Centre for Behaviour and Evolution

Staff Profile

Dr Ailsa McKenzie

Background

Introduction

I am an early career ecological researcher with a specialisation in agro-ecology.   I have worked successfully with a wide range of individuals & organisations over her 5 years as a post-doc and havea large number of links & collaborators within the University and beyond.  

Background

Research Associate positions

  • July 2014-December 2014     Research associate on Newcastle University-funded project “How                                                          effective are Natura 2000 sites at conserving natural habitats?”
  • April 2013-June 2014            “Novel Numerical modelling approaches for Environmental Solutions in                                                    Policy Applications”- Knowledge Transfer Partnership Associate (KTP)                                                   based between Newcastle University and AHVLA, York.
  • Dec. 2012-March 2013           Post-doctoral research associate on Defra-funded “Method for the                                                       assessment of priorities for international species conservation                                                               (MAPISCo)” project at Newcastle University.
  • Aug. 2011-Nov. 2012             Post-doctoral research associate on Defra-funded “Grassland soil                                                       compaction” project at Newcastle University.
  • Oct. 2010-March 2011            Post-doctoral research associate on the RELU-funded “Collaborative                                                   Conservation” project at Newcastle University.
  • Nov. 2009-Sept.2010             Post-doctoral research associate on NERC-funded “Why are birds and                                                 other taxa more abundant on organic farms? A meta-analysis.” at                                                          Newcastle University.

Further Education

  • Sept. 2005-Oct.2009             PhD, Newcastle University. Thesis title: ‘Why is organic farming                                                             better for birds? The importance of vegetation structure, food availability                                                   and food quality.”(NERC funded CASE studentship with the BTO). 
  • Sept 2004-Aug 2005              M.Res Ecology & Environmental Biology (with Distinction), University of                                                     Glasgow. Project titles: “Home-range and habitat use of the                                                                   barbastelle bat in S England” and “Importance of Sitka Spruce Picea                                                   sitchensis seed and garden bird-feeders for siskins Carduelis spinus                                                         and coal tits Periparus ater”.
  • Sept 1999- June 2003            BSc (Hons) Zoology (1st Class), University of Aberdeen. Project title:                                                     “Foraging preferences and resource partitioning in the sympatric bat                                                         species Pipistrellus pipistrellus and P. pygmaeus.”


Skills

I have experience working with a range of different stakeholders, having established good working relationships with farmers, NGOs and Government organisations (e.g. Natural England) alike.  I am highly proficient in literature searching and meta-analysis of data, and in experimental design both in the wild and laboratory.  I am adept using ArcGIS and able to carry out a wide range of statistical analyses using both Minitab and R.   I am experienced in a wide range of bird, bat and badger survey techniques (birds: breeding birds surveys, vantage points, winter walkovers; bats: dusk and dawn surveys, transects, radio tracking, roost and hibernacula surveys) in a wide range of often challenging habitats (e.g. upland, wetland, moorland, farmland, urban).  I have a Natural England Class 2 bat licence (to survey bats using artificial light, endoscopes, hand & hand-held static nets).

Other responsibilities and esteen indicators

Associate editor of Journal of Applied Ecology (Impact Factor 4.754) and Biodiversity and Conservation (Impact Factor 2.065). Invited to give plenary talk at the annual Ecological Society of Germany, Austria & Switzerland conference 2014. 



Research

Research Interests

Agro-ecology, protected areas, food selection, garden bird ecology.

Other Expertise

I am experienced in a wide range of bird, bat and badger survey techniques (birds: breeding birds surveys, vantage points, winter walkovers; bats: dusk and dawn surveys, transects, radio tracking, roost and hibernacula surveys) in a wide range of often challenging habitats (e.g. upland, wetland, moorland, farmland, urban).  I have a Natural England Class 2 bat licence (to survey bats using artificial light, endoscopes, hand & hand-held static nets).

Current Work

Are natural habitats safeguarded by Protected Areas? A large-scale European case study. With Prof Mark Whittingham (Biology) and Prof Seline Stead (MAST)

The loss of natural habitats worldwide is regarded, along with climate change, as a major driver of global biodiversity loss.  As a result of this, an extensive suite of international policy is now focused entirely on halting these declines (e.g. the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi targets (CBD 2012).  One major global response to these declines has been the growth and development of “Protected Areas” (PAs) – areas designed, to varying degrees, to protect natural habitats from the encroachment of humans.  The creation and effective management of PAs forms the basis of one of the Convention on Biodiversity’s (CBD) key biodiversity targets – Aichi target 11 – which states that by 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas should be conserved effectively through suitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (CBD, 2012). 

While methods exist for evaluating the effectiveness of PA management and interventions (Leverington et al. 2010), analysis of whether protected areas are meeting their conservation objectives (e.g. preservation of natural habitats and their associated biodiversity) is largely lacking, although some studies are now beginning to emerge (e.g. Fuller et al. 2010, Clark et al. 2013). Fewer studies still have focused on understanding potential mechanisms behind variation in PA effectiveness (Holmes & Oldekop 2013).  

The aim of this project is to undertake an interim assessment of the EU’s ability to meet the Convention on Biodiversity’s Aichi Target 11, something which has not previously been attempted.  Given the impending 2020 Aichi Target for effective PA networks, this work is extremely timely. 

Publications