The RSPB science award medal

Conservation Science Awards 2018

Find out who won the RSPBs three annual awards to recognise and celebrate excellence in conservation science in 2018.

Conservation Science Awards

We offer 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

Award for an outstanding PhD 2018

This prize is awarded to a postgraduate who has 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.

Winner: Dr Amy Hinsley

Thesis title: Characterising the structure and function of international wildlife trade networks in the age of online communication.

Institution: University of Kent

Amy’s thesis uses the international illegal trade in orchids as a case study to explore issues relating to the structure and function of online wildlife trade networks.

She investigated consumer behaviour, identifying specific groups who may be buying from the illegal market, with a particular focus on those buying online.

Exploring an international group of orchid growers, she identified the types of growers breaking the rules and why. As well as studying formal online trade, Amy also looked into the informal trade operating within orchid-themed groups on social media. 

Her findings address key gaps in conservation knowledge relating to consumer behaviour, online trade networks and the efficacy of existing regulations. For policy makers and practitioners it emphasises the importance of a coordinated and adaptive approach to tackling illegal online wildlife trade and strengthening the legal trade. It also highlights the current status of the orchid trade and emphasises the ongoing lack of conservation attention being given to the trade in plants. 

The findings have the potential for application to the conservation of species threatened by wildlife trade and the methods used provide new potential approaches to studying the structure and function of online trade networks.  

Her PhD has resulted in four articles published from her thesis chapters, but Amy has also produced a further five papers, an incredible achievement for a PhD student.

Amy Hinsley

Award for a scientific paper of high conservation importance 2018

This award is given 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 RSPB scientists.


Winner: Caspar Hallmann

Paper:‘More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas’

Authors: Caspar Hallman, M Sorg, E Jongejans, H Siepel, N Hofland, H Schwan, W Stenmans, A Muller, H Sumser, T Horren, D Goulson, H de Kroon

With global declines in insects having sparked wide interest among scientists, politicians, and the general public, Caspar’s paper is a timely, and important, paper documenting this decline.

Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardise ecosystem services.

This is the first study that looked at changes in insect biomass as a whole, rather than the abundance of single species or taxonomic groups. This is important as changes in insect biomass is more relevant for ecological functioning.

Caspar measured total insect biomass from traps deployed over 27 years in 63 nature protection areas in Germany to infer the status and trend of the local insect population.

The analysis estimated a seasonal decline of 76%, and mid-summer decline of 82% in flying insect biomass over the 27 years of study.

The paper shows that the insect decline is apparent regardless of habitat type, while changes in weather, land use, and habitat characteristics cannot explain this overall decline. Caspar’s paper was also important, as not only was the decline starkly shown, it is also in areas protected for nature, not the surrounding countryside.

The findings show that this yet unrecognised loss of insect biomass must be taken into account in evaluating declines in abundance of species that feed on insects, and ecosystem functioning in the European landscape.

Casper Hallman

Award for an outstanding RSPB conservation scientist 2018

With over 30 years of continuous service for the RSPB, Anita McClune is this the latest winner of the Centre for Conservation Science staff award.

Anita joined the RSPB’s staff in 1986, working for her entire 32-year career at RSPB within its Centre for Conservation Science - or Research Department as it was originally known. She acted as PA to three separate heads of department and quietly and efficiently coordinated its work.

A pivotal role
While much of Anita’s day-to-day work was administrative by nature, she played a pivotal role; everyone knew who she was and, equally importantly, she went out of her way to make sure she knew who everyone was, too. For many, their first point of contact with RSPB’s science team would have been Anita, not least because each year she coordinated the recruitment of seasonal field assistants for our science projects.

Anita was at the heart of the science team, with her colleagues relying on her for support and advice – which was always generously given. She was remarkably organised, always well prepared, and had the most remarkable work ethic; few put in as many hours as Anita to the cause of conservation.

A remarkable contribution
Anita left the RSPB in November 2018 and, although the Centre for Conservation Science continues to thrive, it doesn’t feel quite the same without her. Dr David Gibbons, Head of RSPB’s Centre for Conservation Science said that “Anita made a remarkable contribution to the science of conservation over her three decades at the RSPB. I am delighted that we were able to give her an award for that contribution before she left us for pastures new”.

Conservation Science Awards 2017

Mathilde Baude Science awards winner 2017
Read about award recipients from 2017.

Conservation Science Awards 2016

Award For An Outstanding PHD Winner Dr Enrico Pirotta
Read about award recipients from 2016.

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.