Professor Kirsty Park

Professor

Biological and Environmental Sciences University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA

Professor Kirsty Park

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About me

About me

My research is broadly concerned with the effects of environmental change on biodiversity and testing solutions to mitigate anthropogenic impacts. Much of this addresses questions relating to animal ecology and conservation in managed environments (e.g. urban, agricultural, forestry). Recent work includes ecological restoration projects, focussed on the use of a natural experiment approach to examine biodiversity responses woodland restoration in the UK over the past 150 years. To get a copy of any of my publications please email me or find me on ResearchGate.

Brief biography

• Head of Biological & Environmental Sciences - University of Stirling (2021 - )
• Professor - University of Stirling (2016 - )
• Lecturer / Senior Lecturer / Ass. Prof - University of Stirling (2005 - 2016)
• Leverhulme Early Career Fellow - University of Stirling (2003 - 2005)
• Postdoctoral researcher - University of Stirling (1998 - 2003)
• DPhil - University of Bristol (1994 - 1998)
• BSc - University of Leeds (1991 - 1994)

Research (25)

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.

Access to research results: Many of my publications are open-access but for any that are not, you can request access through the University's repository system (go to the Outputs tab) or email me directly.


PLEASE NOTE - WEB PAGE UNDERGOING RECONSTRUCTION

Questions currently being asked within my research group include:

1) How do we prioritise conservation efforts to restore functioning ecosystems? In this series of projects we are using a natural experiment approach to ask questions about how to prioritise actions to restore ecosystems and ecological networks. Ultimately, we want to provide evidence to underpin future conservation efforts.

a) Woodland creation & ecological networks (The WrEN project) 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; www.wren-project.com) we are addressing questions about how to prioritise efforts for conservation given limited resources. For more details and a list of publications click here. You can follow the team on twitter @WrENproject.

b) Restoring Resilient Ecosystems (RestREco). Ecological restoration typically involves trying to return semi-natural areas to what they looked like before they were disturbed. However, with the environment changing, particularly in response to climate changes, is this possible or even desirable if we are to secure long-term functioning ecosystems that deliver for both biodiversity and the ecosystem services that humans rely on?

This project considers ecological complexity, multi-functionality and resilience as fundamental aims for restoration projects, rather than attempting to re-create specific reference ecosystems. We will examine how the outcomes of restoration vary with proximity to other similar habitats, the type of former land use (in particular, agriculture and ex-quarry sites), and the methods used to restore them. The Stirling team will focus on woodlands, and will be compare the outcomes from tree planting versus allowing trees to establish naturally. Importantly, we will also look at how these outcomes vary over time, by including sites of varying restoration age. You can follow the team on twitter @RestREco. This work is being funded by NERC, and is in collaboration with Cranfield University, UKCEH, National Trust and Forest Research, and many project partners.

c) Accounting for temporal, spatial and behavioural spill-overs in evaluating farmland conservation strategies: This project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, combines ecological science with economics to quantify the biodiversity benefits and economic costs of competing landscape-scale conservation strategies. The team comprises ecologists and environmental economists at the Universities of Stirling and Glasgow, alongside researchers at RSPB and Forest Research.

There is currently much debate on how to conserve biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. The research team will use a unique approach to identify effective biodiversity conservation strategies whilst accounting for three types of spill-over effects: spatial (e.g. effects of agriculture on wildlife in adjacent semi-natural habitats), temporal (e.g. effects of past land use on current biodiversity) and behavioural (e.g. landowner decisions being influenced by their neighbours’ responses).


2) How can we 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.

Work to date indicates that some of our commonly implemented AES prescriptions (e.g. species rich grasslands, hedgerow management) is associated with higher moth and bumblebee species richness and abundance (Fuentes-Montemayor et al. 2011; Lye et al. 2009). In contrast, abundance of Diptera was considerably lower on AES farms, as was the activity of two common bat species (Pipistrellus pipistrellus and P. pygmaeus) that feed primarily on Diptera (Fuentes-Montemayor et al. 2011).

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. Research showed that after controlling for other habitat parameters of importance, the density of breeding Lapwings was 52% higher in fields that had undergone fodder crop management than those that had not (McCallum et al. 2018). Densities were highest in the first year after the fodder crop was planted, prior to reseeding with grass, but remained above levels in control fields for approximately seven years after the fodder crop was last planted.

The farmer at this site won an RSPB Nature of Scotland award (2012) for his work.

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.


3. 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 following 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 (e.g. Caryl et al. 2012), bats (e.g. Kirkpatrick et al. 2017) and other UKBAP priority species (e.g. Broome 2019). Much of this work is carried out in collaboration with, and funded by, Forest Research and the Forestry Commission.


4. 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 (e.g. Lintott et al. 2016), bumblebees (e.g. Lye et al. 2012) and moths (e.g. Lintott et al. 2014).


5. 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.

Experimental studies indicated that bat activity (primarily Pipistrellus species) decreases in close proximity to operating SWT, but that this effect diminishes within 20m (Minderman et al. 2012). Whilst such avoidance will reduce collisions, it may exert displacement effects which could be important in landscapes where suitable habitat is limiting. Based on these findings we recommend that all SWT are sited at least 20m away from potentially valuable bat habitat. EUROBATs’ International Working Group has now considered these findings and specifies 50m in their installation guidance.


Other activities and 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 collaborate with a wide range of government agencies and organisations including NatureScot, Forest Research, Bat Conservation Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and Bats without Borders. I am a trustee for Loch Lomond & Trossachs Countryside Trust, a member of the Scottish Biodiversity Programme Advisory Group, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology.


Research group members

Current

Tom Bradfer-Lawrence (Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2021-) “Evaluating the costs and benefits of different landscape-scale conservation approaches in farmed landscapes” . Funded by the Leverhulme Trust.
Jérémy Froidevaux (Leverhulme Research Fellow, 2021-) “From bats to bees: effects of artificial electromagnetic fields on biodiversity”. Funded by the Leverhulme Trust.
Emily Waddell (Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2021-) “Restoring Resilient Ecosystems”. Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.
Olivia Azevedo (PhD student, 2019-) “Above and below-ground ecological linkages in temperate forest soils”. Funded by University of Stirling and Forest Research.
Ross Barnett (Research technician, 2021-) “Restoring Resilient Ecosystems”. Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.
Eleri Kent (PhD student, 2020- ) “Does woodland use by bats depend on landscape context? Implications for woodland creation schemes” . Funded by NERC.
Sam Rogerson (Research technician, 2021-) “Restoring Resilient Ecosystems”. Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.
Helen Taylor (PhD student, part-time, 2016-) "Bat populations in anthropogenic landscapes in Zambia"

At the University of Stirling, I also co-supervise Sarah Watts, Rachel Steenson, Ben Marshall and Wendy Masterton. At University of Glasgow, I am a co-supervisor for Landry Green and Laura Sessions, Dan Nesbit at Durham University, and Rochelle Kennedy at SRUC.

Past (chronological order)

Alice Helyar (PhD student, 2001-2005) "The ecology of American mink (Mustela vison): response to control". Now a Principal Ecologist at Bowland Ecology, Lancashire.
Fiona Caryl (PhD student, 2004-2008) "Pine marten diet and habitat use within a managed coniferous forest". Now an MRC Skills Development Fellow at University of Glasgow.
Elisa Fuentes-Montemayor (PhD student 2007-2011). Now a Senior Lecturer at University of Stirling.
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.
Paul Lintott (PhD student, 2010-2015) "Ecology and conservation of urban bats". Now a Senior Lecturer at UWE Bristol.
Laura Kubasiewicz (PhD student, 2010- 2014) "Ecology and conservation management of pine martens in fragmented landscapes". Now a Senior Researcher at the Donkey Sanctuary.
Alice Broome (PhD student, part-time, 2010-2019) "Research response to the conservation needs of UKBAP Priority and protected woodland species in Britain". Now a Project Manager in woodland ecology at Forest Research.
Rachael Cooper-Bohannon (PhD student, 2011-2015) "The distribution and conservation of cave-dwelling bats in southern Africa". Now a project officer at Amphibian & Reptile Conservation.
Cerian Tatchley (PhD student, 2011-2015) "Wildlife impacts and public attitudes to small scale turbines". Now Senior Manager at BIAZA.
Luci Kirkpatrick (PhD student, 2012-2016) "How do silvicultural practices influence bat populations in commercial coniferous plantations?". Now a Research Fellow at the University of Antwerp.
Jeroen Minderman (Research Fellow, 2012-2014) "Assessing the effects of micro-turbines on wildlife". Now a Lecturer in Data Science at the Office for National Statistics.
Orly Razgour (Research Fellow, 2013-2015) “Bats as indicators of species response to environmental change“. Now a Senior Lecturer at University of Exeter.
Lauren Fuller (Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2014-2016) "Woodland Creation and Ecological Networks”. Now a data scientist at SEPA.
Robbie Whytock (PhD student, 2014-2018) “Assessing the effects of landscape structure on woodland birds”. Now a Director at Digital Forest UK.
Matt Guy (PhD student, 2015-2020) "Seabird-mediated impacts of marine environment changes on agri-ecosystem productivity". Now a researcher at Forest Research.
Emma Sheard (PhD student, part-time, 2014-2021) “Translating small scale ecological studies to large scale agricultural practices: breeding waders and grassland management”. Funded by Nature Scot, RSPB and University of Stirling. Now a researcher at RSPB 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).

Projects

Restoring Resilient Ecosystems
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: Natural Environment Research Council

From bats to bees: effects of artificial electromagnetic fields on biodiversity
PI: Dr Jeremy Froidevaux
Funded by: The Leverhulme Trust

Land sharing vs. land sparing: new insights from ecological-economic modelling
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: The Leverhulme Trust

Assessing the impact of mammalian herbivory on the long-term ecological value of woodland creation sites’
PI: Dr Elisa Fuentes-Montemayor
Funded by: Woodland Trust

Using camera traps to quantify the effect of deer on woodland restoration
PI: Dr Elisa Fuentes-Montemayor
Funded by: British Deer Society

Assessing individual and local scale forest vulnerability to mortality from the 2019 extreme drought in Central Europe
PI: Professor Alistair Jump
Funded by: Natural Environment Research Council

Improving knowledge of Xylella fastidiosa vector ecology: modelling vector occurrence and abundance in the wider landscape in Scotland
PI: Dr Daniel Chapman
Funded by: Plant Health Centre

Identify the presence of potential insect vectors of Xylella fastidiosa in Scotland
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: Plant Health Centre

Woodland creation and Ecological Networks (WrEN): using historic woodland creation to evaluate the ecological network concept
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: Larfarge Tarmac

Woodland Creation and Ecological networks (WrEN)
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: Forestry Commission (Scotland)

Woodland Creation and Ecological Networks
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs

Understanding Predation
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: Scottish Natural Heritage

Scoping a systematic survey of high risk bat species across Southern Scotland
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: Scottish Natural Heritage

Applied ecology with real-world impact
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: People's Trust for Endangered Species / Mammals

The use of coniferous plantations by bats
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: Forestry Commission (Scotland)

Desk-based review of the methods used to assess the effects of Windfarms on different Bird Species
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group

Analysis of Past woodland change using historical land cover maps
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: Forest Research, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage

Counting pine martens using faecal and hair genotyping
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: Glasgow Natural History Society

Assessing the effects of microturbines on urban wildlife.
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: The Leverhulme Trust

Assessing the effectiveness of farm woodland creation schemes for bats
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: People's Trust for Endangered Species / Mammals

Identifying and implementing key habitat features for breeding waders in upland grassland systems: ecology and economics
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (Scotland)

Woodland fragments and bat populations within agricultural landscapes
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: Glasgow Natural History Society

Development of a landscape model for the control of Rhododendron ponticum
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: The Carnegie Trust

The Influence of farming practices on bat populations within agricultural landscapes
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: People's Trust for Endangered Species / Mammals

The Influence of farming practices on bat populations within agricultural Landscapes
PI: Professor Kirsty Park
Funded by: The Carnegie Trust

Outputs (104)

Outputs

Showing 100 of 104 — See all 104 outputs

Article

McCallum HM, Wilson J, Beaumont D, Sheldon R, O'Brien MG & Park K (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 and Environment, 223, pp. 182-189. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2016.03.005

Article

McCallum HM, Park K, O'Brien MG, Gimona A, Poggio L & Wilson J (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 (4), pp. 677-687. https://doi.org/10.1111/ibi.12286

Research Report

Humphrey J, Watts K, Fuentes-Montemayor E, Macgregor N & Park K (2013) The evidence base for ecological networks: lessons from studies of woodland fragmentation and creation. Report from the WrEn Project, Forest Research, Farnham, Surrey. The Research Agency of the Forestry Commission. http://www.stir.ac.uk/media/schools/naturalscience/bes/images/WrEN_FR_report_2013.pdf

Book Chapter

Beynon MJ & Park K (2008) The Exposition of Fuzzy Decision trees and their Application in Biology. In: Porto PA, Pazos SA & Buno BW (eds.) Advancing Artificial Intelligence through Biological Process Applications. London: Information Science Reference, pp. 375-394. http://www.igi-global.com/chapter/advancing-artificial-intelligence-through-biological/4988

Research Report

Calladine JR, Park K, Thompson KJ & Wernham C (2006) Review of Urban Gulls and their Management in Scotland. Scottish Executive. Natural Scotland. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2006/05/18113519/0

See all 104 outputs

Teaching

Teaching

I am the co-ordinator of the Conservation Biology & Management, and the Ecology degrees within BES. Much of my teaching relates to conservation and biodiversity at both undergraduate and Master’s level. I also teach on vertebrate diversity and field courses focussed on animal and plant ecology, and the development of field and research skills.

Research programmes

Research centres/groups