Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions
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PhD: Measuring the impact conservation makes on trends in species’ populations (Inspire4Nature H2020-MSCA-ITN)

    University College London
    Biological sciencesBiodiversity
    First Stage Researcher (R1)
    16/04/2018 23:00 - Europe/Brussels
    United Kingdom › London
    H2020 / Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions

This project will develop and apply methods to estimate the impact of conservation through population models and counterfactual analyses of population trends in absence of conservation. Based at University College London (London, UK), with secondments to the Zoological Society of London (London, UK; 10.8 months).

This is Project 5 out of 15 PhD positions currently available as part of the Inspire4Nature training programme. Deadline for applications: 16 April 2018 (midnight, Brussels time).

PhD topic

It is hard to quantify the success of conservation actions that aim to reduce extinction risk by maintaining or increasing the abundance of individuals within a population (Hoffmann et al. 2010, 2015, Young et al. 2014). To accurately measure the impact of conservation effort requires comparison against a ‘null model’ to determine what would have happened to the same population in the absence of conservation. Accurately parameterised population models can quantify growth rates and other demographic parameters before and after interventions and this can give an idea of the avoided mortality or additional natality that a population has enjoyed because of conservation intervention.

This project will use population abundance time series data from the Living Planet Index dataset (covering > 20,000 populations, > 4,000 vertebrate species) and the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme, and RSPB species monitoring database, as well as ancillary information on conservation interventions for each population from various data sources (e.g., Crees et al. 2016) to model counterfactual population trends, estimate conservation impacts and understand the causal drivers of conservation success.

Related references:

  • Hoffmann, M., Hilton-Taylor, C., Angulo, A., Böhm, M., Brooks, T.M., Butchart, S.H., Carpenter, K.E., Chanson, J., Collen, B., Cox, N.A., Darwall, W.R. et al. (2010). The impact of conservation on the status of the world’s vertebrates. Science, 330: 1503-1509.
  • Hoffmann, M., Duckworth, J. W., Holmes, K., Mallon, D. P., Rodrigues, A. S., & Stuart, S. N. (2015). The difference conservation makes to extinction risk of the world's ungulates. Conservation Biology, 29: 1303-1313.
  • Crees, Jennifer J., Amy C. Collins, P. J. Stephenson, Helen MR Meredith, Richard P. Young, Caroline Howe, Mark R. Stanley Price, and Samuel T. Turvey. (2016)A comparative approach to assess drivers of success in mammalian conservation recovery programs. Conservation Biology 30: 694-705.
  • Young, R. P., M. A. Hudson, A. M. R. Terry, C. G. Jones, R. E. Lewis, V. Tatayah, N. Zuël, and S. H. M. Butchart (2014). Accounting for conservation: using the IUCN Red List Index to evaluate the impact of a conservation organization. Biological conservation 180: 84-96.

Institutional context and supervision

The PhD student will be hired by the University College London (UCL), one of the world’s top Universities. S/he will be based at the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research (CBER), undertaking research at the interface between biodiversity and environmental change, and actively engaged in communicating new research and relating findings to policy. The academic supervisors of this project are Richard Gregory (Head of Species Monitoring and Research at the RSPB, Honorary Professor at the UCL-CBER) and Piero Visconti (Research Fellow at UCL-CBER and at ZSL-IoZ).

This project is in close collaboration with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), where the student spend 10.8 months in secondments. ZSL runs conservation programmes worldwide to conserve wild animals and their natural habitats, working with local communities to conserve their environment and promote sustainability. The student will work closely with the Conservation Programmes, where s/he will be supervised by Mike Hoffmann (Head of Global Conservation Programmes), and also in collaboration with ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, in particular with Robin Freeman (Head of Indicators and Assessments Unit) and Louise McRae (Programme Manager).

Ideal candidate

Candidates must meet all the general eligibility conditions applicable to all Inspire4Nature PhD positions, as described under “check if you are eligible” in this page. In particular: candidates cannot have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the United Kingdom for more than 12 months within the previous 3 years, and must be early-stage researchers (no PhD yet, within the first 4 years of their research careers). In addition:

Required for this position:

  • Enthusiasm about conservation and ecological modelling with an interest in learning and developing modelling techniques for counterfactual analyses of population trends.
  • A minimum of an upper second-class UK Bachelor’s degree in an appropriate subject or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard, or a recognised Master’s degree. See here for a database of equivalent degrees.
  • Strong analytical background in statistics applied to Ecology
  • Good English knowledge. Candidates being offered a scholarship whose first language is not English will have to provide written evidence of good English knowledge prior to enrolling to UCL. Further information can be found on UCL English language requirements

Desirable for this position:

  • Expertise in population modelling
  • Ability to work collaboratively with a network of partners

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview planned for the 31 May - 1 June - please keep these dates open.


For any questions regarding application procedures, check this page first. If you cannot find your answer there, contact us. For any questions regarding the scientific content and institutional context of the PhD, contact Dr. Richard Gregory or Dr. Piero Visconti.

Ready to apply?

For the instructions on how to prepare and submit your application, go to this page.

Only applications that are complete, in English, that respect the instructions in this page and that have been submitted before the deadline (16 April 2018) will be considered eligible.

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1 position(s) available at
University College London
United Kingdom
Gower Street

EURAXESS offer ID: 281243