May 8, 2024

Placement with WWT – Catrin Eden

An example of curlew home range, inset = curlew with GPS tag attached

During my PhD I had the opportunity to work with the Conservation Evidence department at WWT, the organisation that originally inspired me to pursue a career in research. Wetland ecosystems are vital for the health of the planet and WWT is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) with a focus on protecting these habitats. I spent 3 months working alongside Alex Nicol-Harper and Kane Brides, learning the ins and outs of how the research department of an NGO runs.

Some of the team from WWT

The main task during my placement was to analyse and report on the movements of breeding curlew, an iconic wading bird, near WWT’s headquarters in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire. The UK hosts about a quarter of the breeding population, which has declined by about 65% since 1970. One cause of decline is nest failure, and so the team at WWT monitor local curlew nests and protect them. As part of this work, a selection of curlew are fitted with GPS tags with the aim of uncovering where the birds are nesting. However, this method produces a large amount of movement data, and it was my goal to exploit this. I was able to analyse the habitat use and home-ranges of the breeding curlew, which will feed into the information used to monitor these species.


Other tasks I was involved with included a literature review to advise on methods for capturing Sarus cranes – a species which has undergone massive local population decline in Cambodia. I also got to take part in some fieldwork, including capturing and ringing Bewick’s swans as part of a long-term monitoring scheme.

Kane and Cat taking biometrics from a Bewick’s swan.

In addition to the tasks I was involved in, my time at WWT gave me an exciting opportunity to network with scientists in an organisation that provides important applied research to conservation. PhD life can become quite insular, and it was really refreshing to be working within a larger team. I have now gained important contacts that will benefit me as my PhD comes to an end. I am grateful to Envision for funding this placement and to Alex and Kane for helping arrange it and support me throughout.