ConSci Award Medal

Conservation Science Awards 2015

Conservation Science Awards

We offer three annual awards to recognise and celebrate excellence in conservation science.

Awards are given for: 

  • An outstanding PhD thesis in conservation science.
  • A scientific paper of high conservation value.
  • An outstanding contribution to RSPB science by one of our own scientists.
Ling heather Calluna vulgaris amidst seeding grasses, Farnham Heath RSPB reserve, Surrey, England

Award for an outstanding PhD 2015

This prize is open to postgraduates who have been awarded a PhD in any area of conservation science at a UK university within the last two years. Students will be nominated by their academic departments, before the winner is chosen by our team of scientists. The winner will receive a specially commissioned medal and cash prize.

You can download the criteria for nominating a student on the right of this page.

2015 Winner: Gurutzeta Guillera-Arroita

Thesis title: Occupancy modelling: study design and models for data collected along transects

Institution: University of Kent

The breadth and quality of conservation science in the nominations for this award was impressive. But one thesis stood out from the others. Gurutzeta's thesis was chosen because it has already had a tangible impact on the conservation of a threatened species - the Sumatran tiger - and will contribute to the conservation of many others in future.

We were also impressed by Gurutzeta's scientific productivity, with more than 20 publications to her name already.

PhD supervisor, Professor Martin Ridout, collected the award on behalf of Gurutzeta, who is currently based at the University of Melbourne.

Gurutzeta said: "I am delighted to receive this award. The RSPB is widely known for the high quality of its conservation science, and obtaining recognition from such an inspiring organisation is a real honour. It has boosted my motivation and enthusiasm to continue working hard to support successful conservation decisions. 

"Thank you RSPB, and thanks as well to my PhD supervisors Prof Byron Morgan and Prof Martin Ridout for their advice, and to Dr Matthew Linkie for providing data and the opportunity to link with tiger conservation projects in Sumatra."

Award For An Outstanding phD Winner 2015 Gurutzeta Guillera-Arroita
Gurutzeta Guillera-Arroita

Award for a scientific paper of high conservation importance

This is an award for a scientific paper published in a peer-reviewed journal that is likely to have a significant impact on conservation. The award is open to papers from around the globe, but excludes papers co-authored by our scientists.

The recipient of this award is chosen by our team of scientists and the lead author will receive a specially commissioned medal. 


2015 Winner: Bojana Bajzelj

Paper: Importance of food-demand management for climate mitigation

Authors: Bojana Bajzelj, Keith S. Richards, Julian M. Allwood, Pete Smith, John S. Dennis, Elizabeth Curmi and Christopher A. Gilligan

Journal: Nature Climate Change 4, 924-929 (2014)

Our science team nominated 16 papers for this award and, after shortlisting five, staff voted for their winning paper. The abstract of the paper is as follows:

As the human population of the planet grows, so will the demand for food. While yields have increased, recent figures indicate that these gains will be insufficient to meet demand. Consequently, more land will be needed for agriculture. 

Agricultural expansion is already recognised as a major threat to biodiversity, and also makes a substantial contribution to climate change and environmental pollution. The authors of this study undertook the ambitious task of trying to find ways of achieving global food security while minimising agricultural expansion - and thus its impact on biodiversity - and simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Their models indicate that, even if agricultural yields are improved, the expansion of cropland and pasture is inevitable if demand is to be met.

Most significantly, however, they also showed that by reducing food waste and adopting a healthy reduced animal protein diet carbon emissions could be reduced to below current levels, and the expansion of agriculture into natural habitats could be minimised. 

Achieving these changes in human behaviour is another matter. But such changes in human behaviour could be vital if agricultural expansion is to be reduced while still providing global food security.

Bojana said: "What wonderful news, I am completely surprised! I am absolutely honoured to have our work recognised by such a reputable and important organisation." 

Award For A Scientific Paper Of High Conservation Importance Winner 2015 Bojana Bajzelj
Bojana Bajzelj

Award for an Outstanding RSPB Conservation Scientist 2015

This award is given to a member of staff who made a very significant contribution to RSPB’s science over the previous year. This contribution can encompass any aspect of the Society's scientific work, from initial ideas and innovation to the implementation of results; a one-off or a general contribution; fieldwork or deskwork; administrative, technical or scientific.   

Our science team nominated individuals for this award and after short-listing five, voted for their winning conservation scientist.


2015 winner: Dr Jen Smart

Her colleague Dr David Gibbons said: "Jen has demonstrated real leadership, determination, energy and enthusiasm in ensuring that the launch of the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science and its associated report and website were so successful. 

"Her integrity and professionalism gave the Centre for Conservation Science real credibility among our peers, partners and supporters. 

"On top of this, she still managed to run a team, bringing in funding and students, and publishing papers, particularly on predation of breeding wading birds."

Award For An Outstanding RSPB Conservation Scientist Winner 2015 Dr Jen Smart
Jen Smart