Migration, movement and the effects of hunting on birds in a changing world


Migration, movement and the effects of hunting on birds in a changing world


Project Description


Dr Tom C Cameron (University of Essex, School of Life Sciences) – Contact me

Dr James Gilroy, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Dr Matt Ellis (CASE), British Association for Shooting and Conservation

Dr Chas Holt, Kent Wildlife Trust and Independent Ornithologist and Abberton Reservoir


Project background

Many European bird species are hunted, but the role of hunting as a causal factor in population declines relative to habitat loss and climate change is unclear. Hunting impacts are difficult to evaluate for migratory species, as the factors that control the number of animals often operate outside the area of concern – namely reproduction and survival in different seasons and locations. In order to sustainably manage hunting of wild bird populations, we need to understand how productivity, survival and movement processes combine to determine changes in local abundance, and thus how many individuals can be removed without impacting long-term trends. Using European waterfowl species as a model system, this project will draw on multiple data sources (including field data collection) to examine the underlying drivers of productivity, movement and survival and develop indices of sustainable harvest at different scales.

Research methodology

Data on productivity, ringing and harvest returns and survival of a waterfowl model system will be analysed (e.g. mallard and teal), using integrated population modelling techniques to combine multiple data sources to capture population dynamics and sustainability of harvest. A summer fieldwork component in the UK and northern Europe will be used to capture productivity for UK resident and migrant waterfowl, and finally the student will examine large scale environmental data to determine proxies for predicting “good” vs “poor” productivity years for wintering ducks, where productivity is measured from hunter wing returns and field observations of juvenile-to-adult ratio.


You will become a Wildlife Biologist! You are joining a thriving applied ecological team across the Universities of Essex and East Anglia with training in data analysis, demographic modelling and visualisation; wildlife ecology fieldwork in both UK and European mainland to study waterfowl productivity while gaining ringing licence training; and training in Geographic Information Systems to interpret waterfowl ringing data and interannual variation in waterfowl productivity.

Person specification

We seek an enthusiastic individual passionate about applied wildlife ecology with a degree in biology, ecology, environmental sciences or maths. Candidates with licenced bird ringing experience, a valid driving licence or experience with GIS are desirable – but training in all these areas are given.


  • Ellis, M.B. and Cameron, T.C. (2022), An initial assessment of the sustainability of waterbird harvest in the United Kingdom. J Appl Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.14281
  • Buchan, C., Franco, A. M., Catry, I., Gamero, A., Klvaňová, A., & Gilroy, J. J. (2022). Spatially explicit risk mapping reveals direct anthropogenic impacts on migratory birds. Global Ecology and Biogeography 31: 707-1725
  • Cameron, T.C., O'Sullivan, D., Reynolds, A., Hicks, J.P., Piertney, S.B. and Benton, T.G. (2016), Harvested populations are more variable only in more variable environments. Ecol Evol, 6: 4179-4191. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.2164
  • Gilroy, J. J., Gill, J. A., Butchart, S. H., Jones, V. R., & Franco, A. M. (2016). Migratory diversity predicts population declines in birds. Ecology letters, 19(3), 308-317.
  • Zhao, Q., Boomer, G. S., & Royle, J. A. (2019). Integrated modeling predicts shifts in waterbird population dynamics under climate change. Ecography, 42(9), 1470-1481.

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

To apply for this studentship please send a CV and cover letter to ariesapp@essex.ac.uk