being". She is: 1) Identifying and valuing the ecosystem services from snow leopard habitats; 2) Evaluating the effect of grazing on biodiversity and ecosystem services; 3) Evaluating the effect of water harvest for crop production on the primary productivity of the adjacent pastures, and 4) Examining the effect of these changing land-uses on human well-being. 


Saloni Bhatia is doing her PhD with Dr Charudutt Mishra of the Nature Conservation Foundation in India. Her PhD is entitled: "Understanding human tolerance towards snow leopards and wolves", exploring cultural tolerance towards these predators, to understand the role of religion and conservation interventions in influencing people's attitudes and behaviour towards these predators. 



Research Grants

2015-2016. Managing long-term environmental conflict. Funded by KONE foundation. With Taru Peltola, IRSTEA.

2014-2016. Understanding Predation. Funded by SNH. With Moorland Forum, CEH, BTO & University of Stirling.

2014-2017. Conservation conflicts: understanding the drivers of An increasing global problem. Funded by Science without Borders program, Brazil. With Fernanda Michalski. 

2012-2014. Managing Species Conflicts in Scotland, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage. With Juliette Young.

2010-14. Art, Science and Environmental Conflict, funded by Creative Scotland. Project exploring the role of artists and scientists in communicating and understanding conflict

2008-2012 EU FP7. Hunting for sustainability. With Irvine (Macaulay) and partners across Europe & Africa.

2009-2012 Biodiversa. Ecocycles. With Lambin (UoA) and partners across Europe

2011 Environment Council. Quantifying hen harrier quotas. With Elston (BIoSS).

2007-2010 NERC. The impact of interacting processes on population dynamics. With Dall (UEC) & Haydon (Glasgow).

2007-2009 UKPopNET. Scaling in interdisciplinary research: from plots to catchments to regions.  With Travis - PI (Aberdeen) and Pitchford (York).

2006-2008 Spanish Government. Relationships between predation risk and disease in the wild rabbit. With Villafuerte - PI & Ferrera (CSIC).

2006-2008 Spanish Government. Quantifying the predator pit hypothesis:  predation and the recovery of wild rabbit populations in Spain. With Ferrera - PI & Villafuerte (CSIC). 

2004-2006 UKPopNET NERC. A framework for sustainable livelihoods, biodiversity change and conflict  resolution.With White (CEH), Raffaelli (York), Watkinson (UEA), Bateman (UEA), Lambin (Aberdeen)  & Richards (MI).  

2002-2006. SNH. Habitat use and range management of priority areas for hen harriers. With Arroyo (CEH).

2000-2004 NERC. Red grouse population cycles: territorial behaviour and parasites. With Hudson (Penn State).



Teaching Responsibilities

I coordinate the Conservation Biology undergraduate degree and teach one masters level course, one final year course and one third year course in Conservation and contribute to a variety of other undergraduate courses. I also run a third year field trip to examine conservation issues in Scotland, with Clare Trinder.

External examiner for MSc in Wildlife & Conservation Management at University College Dublin.

Further Info

External Responsibilities

Editor for Animal Conservation (2008-12)

Member of NERC Peer Review Panel (2007-2010 & 2012 - )

Member of Scotland's Moorland Forum.        

Board member of Heather Trust (2007-2010)

Member of review panel for FORMAS - Swedish Research Grants (2013 - )

Member of SNH's Science and Technical Advisory Committee for the Langholm Moorland Demonstration Project

Memeber of Steering Committee for Snow Loepard Network - (2015 - 2018)


PhD Students



Innes Sim (2013) Diagnosing the causes of Ring Ouzel declines in Britain. RSPB funded. Part-time student with Jane Reid (Ecology).

Chloe Denerley (2013) Impacts of climate and land use change on a brood parasite system – ecological mechanisms & evolutionary implications. With  René van der Wal (ACES, Ecology) & Jeremy Wilson (RSPB)


Kulbhushansingh Suryawanshi (2013) Human-Carnivore Conflicts: understanding predation ecology and livestock damage by snow leopards. Advisor. Nature Conservation Foundation India.

Gina Prior (2011). Climate change, grazing and breeding success in upland birds.

Alexandra Komissarova (2011) Migration decisions in a changing world - mechanisms and consequences

Karen Mustin (2010) Modelling the impact of climate change on migratory birds.

Nacho Villar –  (2010). Grazing, voles and predation – consequences of land use change in the uplands.

Graham Rebecca (2006). Impact of commercial forestry on the population ecology of Merlins in north-east Scotland.

Kerry Lock (2004). Role of nepotism in driving red grouse population cycles.

Linzi Seivwright (2004). Patterns of transmission of T. tenuis in Red Grouse.

Arjun Amar (2001). Conservation of declining hen harriers Circus cyaneus in Orkney: roles of land use and polygyny.




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