Integrating science and practice for macaw reintroduction biology and conservation


Integrating science and practice for macaw reintroduction biology and conservation


Project Description


Dr Jake Bicknell (University of Kent, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation) – Contact me

Prof Jim Groombridge, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent

Dr John Ewen, Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London

Dr Simon Tollington, School of Animal Rural & Environmental Sciences, Nottingham-Trent University


Project background

Deforestation in Central and South America, driven mainly by agriculture, has caused the endangerment of many species, some of which are fundamental to large-scale habitat protection. The Critically-Endangered Great Green Macaw is one of the World’s largest parrots with a vast range spanning six countries making it a flagship of Central/South American biodiversity. This species exemplifies the threat of habitat loss but also holds the key to driving regional/international landscape-level biodiversity conservation.

Reintroduction science has attracted renewed attention given the recent global focus on ‘rewilding’. However, data to inform methods for large Psittaciformes is under-developed, and it is increasingly evident that successful reintroductions of wide-ranging species require strong support from, and tangible benefits for local communities.


(A) examine patterns of post-release survival, disease prevalence and genetic/genomic diversity of reintroduced Great Green Macaws in Costa Rica. These data will then be compared to captive and wild macaw populations in Costa Rica, with potential to include populations in other range countries such as Colombia where future reintroductions may occur but where information on distribution and status is lacking.

(B) examine socio-economic opportunities and barriers to improving human livelihoods associated with changes in land-use required for macaw restoration and identify what are the perceived and actual benefits associated with tropical forest restoration for macaw conservation. Identifying ‘macaw-friendly’ sites will enable conservation activities to be targeted to communities where they have the greatest and most sustainable positive impact.

Research methodology

The student will work with the Macaw Recovery Network to conduct fieldwork and data collection through intensive monitoring and management of wild nests and reintroduced individuals, alongside surveying local communities in conservation efforts. They will, where appropriate, utilise MRN’s regional network for surveys of landowners. Labwork and data analyses will be carried out at facilities available via the supervisory team.


The student will gain skills in avian population monitoring and fieldwork, genetic/genomic analyses, disease-screening, and social science techniques.

Person specification

We seek an enthusiastic individual with a strong academic background in natural sciences. Prior experience in avian fieldwork and fluency in Spanish is strongly desirable.


  • Taylor, G., S. Canessa, R. Clarke, D. Ingwersen, D. Armstrong, P. Seddon and J. Ewen (2017). Is reintroduction biology an effective applied science? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 32: 873-880.
  • Tollington, S., Ewen, J. G., Newton, J., McGill, R. A. R., Smith, D., Henshaw, A., Fogell, D. J., Tatayah, V., Greenwood, A., Jones, C. G., Groombridge, J. J. and Thompson, D. (2018) “Individual consumption of supplemental food as a predictor of reproductive performance and viral infection intensity”, Journal of Applied Ecology. Blackwell, pp. 1-10. doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.13303.
  • Fogell, D. J., Groombridge, J. J., Tollington, S., Canessa, S., Henshaw, S., Zuel, N., Jones, C. G., Greenwood, A. and Ewen, J. G. (2019) “Hygiene and biosecurity protocols reduce infection prevalence but do not improve fledging success in an endangered parrot”, Scientific Reports. Springer. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-41323-w.
  • Bolam, F. C., Mair, L., Angelico, M., Brooks, T. M., ......., Groombridge, J. J., et al. (2020) “How many bird and mammal extinctions has recent conservation action prevented?”, Conservation Letters. Wiley. doi: 10.1111/conl.12762.
  • Anderson, SH, K van der Walt, R Thorogood, JG Ewen (2022). Evaluating the success of functional restoration after reintroduction of a lost avian pollinator Conservation Biology, e13892

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2023. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 11th January 2023.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£17,668 p.a. for 2022/23) and research funding. International applicants are eligible for fully-funded ARIES studentships including fees. Please note however that ARIES funding does not cover additional costs associated with relocation to, and living in, the UK.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences, on top of all Research Costs associated with the project. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside non-academic experience, and our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship follow the instructions at the bottom of the page or click the 'apply now' link.
  • ARIES is required by our funders to collect Equality and Diversity Information from all of our applicants. The information you provide will be used solely for monitoring and statistical purposes; it will remain confidential, and will be stored on the UEA sharepoint server. Data will not be shared with those involved in making decisions on the award of Studentships, and will have no influence on the success of your application. It will only be shared outside of this group in an anonymised and aggregated form. You will be ask to complete the form by the University to which you apply.

Applications are open

Apply now