Liam J. Hughes

Liam J. Hughes


I am passionate about wildlife conservation and pursued this through both a BSc (Hons) in Ecology and Conservation Biology and an MRes in Ecology and Environment at the University of Sheffield. I am particularly interested in tropical conservation issues, with a focus on community-based conservation and the wider ecological impacts of anthropogenic disturbance and conservation interventions.

For my undergraduate dissertation I reviewed the mechanisms protected area management can use to effectively engage local communities in conservation in Sub Saharan Africa. My Master’s research focused on the impacts of the wildlife trade on different facets of biodiversity. This included writing a literature review on the wider ecosystem impacts of selectively removing species for trade. For my MRes project I brought together global trade and trait datasets with phylogenies to highlight where wildlife trade encompasses the highest levels of functional and phylogenetic diversity of birds and mammals, which are key indicators of ecosystem resilience and their ability to provide services.

Alongside my research I am also passionate about science communication and before starting this PhD programme I worked for BirdLife International as a Communications Officer. Here I supported the communications of BirdLife’s global science team and its Preventing Extinction’s and Forest programmes, as well as being the Assistant Editor of the organisation’s quarterly magazine.

Liam J. Hughes

Title: “Restoring biodiversity and functional connectivity in Sumatra’s community managed forests”

Land-use change and resource extraction continue to impact tropical forests, bringing negative consequences for biodiversity and ecological functions. The UN Decade on Restoration seeks positive outcomes in these degraded forests for biodiversity, climate change and people. However, this ‘triple win’ will be hard to achieve due to several ongoing challenges.

The immense ecological challenges of restoration aside, interventions are plagued by insufficient monitoring data, making it difficult to evaluate whether long-term environmental benefits can be achieved. The time, expertise and personnel required to monitor forests and biodiversity using conventional methods are too high to be cost-effective. While remote sensing technologies have greatly improved forest monitoring, technological applications to facilitate biodiversity monitoring in tropical countries have yet to be fully investigated in restoration settings. Biodiversity is often assumed to simply return after habitats are restored, with very little supporting evidence – the so called ‘field of dreams’ hypothesis.

I will address this by developing efficient methodologies for monitoring biodiversity in newly-established forest restoration settings in Indonesia. I will undertake some of the first ecological surveys of animal biodiversity and habitat functionality in community-managed forests in Sumatra and use these data to develop biodiversity indicators for continued monitoring. I will also utilise satellite-based data to help define forest degradation and regeneration, and use this information to map functional connectivity at the landscape scale.

Awards and prizes

Awarded the ‘Best Performance by an MRes Student (2022)’ by the School of Biosciences at the University of Sheffield for academic excellence

Awarded the Thomas Woodcock Prize in 2020 by the University of Sheffield for my performance in the final year of my undergraduate