ConSci Award Medal

Conservation Science Awards 2016

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.


Award for an outstanding PhD 2016

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 this page.

2016 Winner: Dr Enrico Pirotta

Thesis title: Behaviourally-mediated effects of human disturbances on bottlenose dolphin vital rates

Institution: University of Aberdeen

Every year we are staggered by the breadth and quality of conservation science in the nominations for this award. The competition was close but one thesis stood out from the others. Enrico’s thesis was chosen because it has had a huge effect, in the UK and beyond, on the way impacts of marine developments on long lived, slow reproducing species like dolphins, can be assessed and mitigated. 

We were also impressed by Enrico’s scientific productivity, with more than 14 publications arising from his thesis and associated work.

Enrico said, "I am extremely honoured to receive this award. In my research I aim to contribute to the understanding and the preservation of the natural world, and RSPB's conservation achievements are a continuous source of inspiration. This award is therefore an important encouragement to persevere along this challenging path. The completion of my PhD would not have been possible without the invaluable support of my supervisors, Dr. David Lusseau, Prof. Paul Thompson and Prof. John Harwood, and of many excellent colleagues and friends that I have met along the way. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to them, and to RSPB for this exciting recognition of my work.

Award For An Outstanding PHD Winner Dr Enrico Pirotta

Award for a scientific paper of high conservation importance

This is an award for a scientific paper published in a peer-reviewed journal which 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. 


2016 Winner: Prof Richard Pywell 

Paper: Wildlife-friendly farming increases crop yield: evidence for ecological intensification

Authors: Richard F. Pywell, Matthew S. Heard, Ben A. Woodcock, Shelley Hinsley, Lucy Ridding, Marek Nowakowski and James M. Bullock

Journal: Proc. R. Soc. B 282

Our science team nominated 10 papers for this award and after short-listing five, staff voted for their winning paper. Dr Will Peach, Head of our Research Delivery team, who nominated the paper said:

“This paper elegantly demonstrates the potential for wildlife-friendly farming to boost agricultural production yields as well as the target wildlife. The team from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the Wildlife Farming Company converted 8 per cent of commercial arable farmland to habitats supporting pollinating and predatory insects. Amazingly, the food production lost from the 8 per cent land conversion was offset by a 35 per cent increase in the yield of beans, a crop which is partially dependent on insect pollination for seed production. The provision of native wildflowers and grasses around field edges led to a four-fold increase in crop pollinating insects including long-tongued bumblebees which are the most effective pollinators of beans. Although previous studies have shown similar pollinator benefits for fruit crops, this is the first study to demonstrate such effects in an arable context. By showing that wildlife-friendly farming can enhance crop yields, this study will hopefully convince many more farmers to provide habitats for wildlife in the less productive parts of their farms”.  

Richard said Both RSPB and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology share a common goal of improving conservation through excellent science. I am therefore honoured and delighted to receive this prestigious award on behalf of my research team. Proving that wildlife conservation is compatible with and beneficial to commercial farming has been a major achievement, built on a partnership between practitioners and applied scientists. We believe this finding will have important implications for the future sustainability of agriculture.

Award For A Scientific Paper Of High Importance Winner Prof Richard Pywell

Award for an Outstanding RSPB Conservation Scientist 2016

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.


2016 Winner: Nigel Butcher

His colleague, Dr Guy Anderson said “Nigel is the mastermind behind much of the technology that the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science uses to ask key conservation research questions. He and his team - Andrew and Colin – deliver a steady stream of clever state-of-the-art devices for monitoring wildlife and the environment – electronic tags, camera systems, recording devices of all types and applications.  The inventiveness, creativity, technical savvy, and dedication of Nigel and his team consistently allow our science to take directions that we would never be able to consider, or afford to consider, otherwise. If you want to find a member of our team focussed on ‘pushing the envelope’ of our science, so that it can inform our conservation action to its absolute best, then look no further than Nigel. Oh, and I’ve promised him I wouldn’t say that he is truly the ‘Q’ of the RSPB.  So I won’t say that. Ever!”

Award For An Outstanding RSPB Conservation Scientist 2016 Winner Nigel Butcher

Conservation Science Awards 2015

Award For An Outstanding phD Winner 2015 Gurutzeta Guillera-Arroita

Read about award recipients from 2015.

Conservation Science Awards 2014

Award For An Outstanding PHD Winner 2014 Dr Alienor Chauvenet

Read about award recipients from 2014.