Eilidh McNab

BES PhD StudentPhD Student

BSc (Hons) Zoology, University of Dundee (2004-2008)
MSc Environmental Management, University of Stirling (2009-2010)

Prof Kirsty Park (University of Stirling)
Dr Nils Bunnefeld (University of Stirling)
Dr Darren Evans (University of Newcastle)
Dr David Douglas (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)

Start Date: 1st October 2016

3B155 Cottrell Building
Biological & Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling
Stirling, Scotland, FK9 4LA

Tel: +44 (0)1786 466370
fax: +(44) 1786 467843
email: e.m.mcnab1@stir.ac.uk

Research Project

“How does large scale native woodland restoration affect biodiversity?”

Across the UK, considerable native woodland creation on open upland moorland is expected over the coming decades, through both governmental and non-governmental initiatives.  This is predicted to benefit woodland birds of conservation importance, but impact negatively on moorland species, many of which are themselves also of conservation importance.  Much of our knowledge of woodland planting is based upon non-native coniferous woodland, with limited ecological understanding of the impacts of native broadleaved planting.

This project aims to answer a number of key questions relating to such native woodland expansion, including:

  1. How does the abundance and species richness of woodland and moorland bird communities vary in relation to the configuration, proximity and characteristics of upland native woodland?
  2. How is the abundance and movement of predators influenced by different configurations of native woodland and open ground?
  3. How does native woodland expansion in the uplands affect the demographics of a key bird species of open ground, the meadow pipit Anthus pratensis, an amber listed bird of conservation concern?
  4. Can the impacts of woodland creation on birds be predicted nationally, by combining site-specific data on densities and diversities with national bird distribution data and targeting maps for woodland creation?

The initial fieldwork will involve collecting data on bird assemblages from sites in the Trossachs, from open moorland to mature broadleaved forest, through breeding bird survey transects.  From this we hope to identify the likely impacts of the drive for native woodland restoration on different bird species, and how species assemblages change over time as woodlands mature. 

We also hope to quantify edge effects from woodland creation, for example changes in predation pressures through monitoring avian and mammalian predators of meadow pipits.

Habitat mapping (through the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle) will be used to identify habitat variables across and within the field sites, and how this influences breeding bird assemblages.


Funding is provided by the Natural Environment Research Council, with CASE enhancement provided by the RSPB.

Background and research interests

My main research interests are in ornithology; my Masters thesis was an investigation of feeding rates of common crossbill Loxia curvirostra on key conifer species, and my honours project was a population study of the common buzzard Buteo buteo on Colonsay.  Prior to starting my PhD I was a senior ecological consultant, specialising in protected species surveying and impact assessment.


Jardine, D.C., McNab, E.M., Davison, M. and Holliday, S. (2009) Long-eared owls on Colonsay, Argyll. Scottish Birds 29(1): 16-21.


McNab, E. Bird Ringing in Trinidad.  Presentation to the Fife Bird Club, 28 May 2015, and the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club Central Scotland Branch, 7 January 2016.

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