Professor Mark Whittingham
Professor of Applied Ecology (MCIEEM)

  • Email:
  • Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6599
  • Address: School of Biology,
    Ridley Building (Room 5.66),
    University of Newcastle,
    NE1 7RU

Background to my research

The rate of species extinction on earth is rapidly approaching estimates from previous mass-extinction events. The consequences of this are not only the intrinsic loss of the diversity of wildlife on earth but also the services these organisms provide for humans. My work focusses on providing a scientific evidence base to guide management of wildlife in these challenging times. 

Work earlier in my career focussed on understanding the ecology and behaviour of a range of organisms with a central focus on vertebrates (especially birds). Although I continue to try and understand the ecology of a range of wildlife I have also become increasingly interested in interdisciplinary work for example: (i) how management aimed at wildlife affects a range of other metrics (e.g. soils, hydrology); (ii) how the ecological evidence base is used in conservation, management and policy.

I have been funded by the following organisations: BBSRC, ESRC, NERC, RELU, DEFRA, NE, RSPB, Scottish Windfarms Bird Steering Group, BSG Ecology and a range of industrial companies.

Citations to my papers in google scholar can be found here:

Leadership positions 

Director of Research in the School of Biology (2013-date). 

Degree Programme Director for Masters in Ecological Consultancy (18 students in 2013-14).

Senior Editor of Journal of Applied Ecology (2010-date) (

Associate Director of Institute for Sustainability (2014-date) (


Informal Interests

Football, birdwatching.

Research group

My group currently includes one research fellow Dr Johan Oldekop ( and one PDRA (Dr Ailsa McKenzie and 7 PhD students. I would be very happy to hear from you if you have funding for a PhD or are interested in collaborating or applying for a Fellowship to work in my group.

The ethos of the group is to work together in a collaborative and supportive environment to achieve high quality research with direct applied outcomes.

Research Interests

Biodiversity, conservation, agro-ecology, interdisciplinary research, foraging ecology and behavioural ecology.

Recent grants (2014 onwards)

1. Effects of soil compaction on agriculture and biodiversity (2009-2014) (DEFRA).

Soil compaction is widely perceived by the agricultural community as a negative driver of grass yields. However, the evidence base for this is limited. Here we carry out an extensive observational study of the factors driving associated with increased soil compaction across England and Wales. We then explore a range of mechanical and biological ways to relieve soil compaction and explore the consequences for yield, soil invertebrates, ground-probing farmland birds and hydrology (including flood risk).

2. Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group (2014) - Two research contracts by SWBSG to explore the impacts of wind turbines on birds.

3. ESRC (2013-2015) Interdisciplinary Exchanges: Natural Resource Management in the 21st Century.

A series of six interdisciplinary workshops to explore a current issues including community-based natural resource management and food security.

4. Marie-Curie Fellowship (2014-17). The main objective of the project is to understand the relationship between community-based forest management practices, and the ecological health of local forests and biodiversity. During the outgoing phase, the Fellow (Dr Johan Oldekop) is working in close collaboration with International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) Network, which is based at the University of Michigan. Johan is working on combining one of the largest socio-ecological datasets with satellite image analyses of forest cover change.

5. Belmont Forum (2014-15). The overall objective of the project is to draw on research skills from South Africa, UK, US and the Netherlands to build an international community of researchers closely linked to a range of stakeholders across southern Africa’s public and private organisations. This community will then be able to co-design and jointly undertake research on (i) the effectiveness and adaptiveness of food system governance arrangements for food security; and (ii) food systems governance as driver of land use change and implications for associated ecosystem services.

6. FORMAS Mobility Grant (2015-17). Dr Matt Hiron to work in my group for two years and then return to Sweden for a further year to work on the project. Project outline - Biodiversity loss is higher now than at any other time in recorded history. At the same time food security and environmentally friendly farming are at the forefront of the global political agenda. Scientists and policy makers have embraced the notion of Ecosystem Services (ESs) as a way to unite these concepts. Small-scale studies suggest that birds provide an ES via regulating important crop pest populations through the consumption of weed seeds and invertebrates. However, evidence of the extent of the role of birds as crop pest regulators on larger scales and on crop yields is lacking. Birds are charismatic and bird watching is a major pastime for millions; thus birds also provide a Cultural ES. We will also use existing bird survey data in Swedish farmland to guide land management for regulating services, cultural services or both. 

7. Details of some of the seven current PhD projects are provided in the projects section below.


2015 £240,000 - FORMAS mobility grant for Dr Matt Hiron to work in my group for two years and then continue working on the project for a further year back at SLU, Uppsala, Sweden. 

2014 £250,000 - Belmont Forum funded one year grant for capacity building to address Food Security in Southern Africa (co-I).

2013 c£230,000 EU Marie Curie outgoing Fellowship (2014-2016) for Dr Johan Oldekop to work in my group.

2013 c£30,000 ESRC Interdisciplinary Exchanges: Natural Resource Management in the 21st Century (2013-2015).

2012 Funding for two PhDs to study the impacts of climate change on wildlife in the Middle East.

2012  £25,000 from Wildlife Acoustics to investigate the use of audio recorders to survey birds.

2012 £60,000 from Langholm Demonstration Project for PhD on the impacts of buzzards on red grouse. 

2011 "Effects of wind turbines on birds" (PhD part funded by WPA).   

2011-13 £136,000 (PI) "MAPISCO - developing a method for species prioritisation".

2010 RELU grant "Collaboration in agri-environment schemes" (£140k) joint with Dr Jeremy Franks.

2010 NERC studentship "Galliforme conservation in the Himalayas" in collaboration with World Pheasant Association.

2009 4 year DEFRA grant (£700,000 - £176k to Newcastle) to investigate the extent of soil compaction in England and Wales and how it can be potentially be remediated to benefit birds and soil invertebrates.

2009 NERC grant entitled "Estimating the independent effects of different components of organic farming on biodiversity". (£82,000).

2008 NERC studentship departmental quota award - Climate change and bird demography started 1st October 2008 (funded for 3.5 years).

2008 £40,000 from Natural England towards PhD project on kestrels.

2007 £4752 - Catherine Cookson Foundation Grant 'Why do birds prefer organic food?'.

2006 £5000 - Award from BSG for work on windfarms and farmland birds.

2006 £10,000 - Award from English Nature for pilot project on kestrels.

2005 £2200 – Awarded by RSPB for pilot project on stubble management.

2005 NERC CASE studentship with BTO.

2004 £361,000 - Awarded a 5-year BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship. This paid my salary for 5 years (£204,000) and came with a tied grant of £157,000.

2001-4 Jointly awarded 3 DPhil studentships (1 from NERC and 2 from BBSRC) with Sir John Krebs, two from October 2001-2004 and one from October 2003-2006.

2000-3 Involved with two PhD projects and the setting up of a research institute in Nigeria in collaboration with Dr Will Cresswell.

2001 £230,000 awarded by BBSRC in for three-year project entitled “Testing the trans-situationality of bird-habitat models in agricultural landscapes” (I wrote the proposal and Sir John Krebs was Principal Investigator).

1999 £6000 from English Nature for project entitled “The effect of field margin management on foraging by breeding yellowhammers”.

1999 £750 from the Royal Society to attend a conference in Utah, USA.

1998 £35,000 from the European Commission for EU database work.

1996 £1500 from English Nature for project entitled “Population dynamics of golden plover”.

1991 Awarded £400 travel scholarship by the University of East Anglia for Mexico expedition.



Degree Programme Director (Ecological Consultancy).

Undergraduate Teaching

BIO2020: Experimental Design and Statistics for Biologists (Module Leader).

BIO 2003: Field Identification Skills (Leader of Autumn and Summer Bird ID courses).

BIO 1010: Biology In Action (contributor).

BIO 3012: Conservation Biology Issues (contributor).

Postgraduate Teaching

BIO8095: Ecological Consultancy Research Projects (Module Leader).

SPG8013: Environmental Impact Assessment (Module Leader).

BIO8055: Wildlife Management: Policy and Practice 1 (contributor).

Research projects

Current PhD students:

Nadheer Fazaa (

Ibrahim Al-Farwi (

Richard Francksen (

Chris Rhodes (

Pen-Yuan Hsing (

Claire Branston (

Kirsty Lees (starting January/February 2015)


Regularly supervise masters projects (e.g. 8 supervised in 2013-14).

BIO 3194-6: Honours research, review and information projects (4 in 2014-15).


Total of c30 students across each of the three years of undergraduate zoology degree as well as masters students.