Professor Kirsty J. Park

Professor in Conservation Ecology

DPhil - University of Bristol (1998)
BSc - University of Leeds (1994)

Biological & Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling
Stirling
Scotland, FK9 4LA

tel: +44 1786 467799
email: Kirsty Park

Vacancies

In addition to this webpage I typically advertise funded PhD studentships on findaphd.com and postdoctoral researchers on jobs.ac.uk. However, I am happy to discuss possibilities for joining my group at any time including potential grants, and support for studentships and fellowships.

Research Interests

My research interests are broadly concerned with the effects of anthropogenic change on biodiversity and how to manage this. I focus primarily on animal ecology and conservation in heavily managed environments such as agricultural and urban landscapes and forestry. Go to this site for my full list of publications. To get a copy of any of these papers please email me or find me on ResearchGate. 

Questions currently being asked within my research group include:

Photo credit: JD Altringham
Photo credit: JD Altringham

‌1.   What measures can we use to improve agricultural landscapes for wildlife?

Agricultural intensification and expansion are regarded as major causes of worldwide declines in biodiversity during the last century. There are a number of measures that includes lower intensity agricultural systems and agri-environment schemes that may support viable wildlife populations alongside food production, and we have a several projects on-going in this area. For example:

a)    Do agri-environment schemes work?

These are financial incentives paid by Governments for farmers to adopt environmentally-sensitive agricultural practices on their land aim to counteract the negative effects of intensive agriculture on biodiversity. However, most agri-environment schemes (AES) are largely designed for birds, some invertebrates and floral species, and there is little information on the contribution that current AES prescriptions make for other taxa. We have been working to assess the benefits provided by AES to bats (and their insect prey), moths and bumblebees.

Examples of relevant publications:

Ellis CR, Park KJ, Whitehorn P, Arthur D, Goulson D (In press). The neonicotinoid insecticide thiacloprid impacts upon bumblebee colony development under field conditions. Environmental Science & Technology

Fuentes-Montemayor E, Goulson D & Park KJ (2011). Pipistrelle bats and their prey do not benefit from four widely applied agri-environment management prescriptions. Biological Conservation 9: 2233-2246

Fuentes-Montemayor E, Goulson D & Park KJ (2011). The effectiveness of agri-environment schemes for the conservation of farmland moths: assessing the importance of a landscape-scale management approach. Journal of Applied Ecology 48: 532-542.

Lye GC, Park KJ, Osborne J, Holland J & Goulson D (2009). Assessing the value of Rural Stewardship schemes for providing foraging resources and nesting habitat for ‌bumblebee queens (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Biological Conservation 142: 2023–2032.

 

b)    Improving upland grassland systems for breeding waders

Until relatively recently, the breeding wader community of marginal, upland farmland was thought to have escaped the losses witnessed in lowland England and Wales, and Scotland is now critically important in supporting UK populations of breeding waders. However, more recent declines in such marginal upland areas have been identified, with, for example, losses of 48% of Lapwings and 55% of Curlews. Although there is evidence that agri-environment scheme (AES) management directed at waders can reverse population declines at field and farm scales in Scotland, implementation has been far too limited to stem ongoing declines nationally.

In light of such severe declines, observations of unusually high lapwing densities on a livestock farm near Stirling has led to a collaborative project between Stirling and RSPB Scotland to determine the environmental drivers behind these localised high densities and how these are influenced by farm management. Management involves a combination of different activities, including planting of a fodder crop and liming, and is undertaken as part of the core farm business rather than under agri-environment support, and the farmer at this site won an RSPB Nature of Scotland award (2012) for his work.

Examples of relevant publications: 

McCallum HM, Park KJ, O'Brien MG, Gimona A, Poggio L & Wilson JD (2015). Soil pH and organic matter content add explanatory power to Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus distribution models and suggest soil amendment as a conservation measure on upland farmland. Ibis 157: 677-687.

McCallum HM, Wilson JD, Beaumont D, Sheldon R, O’Brien MG & Park KJ (2016). A role for liming as a conservation intervention? Earthworm abundance is associated with higher soil pH and foraging activity of a threatened shorebird in upland grasslands. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 223: 182-189.

A follow up project is now examining how the benefits of such management can be most effectively applied at other sites, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB Scotland and University of Stirling. For more details click here.

 

‌c)    How do we prioritise conservation efforts to restore functioning ecological networks?

In this project we are using woodlands to address questions about the relative impact of local versus landscape scale actions to increasing habitat area versus improving connectivity on different species. Woodlands provide essential ecosystem services and in the UK they support more wildlife species than any other habitat. Historic deforestation has drastically reduced our woodland cover and much of it now consists of non-native plantations or small, isolated and degraded patches immersed in an agricultural matrix that dominates the landscape. Recent woodland creation schemes were introduced over 25 years ago and are contributing to the slow return of wooded landscapes within the UK but we currently have little information on how these schemes are performing – as part of Woodland Creation and Ecological Networks (WrEN) we are addressing questions about how to prioritise efforts for conservation given limited resources For more details click here

Examples of relevant publications:

Watts K, Fuentes-Montemayor E, Macgregor NA, Peredo-Alvarez V, Ferryman M, Brown N, Bellamy C & Park KJ (2016). Using historic woodland creation to construct a long-term, large-scale natural experiment: the WrEN project. Ecology & Evolution 6: 3012-3025. 

Fuentes-Montemayor E, Goulson D, Cavin L, Wallace JM & Park KJ (2013). Fragmented woodlands in agricultural landscapes: the influence of woodland character and landscape context on bats and their insect prey. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 172: 6-15.

Fuentes-Montemayor E, Goulson D, Cavin L, Wallace JM & Park KJ (2012). Factors influencing moth assemblages in woodland fragments on farmland: implications for woodland creation and management schemes. Biological Conservation 153: 265-275.



2.   How can we make plantation forests work for timber and wildlife?

Currently approximately 70% of woodland in the UK consists of forestry plantations, much of which is intensively managed, using a limited number of exotic fast-growing conifers and employing   a variety of silvicultural practices to prepare sites for planting (e.g. ploughing, use of herbicides), thinning and clear-cut harvesting. A common perception of plantation forests is that they are ecological deserts and there is a long standing debate about the potential, and realised, role of plantation forestry in biodiversity conservation. There is now a body of evidence from numerous countries, however, to suggest plantation forests can provide habitat for a wide range of native forest plants, animals, and fungi. In the UK there have been fundamental changes to silvicultural practices over last 30 years as a result of policy changes which have placed a greater emphasis on maximising biodiversity benefits of plantations. There are several projects on-going at Stirling which aim to address ecological and applied conservation questions about the use of plantation forestry by wildlife species including pine marten, bats and other UKBAP priority species. Much of this work is carried out in collaboration with, and funded by, Forest Research and the Forestry Commission. Examples of relevant publications:

Kirkpatrick L, Maher SJ, Lopez Z, Lintott PR, Bailey SA, Dent D & Park KJ (2017) Bat use of commercial coniferous plantations at multiple spatial scales: Management and conservation implications. Biological Conservation 206: 1-10.

Law B, Park KJ & Lacki M (2015). Insectivorous Bats and Silviculture: balancing timber production and bat conservation. In: Bats in the Anthropocene: Conservation of bats in a changing world (eds. Voigt, C.C., Kingston, T.).

Caryl F, Quine C & Park KJ (2012). Marten in the matrix: the importance of non-forested habitats for forest carnivores in fragmented landscapes. Journal of Mammalogy 93: 464-474


3.   How does wildlife respond to urbanisation?

Urbanisation is a major driver of the global loss of biodiversity the rate of urban expansion continues to accelerate. Green spaces within urban areas (e.g. parks, gardens) can hold relatively rich wildlife communities but are often threatened by development. In order to mitigate the adverse effects of urbanisation it is essential to understand what drives species’ patterns of habitat use within the urban matrix and what mitigation may promote population persistence. Projects on urban ecology and conservation at Stirling have used a range of wildlife taxa which with to address these broad questions, including bats, bumblebees and moths.

Image above shows the landscape surrounding an urban woodland in central Scotland classified into broad habitat categories

Examples of relevant publications:

Lintott PR, Barlow KE, Bunnefeld N, Briggs P, Gajas Roig C & Park KJ (2016). Differential responses of cryptic bat species to the urban landscape. Ecology and Evolution 6: 2044-2052

Lintott PR, Bunnefeld N, Fuentes-Montemayor E, Minderman J, Mayhew R, Olley L & Park KJ (2014). City life makes females fussy: sex differences in habitat use of temperate bats in urban areas. Royal Society Open Science

Lintott P, Minderman J, Fuentes-Montemayor E, Blackmore L, Bunnefeld N, Goulson D & Park KJ (2014). Moth species richness, abundance and diversity in fragmented urban woodlands: implications for conservation and management strategies. Biodiversity & Conservation 23: 2875-2901.

Lye GC, Osborne JL, Park KJ & Goulson D. (2012). Using citizen science to monitor Bombus populations in the UK: nesting ecology and relative abundance in the urban environment. Journal of Insect Conservation 16: 697-707.

 



4.   What effects do small wind turbines have on bats and birds?

The wind energy sector is growing worldwide and large scale wind farms have been shown, in some situations, to have significant adverse effects on wildlife. There has been little work, however, on the rapidly growing sector of small wind turbines. Research is underway at University of Stirling to better understand the effects that small wind turbines have on birds and bats, and how they may be mitigated. To achieve these aims, we use a multidisciplinary approach including field studies, experiments, questionnaires of owners and planning officers, and public attitude surveys using choice experiments. For more information on this project click here.

Examples of relevant publications:

Minderman J, Gillis MH, Daly HF & Park KJ (In press). Landscape-scale effects of single- and multiple small wind turbines on bat activity. Animal Conservation.

Tatchley C, Paton, H, Robertson, E, Minderman J, Hanley N & Park KJ (2016). Drivers of public attitudes towards small wind turbines in the UK. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0152033.

Minderman J, Fuentes-Montemayor E, Pearce-Higgins JW, Pendlebury CJ & Park KJ (2015). Estimates and correlates of bird and bat mortality at small wind turbine sites. Biodiversity & Conservation 24: 467-482.

Park KJ, Turner A & Minderman J (2013). Integrating applied ecology and planning policy: the case of micro-turbines and wildlife conservation. Journal of Applied Ecology 50: 199-204.

Minderman J, Pendlebury CJ, Pearce-Higgins JW & Park KJ (2012) Experimental evidence for the effect of small wind turbine proximity and operation on bird and bat activity. PLoS One 7(7): e41177. doi:10.1371/journal.pone


Other research

I also have research interests in several other areas including the effect of endocrine disrupting chemicals on wildlife, impacts and control of non-native invasive species and human-wildlife conflicts. I am a trustee for the Bat Conservation Trust, the UK's only dedicated charity for bat conservation, Chair of the Board for Bats without Borders, a charity working across southern Africa to conserve bat populations, and a member of the Mammal Society's Scientific Advisory Committee.


Research group members

Current

  • Alice Broome (PhD student, part-time) "Research response to the conservation needs of UKBAP Priority and protected woodland species in Britain"
  • Matt Guy (PhD student) "Seabird-mediated impacts of marine environment changes on agri-ecosystem productivity"
  • Luci Kirkpatrick (PhD student) "How do silvicultural practices influence bat populations in commercial coniferous plantations?"
  • Eilidh McNab (PhD student) "How does large scale native woodland restoration affect biodiversity?"
  • Emma Sheard (PhD student) “Translating small scale ecological studies to large scale agricultural practices: breeding waders and grassland management
  • Helen Taylor (MPhil student) "Bat populations in anthropogenic landscapes in Zambia"
  • Robbie Whytock (PhD student) “Assessing the effects of landscape structure on woodland birds

I also co-supervise John Wilson (Determining the impact of future tourism scenarios on sustainable use of mountains for Norway’s wild reindeer).

Past

  • Alice Helyar (PhD student, 2001-2005) "The ecology of American mink (Mustela vison): response to control". Now a Senior Ecologist at Bowland Ecology, Lancashire.
  • Fiona Caryl (PhD student, 2004-2008) "Pine marten diet and habitat use within a managed coniferous forest".  Now an Ecological Modeller at renewable energy consultancy, Natural Power.
  • Rachael Cooper-Bohannon (PhD student, 2010-2015) "The distribution and conservation of cave-dwelling bats in southern Africa". Now visiting researcher at University of Stirling and Head of the charity Bats without Borders.
  • Luci Kirkpatrick (PhD student, 2012-2016) "How do silvicultural practices influence bat populations in commercial coniferous plantations?". Now a postdoctoral research associate at University of Antwerp.
  • Heather McCallum (PhD student, 2008-2012) "Identifying and implementing key habitat features for breeding waders in upland grassland systems: ecology and economics". Now a reserves ecologist at RSPB Scotland. 
  • Jeroen Minderman (Research Fellow, 2012-14) "Assessing the effects of micro-turbines on wildlife". Now a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at University of St Andrews.
  • Laura Kubasiewicz (PhD student, 2010- 2014) "Ecology and conservation management of pine martens in fragmented landscapes". Now a Visiting Research Fellow at University of Exeter.
  • Paul Lintott (PhD student, 2010-2015) "Ecology and conservation of urban bats". Now Associate Research Fellow at University of Exeter.
  • Orly Razgour (Research Fellow, 2013-2015) “Bats as indicators of species response to environmental change“. Now a lecturer at University of Southampton.
  • Cerian Tatchley (PhD student, 2011-2015) "Wildlife impacts and public attitudes to small scale turbines". Now volunteer co-ordinator at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

I also co-supervised the following students who have now successful completed their PhDs: Gillian Lye (Factors affecting nest site choice and colony success in bumblebees, 2009), Lynne Osgathorpe (Reconciling ecology and economics to conserve bumblebees, 2010), Steph O’Connor (The nesting ecology of bumblebees, 2013), Nicola Redpath (Restoration and management of wildflower-rich machair for the conservation of bumblebees, 2010), Ciaran Ellis (Biodiversity and risk management for sustainable pollination services, 2015), Hannah Feltham (Factors influencing pollination limitation and yield, 2015).


Teaching

I am the co-ordinator of the Conservation Biology & Management degree and a number conservation-related modules (undergraduate and Masters level), I also teach on an undergraduate field course in France, on vertebrate diversity and a course on advanced analytical techniques.

© University of Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland UK • Telephone +44 1786 473171 • Scottish Charity No SC011159
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